Pre-Raphaelite Portraits by John Brett John Brett is best known for his early Pre-Raphaelite paintings, The Stonebreaker and Val d’Aosta and his late seascapes of the coast of Scotland, Wales and the West Country. This exhibition concentrates on a little-known aspect of his art – his portraiture. The great Victorian art critic John Ruskin, for a period his mentor, … Read more


The Religious, the Social & the Body In the 20th century, a number of artists rejuvenated the centuries-old art of printmaking to respond powerfully to modern issues. Visual motifs sourced from Christianity, society and the body were used to express the pain of contemporary life and to call for drastic change. The dynamic power of … Read more


Lake District Views from Abbott Hall Art Gallery From the 1770s onwards, tourists travelled to the Lake District in ever increasing numbers, creating what one writer called a ‘Rage for the Lakes’. Many painted and drew their own response to the glorious scenery, while others bought works from the professional artists who followed in their … Read more


Tennis in Art The first game of lawn tennis was played in 1859 by Major Harry Gem and his friend, Jean Batista Augurio Perera, on a court at the latter’s home, 8 Ampton Road, Edgbaston. This unique show at the Barber – less than half a mile away – is the first ever to explore … Read more

Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877)

The Sea-Arch at Etretat Etretat, Normandy, 1869 Oil on canvas 76.2 x 123.1 cm The spectacular cliffs at Etretat culminate in a dramatic sea-arch with a needle of rock beyond.  Courbet visited in the summer of 1869 and in a month completed five views of the cliffs and numerous seascapes.  He worked quickly, painting out … Read more

Attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 – 1875)

Wooded Landscape with a Pond Paris, the mid-1830s Oil on canvas 46.4 x 74.1 cm This landscape possibly shows a scene at Le Martinet, near Montpellier in South France.  Corot sketched there in 1836 and this studio work resembles a pencil drawing dated to that year.  The painting is signed and was bought as a … Read more

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 – 1875)

Landscape with Distant Mountains Central France, the early 1840s Oil on canvas 18 x 29.8 cm This is one of numerous small informal studies that Corot painted on the spot throughout his life.  One such as this would have taken no more than a single session to complete.  He made them as private exercises which … Read more

An Imitator of John Constable (1776-1837)

The Glebe Farm England, the mid-19th century Oil on canvas 99 x 124.5 cm This was bought as a major work by Constable, one of a number of views of the glebe farm near Langham church, Essex.  However, the colouring and brushwork do not match any of Constable’s works and it is now clear that … Read more

Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld (1758-1846)

A Cascade on the River Liri Isola del Liri, Italy, 1787 Oil on paper, laid down on canvas 25.4 x 39.4 cm Bidauld’s oil sketch was painted on the spot during the French artist’s stay in Italy (1785-90).  The artist made numerous such studies from which he later painted large historical landscapes in the neo-classical … Read more

Bicci di Lorenzo (1373 – 1452)

Saint Romuald Florence, second quarter of the 15th century Tempera on wood 34.3 x 22.8 cm This panel formed the main part of a standard which was carried on processional occasions.  The open book is inscribed with the words that the spectators would have used: ‘My father Romuald, most excellent hermit, intercede with the Lord … Read more

Giovanni Bellini (about 1430 – 1516)

A Portrait of a Boy Venice, about 1475 Oil on wood 38 x 23 cm This panel originally formed the lid of an inheritance chest. This was constructed to hold the marble bust of Angelo Probi who died in 1474. He was ambassador to Venice for the King of Naples.  The portrait therefore probably shows his … Read more


The Loggetta, Venice Venice, the 1730s Oil on canvas 45.5 x 75.4 cm The Loggetta (1537-40), at the base of the campanile, or bell tower, in Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, was built as a small assembly room.  Canaletto’s painting was cut down at an unknown date, perhaps so that it could fit over a … Read more

Jan van de Cappelle (about 1625 – 1679)

Boats on the River Waal Amsterdam, the 1650s Oil on canvas 71 x 63.5 cm This landscape shows a ferry, as well as fishing and trading vessels, on the choppy waters of the River Waal in southern Holland.  The church tower of Gorinchem is to the left, with Loevestein Castle on the opposite bank. The … Read more

John Brett (1831 – 1902)

Kennack Sands Cornwall, 1876 Oil on board 18 x 36 cm This work is typical of Brett’s small ‘on the spot’ oil sketches. He was in Cornwall in the summer of 1876, finding inspiration on the Lizard peninsula. This sketch was taken from the western end of Kennack Sands, looking east towards the distant Pedn Boar … Read more

Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564/5 – about 1638)

