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Gracefield Collection

Boy Chewing Straw

19th Century

Born in Maidstone in Kent, John Brett was best known as a London painter. He had a success at the Royal Academy in 1858 with “The Stonebreaker” one of the great Pre-Raphaelite social comment pictures, which was highly praised by John Ruskin and is now held in Liverpool Museum & Galleries. In the next year he produced the remarkable Pre-Raphaelite landscape “Val d’ Aosta,” yet again the subject of much comment from Ruskin. Following this he started to produce the highly geologically accurate and vivid coastal scenes, which occupied him for the rest of his life.


Brett lived in Putney with his wife Mary and their three sons and four daughters. Although the identity of the boys in the portraits is not known, they may well be his own children. Brett paintings were created during the height of the Victorian era, but his children are not presented as repressed little Victorians, rather all his children looked lively, spirited, and perhaps a little cheeky?

Oil on panel
19.5cm x 16.5cm
Gracefield Arts Centre
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Dumfries & Galloway Council