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Australian art

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Les Aiguilles de Coton, Belle-Île



John Russell


16 Jun 1858 - 22 Apr 1930


John Russell was the only Australian artist to have been closely associated with some of the most original and influential artists of late nineteenth century France, including Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse. He lived from 1888-1908 on the French island Belle-Île-en-Mer, off the coast of Brittany, attracted, like Matisse and Monet, by the wild, rocky landscape and the unpredictable waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Russell painted a number of key subjects on the island, including the sea, cliffs, rocks and portraits of his family and the local fisherman, Père Polyte. This watercolour depicts the 'Port-Coton needles', a distinctively shaped outcrop of rocks that rises from the water near the shore, a short distance from Russell's house.

© Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004


Alternative title

Port-Coton needles, Belle-Île



Media category


Materials used

pencil, watercolour, gouache, on thick off-white wove paper


55.7 x 38.9 cm (sheet)

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, red watercolour "JOHN RUSSELL. 1897".


Purchased 1974


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

John Russell

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 7 publications


Ann Galbally, The art of John Peter Russell, Melbourne, 1977, 59 (illus.). 30

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 182-197, Sydney, 1999, 189 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, 19th century Australian watercolours, drawing and pastels from the Gallery's collection, 'Introduction', pg. 6-16, Sydney, 2005, 17 (colour illus., detail), 110, 111 (colour illus.).

Hendrik Kolenberg, Nineteenth century Australian watercolours from the collection, Sydney, 1991. 68

Ursula Prunster, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Home and abroad', pg. 73-74, Sydney, 2000, 82 (colour illus.), 301.

Ursula Prunster (Curator), Belle-Île: Monet, Russell & Matisse in Brittany, Sydney, 2001, 104 (colour illus.). 34

Donald Finley, John Peter Russell 1858-1931: Australian impressionist, London, 1965. 41