Two Peasants Binding Faggots Antwerp, about 1620 Oil on wood 36.2 x 27.3 cm Peasants binding a bundle of branches for firewood were often painted as one of winter’s labours.  The precise subject here is unknown, although it is clearly critical in tone.  The peasants, with their accomplice in the distance, look around suspiciously – … Read more

Abraham van Calraet (1642 – 1722)

Horses and Cattle in a Landscape Dordrecht, the later 1600s Oil on wood 36 x 53.3 cm A carefully-posed group of horses, cattle and a sleeping dog occupy a river landscape.  A passing peasant talks with a herdsman.  Calraet’s animal scenes, often with subtle evening effects, are closely based on the work of Aelbert Cuyp … Read more

PIERRE BONNARD (1867 – 1947)

The Evening Meal Paris, about 1903 Oil on canvas 37.4 x 45.5 cm The scene shows Bonnard’s sister Andrée Terrasse and two of her children, Robert, and, silhouetted against the lamp, Vivette.  They are seated for an evening meal in the Terrasse’s home at Le Grand-Lemps in the rural south of France.  Bonnard painted many … Read more


A Sheet of Studies Netherlands, mid-1630s Pen, brown wash and red chalk 220 X 233 mm This sheet contains nine studies of five different figures and is the most important and complete set of studies by Rembrandt to survive intact. Many others appear to have been cut up at a later date. The exact dating … Read more

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598-1657)

Joseph Distributing Corn in Egypt Amsterdam, 1655 Oil on canvas 110.5 x 90 cm Joseph, at the top right, oversees the sale of corn during a time of famine.  According to the Old Testament, Joseph had stored the fruits of seven bountiful years and the people of Egypt, watched by the Pharoah, to the upper … Read more

Sandro Botticelli (about 1445 – 1510)

The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist Florence, the 1480s Tempera on canvas 130.7 x 91.4 cm  The Virgin lowers the infant Christ to embrace his cousin, John the Baptist.  Christ recognises that Saint John will pave the way for his own divine mission.  The complex poses and the narrow composition … Read more

Francois Cidilla Bonvin (1817 – 1887)

The Attributes of Painting Paris, about 1879 Oil on canvas 49.4 x 60.5 cm This still life depicts the materials used in its making – including palette and brushes, tubes of paint, a portfolio of drawings, an inkwell and a paintbox.  The French artist Bonvin painted the objects in the direct and uncompromisingly physical manner … Read more

EDGAR DEGAS (1834-1917)

MISS LALA AT THE CIRQUE FERNANDO France, 1879 Black chalk with touches of pastel 470 x 320 mm In 1879 Degas made this preparatory drawing of Miss LaLa, an acrobat of mixed European and African parentage. Renowned for her agility, she performed throughout Europe. This daring perspective shows LaLa suspended from the rafters of the … Read more

Giovanni Bellini (about 1430 – 1516)

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness Venice, about 1460 Tempera on wood 44 x 22.9 cm Saint Jerome (died 419) was a scholar who translated the Bible into Latin.  He also retired to the wilderness and lived the secluded of a hermit.  According to legend, he removed a thorn from the paw of a lion who … Read more

Hippolyte Bellange (1800-1866)

The Entry of Bonaparte into Milan Paris, about 1822/4 Oil on canvas 44.4 x 60.3 cm Napoleon Bonaparte’s triumphal entry into Milan in May 1796 occurred during a military campaign which saw the rapid conquest of much of the Italian peninsular.  Bellangé was commissioned to provide an illustration of the event for a biography following … Read more

Domenico Beccafumi (1484 – 1551)

Reclining Nymph (Venus and Cupid) Siena, about 1519 Oil on wood 71.7 x 13.8 cm This panel formed part of the decoration of the bedchamber of Francesco Petrucci of Siena and his wife Caterina Piccolomini.  It was used as the headboard of the bed.  The figure appears to be a water nymph, but she has … Read more

Jacopo da Ponte, called Bassano (about 1510 – 1592)

The Adoration of the Magi Bassano, near Venice, the end of the 1560s Oil on canvas 94.3 x 130 cm The three kings, or Magi, approach the infant Christ with their gifts.  Despite their worldly wealth, they bow to Christ who is acclaimed as the King of Kings.  The setting in a ruined classical building … Read more

Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883)

A Portrait of Carolus-Duran Montgeron, near Paris, 1876 Oil on canvas 191.8 x 172.7 cm Manet painted this study of the portraitist Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran (1838 – 1917) when staying at a patron’s country estate near Paris.  The two artists were old friends and they agreed to paint each other.  Carolus-Duran is shown in riding boots … Read more