In 1886 John Russell and his family went to Belle Île, an island off the coast of Brittany, renowned for its jagged cliffs and rough seas. Like his contemporary Claude Monet, Russell was exhilarated by the fierce Atlantic squalls. He painted a number of works depicting the wild winter weather and stormy seas, such as 'Rough sea, Morestil'.
The painting portrays the rocky coastline in deep shades of blue along the right side of the canvas. Turbulent, foaming waves break onto the rocks
and create a strong sense of movement from the left across the canvas. Vigorous, gestural brushstrokes animate the surface of the painting and evoke the surging tide.
oil on canvas on hardboard
66.0 x 81.8 cm stretcher; 64.0 x 79.0 cm sight edge; 83.0 x 98.2 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Shown in 4 exhibitions
John Peter Russell: Australian Impressionist, Wildenstein & Co., London, London, Jul 1965–Aug 1965
John Peter Russell 1859-1930: Australian Impressionist, Joseph Brown Gallery, Australia, 22 Aug 1968–11 Sep 1968
Belle-Île: Monet, Russell & Matisse in Brittany:
Australian impressionists in France, Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, 15 Jun 2013–06 Oct 2013
Referenced in 8 publications
Sarah Couper, Look, 'If paintings could sing', pg. 50, Sydney, May 2015, 50 (colour illus.).
Sarah Couper, Look, 'A place where storie are found', pg. 34-35, Sydney, Jun 2015, 35.
Ann Galbally, A remarkable friendship : Vincent van Gogh and John Peter Russell, Melbourne, 2008, 240, 241, 216 (colour illus.). Plate 32, titled 'Rough Sea, Morestil (Mer Agitée, Morestil)
Mervyn Horton (Editor), Art and Australia, Sydney, Dec 1968, 174 (colour illus.). Joseph Brown Gallery advertisement for John Peter Russell exhibition.
Hal Missingham (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Apr 1969, 460 (illus.).
Graham Perkin (Editor), Age, Melbourne, 27 Aug 1968, page unknown. Review by Patrick McCaughey of Joseph Brown Gallery exhibition.
Ursula Prunster (Curator), Belle-Île: Monet, Russell & Matisse in Brittany, Sydney, 2001, 96 (colour illus.). cat.no. 25
Editor Unknown (Editor), Christie's - Australian and European Paintings, Drawings, Ceramics, Sculpture and Prints, South Yarra, 20 Nov 1995, 108. lot no. 155, 'Rough Sea, Morestil, Belle-Ile', oil on canvas, 60 x 73cm, belongs to a series of otherwise undated oils of stormy seas at Belle-Ile. The treatment of the rocky outcrop on the horizon and the surging waves is very similar to that shown in the Gallery's, 'Rough sea, Morestil'.