1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Linnell, John

LINNELL, JOHN (1792–1882), English painter, was born in London on the 16th of June 1792. His father being a carver and gilder, Linnell was early brought into contact with artists, and when he was ten years old he was drawing and selling his portraits in chalk and pencil. His first artistic instruction was received from Benjamin West, and he spent a year in the house of John Varley the water-colour painter, where he had William Hunt and Mulready as fellow-pupils, and made the acquaintance of Shelley, Godwin and other men of mark. In 1805 he was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, where he obtained medals for drawing, modelling and sculpture. He was also trained as an engraver, and executed a transcript of Varley’s “Burial of Saul.” In after life he frequently occupied himself with the burin, publishing, in 1834, a series of outlines from Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine chapel, and, in 1840, superintending the issue of a selection of plates from the pictures in Buckingham Palace, one of them, a Titian landscape, being mezzotinted by himself. At first he supported himself mainly by miniature painting, and by the execution of larger portraits, such as the likenesses of Mulready, Whately, Peel and Carlyle. Several of his portraits he engraved with his own hand in line and mezzotint. He also painted many subjects like the “St John Preaching,” the “Covenant of Abraham,” and the “Journey to Emmaus,” in which, while the landscape is usually prominent the figures are yet of sufficient importance to supply the title of the work. But it is mainly in connexion with his paintings of pure landscape that his name is known. His works commonly deal with some scene of typical uneventful English landscape, which is made impressive by a gorgeous effect of sunrise or sunset. They are full of true poetic feeling, and are rich and glowing in colour. Linnell was able to command very large prices for his pictures, and about 1850 he purchased a property at Redhill, Surrey, where he resided till his death on the 20th of January 1882, painting with unabated power till within the last few years of his life. His leisure was greatly occupied with a study of the Scriptures in the original, and he published several pamphlets and larger treatises of Biblical criticism. Linnell was one of the best friends and kindest patrons of Blake. He gave him the two largest commissions he ever received for single series of designs—£150 for drawings and engravings of The Inventions to the Book of Job, and a like sum for those illustrative of Dante.