John Russell1858 - 1930 L'Aiguille, Soleil d'hiver, Belle Ile 1903
- oil on canvas
Influenced and tutored by Claude Monet and a friend to Rodin, van Gogh and others, John Peter Russell's dramatic seascapes from the clifftops of Belle-Ile capture nature in its purest hues.
He discovered Belle-Ile, a small island off the south coast of Brittany in 1886 and in 1888, following his marriage to Marianna Mattiocco, a former muse for who immortalised her beauty in , Russell and his family made Belle-Ile their permanent home. It was during his first visit to the island, however, that Russell met , an artist whom he greatly admired and whose influence was decisive. Belle-Ile, with its rustic, rugged and temperamental backdrop, inspired Russell to rethink the ideas that had been ingrained in him during his studies.
He began instead to concentrate on the primary importance of light and colour, capturing the motif of nature in its purest and brightest hues. 'He was intrigued by the changing qualities of its marine light, the eternal motion of the sea and the spectacular storms that battered the island, painting some of his most improvisatory, summary and expressive works in response to the unleashed forces of its tempests,' writes Ursula Prunster in Belle-Ile Monet, Russell & Matisse in Brittany.