Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Summer on the Cliffs, 1891 1891

John Brett 

Summer on the Cliffs, 1891, John Brett
Oil on canvas
19th Century
28 x 16 inches 70.9 x 40.5 cm
Sold by the artist to F. Smallman of Stretford, Manchester in 1894; thence through the sales rooms to the present owner.
Phil Wilson and Miles King Arable Plants a Field Guide English Nature/ Wild Guides 2003 p.293 ill.
We are grateful to Andy Jones of the Countryside Commission for Wales for his identification of the flowers in this painting. The flowers have been identified (from left to right) as Weld (Reseda luteola); Spear thislt (Cirsium vulgare); Greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa); Perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis); Ragwort (Senecio jacobea); Field forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis; Pansy (Viola arvensis); Mayweed (Tripleurospermum inodorum).

In an entry in his Studio Log book on 19 November 1893 Brett notes that he has recently heard from Manchester that his painting Summer on the Cliffs has been sold to Mr. F. Smallman of Stretford for 80. Opposite this entry he has scrawled, ''This ''Summer on the cliffs'' was a cornfield with flowers in it against a distant shimmering sea painted at Aberporth.''The picture, also known as Across the Hayfield to the Sea, was painted during the course of the summer of 1891 while Brett and his family were staying at Dolwen, a cramped cottage in the village of Aberporth near Cardigan. The fresh summery feel of the picture belies Brett''s gloomy mood at the time and his dislike of the neighbourhood. He wrote in the family diary, ''My disgust with this place is quite past speech...'', but his gloom no doubt had more to do with his financial circumstances than his surroundings. He had been forced to sell his schooner Viking for a considerable loss earlier in the year and admitted ''the blight of the thing lies in the fact that we have no cash balance to speak of, and that my best work wont sell at any price now''.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.