Ex Mayor puts Bath in the picture.


A former Mayor of Bath has helped the city restore a work of art by one of its famous former residents.

It’s a water colour painted by Adela Breton – a remarkable 19th century archaeologist and explorer – who was brought up in Bath.

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Adela Breton: Travels with a Paintbrush has been on display at Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Victoria Art Gallery from September, and ends on 25 November 2018. The conservation of this artwork was a gift from Councillor Paul Crossley when Mayor of Bath in 2017-18.

In his year as Mayor, Councillor Crossley welcomed the Ambassador of Mexico, members of the family and the admirers of Adela Breton, to the unveiling of the historic plaque at Camden Crescent to recognise the work of Breton.

Breton (1849-1923) was a remarkable archaeological artist and explorer brought up in Bath. In the late 19th century she embarked on travels through Mexico, Canada and Japan. Wherever she went, Adela Breton recorded the local architecture, geology and plant life in watercolours. She made a major contribution to Mayan archaeology, producing detailed studies of newly excavated temples. Her work is outstanding and of international importance as a unique and accurate record of these temples.

At the Victoria Art Gallery, with The Mayor (Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones) and Councillor Paul Crossley (past Mayor of Bath). Picture by Jon Bennington.

Adela Breton’s Pueblo de Taos, New Mexico, is a watercolour of 1892. Taos is one of the oldest native Indian communities, or pueblos, in America. The reddish-brown buildings are made of mud and were built between 1000 and 1400. Although Adela left few paintings of the southwest of America, she was fascinated by the native people and landscape and visited several pueblos whilst in New Mexico. She wrote that the area was “even more interesting geologically than from the archaeological stand-point”. 

Jon Benington, Victoria Art Gallery Manager, said “Sadly, because of the way that Breton glued them on cheap acidic cardboard, these works are slowly being destroyed. Many of the paintings on show have been adopted, enabling important conservation work to be carried out. 

The conservation involved cleaning, reducing discolouration and staining, repairing tears, reducing warping and has ensured the preservation of the painting for years to come.

The Adopt-a-Picture scheme at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, is a unique opportunity to adopt a painting from the permanent collection, restore it to its former glory and to see the name of the adopter credited alongside the picture whenever it is displayed.”

There are more paintings to be adopted and restored. An ideal present for those who love art, history and Bath. More information from the VAG and Adopt a picture scheme https://www.victoriagal.org.uk/adopt-picture.

Jane Sparrow-Niang writes:

Thank you for your excellent article about Adela Breton. She certainly deserves wider recognition. It has been marvellous that the Victoria Art Gallery brought her work out of the vaults for people to see.

You may be interested to know that BRLSI has published a book about Adela – ‘The Remarkable Miss Breton: artist, archaeologist, traveller’ (2017) which may be of interest to your readers.

£5 available from BRLSI

Author: Jane Sparrow-Niang (BRLSI Volunteer)

A free e-book is available on the BRLSI website: