News Archive

Objects of Affection: Pre-Raphaelite Portraits by John Brett

Subscribe to RSS RSSMonday, 14th June, 2010

Objects of Affection: Pre-Raphaelite Portraits by John Brett at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts features many paintings, drawings and early photographs that have never before been seen in public.

Brett (1831-1902) is principally known as a painter of luminiscent landscapes featuring the coast of the British Isles. At the end of the 19th century, as many as 30 such works hung in houses around the affluent, middle-class Birmingham suburb of Edgbaston.

What is less well-known is that Brett was also an accomplished portraitist, and initially planned to concentrate as a figure painter after training at the Royal Academy Schools. Although he received few commissions for formal portraits, he did create a significant quantity of intimate studies depicting friends and lovers, his family, and friends in the literary and artistic world. An enthusiastic pioneer photographer, Brett also delighted in capturing his sitters in this medium. His best portraits, whether drawing, oil painting or photograph, have a meticulous delicacy comparable to that of his landscapes, while also revealing deep psycological insight and affection for many of his subjects.

As well as portraiture, this exhibition also features a selection of Brett's trademark landscapes, some of which were commisioned for wealthy Birmingham patrons, and archive material including his original letters, which reveal much about his personality.

Said Professor Ann Sumner, Director of the Barber Institute: "This exciting exhibition will showcase a whole new area of research into a fascinating and under-appreciated Pre-Raphaelite artist. Brett's popularity in Victorian Birmingham alone justifies this exhibition at the Barber. His portraits are wonderfully intimate and personal works, and we feel sure that the show will have enormous popular appeal."

Objects of Affection: Pre-Raphaelite Portraits by John Brett closes on Sunday 4 July 2010.

For more information, visit