When the artist, John Brett, decided to paint on the coast of West Wales in the 1880s he became a regular summer visitor to the Dinas area, renting Newport Castle to accommodate his large family. This was handy for visits to the bays and cliff tops of Dinas, which can be recognised in a number of his works.
Starting as a protege of Ruskin’s and influenced by Holman Hunt, Brett had made his name with paintings of Swizerland and the Italian Alps. After a visit to Naples, however, he started painting seascapes and by the time of his visits to Pembrokeshire he was well established and was receiving commissions for his work.
He painted Fishguard bay, Skomer and Skokholm and a view of Aber Fforest (entitled Forest Creek) that was recently auctioned by Christie’s.
I’m most interested, however, in his depiction of the cliffs at Pwll Gwaelod. These cliffs are really tremendously impressive – the wild beauty of the plunging rock face, the sea, the vegetation and the sky above; everyone has a go at trying to capture the scene.
Early postcards are now sepia tinted and have a charm of their own, but, in my opinion, they never did justice to the view. Today’s visitors have the advantage of digital colour and maybe their efforts are more effective at conveying the majesty of the rock face as it meets the sea but the number of photoshopped images available might indicate that even modern cameras aren’t quite up to the job.
Perhaps you just have to visit and see the cliffs for yourself.