We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Rough sea, Morestil

(circa 1900)


John Russell


16 Jun 1858 – 22 Apr 1930

Artist profile

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Belle-Ile Brittany France
    (circa 1900)
    Media category
    Materials used
    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.

    Purchased 1968
    South Building, ground level, Grand Courts
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    John Russell

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    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.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 7 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 9 publications

    • Sarah Couper, Look, 'A place where storie are found', pg. 34-35, Sydney, Jun 2015, 35.

    • Sarah Couper, Look, 'If paintings could sing', pg. 50, Sydney, May 2015, 50 (colour illus.).

    • 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

    • Wayne Tunnicliffe, Australia's impressionists, 'John Russell: a landscape apart', pg. 51-63, London, 2016, 59, 60 (colour illus., detail), 106 (colour illus.), 118, 125, 127. cat.no. 40; fig.no. 36

    • 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'.

Other works by John Russell

See all 22 works