John Linnell was brought into contact with artists from an early age by his father and was drawing and selling chalk and pencil portraits at the age of ten. His first artistic instruction was received from Benjamin West, and he spent a year in the house of the watercolor painter John Varley, along with William Hunt and William Mulready as fellow-pupils. In 1805 at the age of thirteen, he was admitted to the Royal Academy, where he obtained medals for drawing, modeling, and sculpture.
At first, he supported himself mainly by miniature painting and execution of larger portraits, such as the likenesses of Mulready, Richard Whately, Peel and Thomas Carlyle. In later life John Linnell occupied himself with the burin, publishing, and in 1833, a series of outlines from Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and, in 1840, supervising the issue of a selection of plates from the pictures in Buckingham Palace, one of them, a Titian landscape, which he engraved in mezzo tint.
John Linnell painted many subjects like the St John Preaching, the Covenant of Abraham, and the Journey to Emmaus, where the landscape is prominent, but the figures are important enough to give the works their title. But it is mainly in connection with paintings of pure landscapes that his name is known and Linnell commanded large prices for his paintings.
He devoted himself to painting landscapes of the North Downs and Kentish Weald. John Linnell was one of the best friends and kindest patrons of William Blake. He gave him the two largest commissions he received for single series of designs, £150 (equal to US$20,000 today) for drawings and engravings of The Inventions to the Book of Job, and a like sum for those illustrative of Dante Alighieri.
Art Movement: Romanticism
Artists Influencing John Linnell: Benjamin West, John Varley
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.