Thomas Bretland was born in Nottingham on 21 April, 1802. As the son of the owner of a coach and carriage business, Bretland's father was keen for him to join the family firm and in 1816 he became an apprentice. Although he is said to have disliked the job he excelled at it. However, having started sketching at an early age, his main ambition was to train as an artist.
In 1828 Bretland married Nancy Ingham. By this time he had become a partner in the family business but was also receiving commissions for animal portraits.
After the death of his father in 1840, Bretland passed the business into his brother's hands and took up animal painting full time encouraged by one of his important patrons, Lord Middleton. Other patrons included the Dukes of Buccleuch and Montrose, Lord Chesterfield and Baron Rothschild.
Upon the death of his wife in 1843, leaving two daughters, Bretland started to travel widely from his base at Sneinton painting commissions in Scotland and Ireland as well as various parts of England.
In 1852 he married again and with his second wife, Emma, had five more children. Around this time he moved back to Nottingham where he became a burgher of the city.
Bretland worked mainly in oils and his subject matter covered animal portraits as well as hunting scenes and landscapes. Some of his works are exceptionally good and most of them were privately commissioned so passed directly into private hands and are consequently little known. He was influenced to a degree by John Ferneley Senior, a near neighbour.
Examples of Bretland's paintings can been seen in the Nottingham Art Gallery.
Bibliography: Dictionary of Equestrian Artists - Sally Mitchell
Dictionary of British Landscape Painters - M H Grant
1802 - 1874
Oil in canvas
signed and dated 1838
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A Trompe l'Oeil Still Life of a Partridge, Woodcock and Spotted Woodpecker hanging from Nails against a white-washed Wall