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This view is probably from the cliffs above Lulworth Cove in Dorset, although there are no identifiable features. It is based on detailed notes on colour and meteorology that John Brett made as he sailed round the south-west coast in the summer of 1870. The focus of the painting is the effect of sunlight on the sea, which Brett had studied closely and aimed to reproduce accurately. But when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy some observers thought the azure colouring was inappropriate, confined by their own preconceptions of nature.

May 2011