European and British Art, Part II

European and British Art, Part II

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 103. Towan Head, Cornwall, the Wind off Shore.

Property of a Lady

John Brett, A.R.A.

Towan Head, Cornwall, the Wind off Shore

Lot Closed

July 13, 02:03 PM GMT


20,000 - 30,000 GBP

Lot Details


Property of a Lady

John Brett, A.R.A.


1831 - 1902

Towan Head, Cornwall, the Wind off Shore

signed and dated John Brett 1881 lower left and inscribed and signed "Towan Head, Cornwall" (The Wind off Shore) / John Brett A.R.A. / 30 Harley Street / London on a label attached to the stretcher

oil on canvas

Unframed: 61 by 122cm., 24 by 48in.

Framed: 71.5 by 132.5cm., 28 by 52in.

Arthur Tooth, London, 3 January 1883, £300

Grindlay, 25 January 1883, £890

Possibly, Miss Leeston-Smith

Sale: Knight, Frank & Rutley, London, 23 November 1955, lot 32

N.R. Omell, London

Purchased from the above by a private collector; thence by descent to the present owner

Birmingham Daily Post, 29 Aug 1881
Birmingham Daily Post, 19 Oct 1881
Birmingham Daily Post, 29 Jan 1883
Christiana Payne and Charles Brett, John Brett - Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter, 2010, 953, p. 225

‘For John Brett, Cornwall provided a lasting source of inspiration, drawing him back again and again over the course of three decades. The legacy of these visits is an astonishing body of work, detailing both well-known and obscure coastal views, capturing the spectacular splendour of the Cornish scenery.’ (Preface by Alison Bevan to the exhibition catalogue for the exhibition at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, John Brett – A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall, 2006, p. 7)

Towan Head, Cornwall, the Wind off Shore was painted in 1881, when the Brett family spent the summer in Cornwall. Brett was enjoying a period of financial success, having sold his wonderful Britannia’s Realm (Tate) to the British nation under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest in 1880. His success was also being recognised by his peers and he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in February 1881. Therefore he embarked on his visit to Cornwall with ambition and renewed vigour and painted forty small sketches and six larger pictures with a value of around £1,200.

The Brett family stayed in Newquay between 3 June and 28 September, in lodgings that they had found just before Easter when he had journeyed there to scout for places to stay. Although a rail-line had arrived in 1876, Newquay was still a quiet fishing village in those days, very different to what it was to become later. The family stayed for four months at a house named ‘Bothwicks’ midway between Tolcarne Point and Towan beach, with a flight of steps descending to the beach from the garden. The present picture depicts Towan beach, of which Brett wrote; as far as the sea is concerned I know no place quite equal to this for colour, clearness or steadiness of demeanour.’ (John Brett, Early Travels, 28 September 81, quoted by Charles Brett, Michael Hickox and Christiana Payne in John Brett – A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall, 2006, p. 50) For Mary Brett and her six young children, the beach was also a paradise; We have found it a very healthy place… The beach is a great source of pleasure [for the children], there are such splendid pools where they can bathe and practice their swimming with perfect safety. It is also very beautiful, the sand being of a lovely fawn colour and the rocks a rich brown being… covered with seaweed and mussels.’ (ibid)

The family had loved their time in Cornwall. As the holiday drew to a close John tried to buy a plot of land to build a summer house on Tolcarne Point above the beach. Their offer was rejected by the land-owners, the Duchy of Cornwall and disappointment he wrote It seems as if Cornwall had decided to keep us out.’ (ibid). This set-back led to a change of thinking in how the family would spend their future summers and led to the purchase of the schooner Viking.

We are grateful to Charles Brett for his assistance with this catalogue note.