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John Russell

John Russel

John Russell | Australia 1858–1930 | La Pointe de Morestil par mer calme (Calm Sea at Morestil Point) 1901 | Oil on canvas | 61 x 95cm | Gift of Lady Trout 1987 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Calm Sea at Morestil Point
John Russell
Australia  1858–1930  
La Pointe de Morestil par mer calme (Calm Sea at Morestil Point) 1901
Oil on canvas
61 x 95cm
Gift of Lady Trout 1987
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

John Russell

La Pointe de Morestil par mer calme (Calm Sea at Morestil Point) 1901

La Pointe de Morestil par mer calme 1901 is one of many seascapes that John Russell painted on the storm-tossed island of Belle-Île off the coast of north-western France. Here, he painted in pure colours, under different weather conditions and at different times of the day.

Russell spent the summer of 1886 sailing and sketching on Belle-Île. He chanced upon a new arrival painting on the windy cliff and, recognising his style, Russell asked him: ‘Ne seriez vous Claude Monet, le prince des impressionists?’ ('Aren’t you Claude Monet, prince of the impressionists?’). Flattered and amused, Monet allowed the young artist, who he referred to as American, to paint with him, and thus had a decisive influence on the development of Russell’s work.

Within two years Russell had changed his situation in life. Leaving Paris behind, he became the first non-native to settle on the island. Building a large manor house the islanders called Le Chateau de l’Anglais, he welcomed a stream of visitors including Auguste Rodin, the Australian painter John Longstaff, and the young Henri Matisse, who became Russell’s friend and ‘pupil’ over the two summers of 1896–97.

Inspired by Monet’s example, Russell declared to a fellow Australian artist that he now felt himself part of ‘a mighty revolution in art’ because ‘impressionism as understood here consists not of hasty sketches but in finished work in which the purity of colour and intention is kept’.