Working en plein air meant the majority of Brett’s sketches were produced in a single sitting that would usually take around two to three hours. The sizes of these sketches were usually small enough to be easily transported but Brett chose particular dimensions of the ‘double square’ layout due to his belief that ‘all paintable phenomena in nature occur within an angle of about 15 degrees above and below the horizon.’ (Brett, Three months on the Scottish Coast, 1886, p.10.) Evidently, Brett has put this theory into practise with his final painting of The Parting Hour.
The narrative within this scene is almost secondary to the atmospheric setting Brett has created using pale pinks and blues for the twilight sky. Through the title of the piece and the accompaniment of a sentence from an ‘Old Story’ at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1894 provides us with an idea of the theme of this scene, “They had habitually lain in wait to throw stones at him, but when he set out to quit their inhospitable shore they were sorry.” (The Royal Academy Exhibitors, p. 274).
The outline of half a dozen figures is just discernible against the still water and one form can be made out rowing away from this group. The combination of these elements suggests the title and meaning of this painting is two-fold; the moment in time in which the day has ended and separately the parting of someone from the ‘inhospitable shore’ with which there is a sense of regret.
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