Unwittingly, and outside their manifesto, the Pre-Raphaelite Brethren developed a new British narrative painting.
His paintings are set in mediaeval times, with tales of chivalry, or in ‘Regency’ times, with tricorn hats and jovial men selling ribbons door-to-door.
Often considered a Pre-Raphaelite, with common themes, he was an academic outsider whose photo-real paintings are finely crafted fantasies.
Crammed into this crowded street scene in one of London’s leafy suburbs is a detailed account of the breadth and depth of contemporary Victorian society.
In just a few years of painting, he made two of the major Pre-Raphaelite landscapes, but died of dysentery in Cairo at the age of only 35.
Painted entirely in front of the motif, and in fine detail, Brett followed Ruskin’s rules for landscape paintings, but this was rejected by the Royal Academy.
Two major works in his later years: ‘Work’, showing a crowded street in Victorian London, and 12 large murals for Manchester Town Hall.
After painting his masterpiece ‘The Last of England’, he returned to landscapes made with great attention to detail, in front of the motif. And they sold.
After training in Belgium, he painted a series of narrative works, then a finely detailed landscape of a view over London. Success eluded him.
He specialised in ‘light genre’ paintings, not-to-serious domestic scenes, painted in fine detail, and was praised by Ruskin.