Blake, Palmer, Linnell and Co.: Life of John Linnell

'An unsavoury character', says one modern authority of Linnell, 'disliked by many fellow artists' says another, as well as being 'loathed' by Samuel Palmer, his son-in-law. Yet this was anything but the reality. Friend and patron of William Blake, John Linnell was always willing to give advice and encouragement to young artists, and was extremely generous to both family and friends as David Linnell shows in this perceptive and thorough study of the life of his great-grandfather. Drawing extensively on Linnell's journal, account books, and the very considerable number of letters that survive in the family papers, he sets the record straight after nearly a hundred years of neglect and calumny. The undeserved slurs on Linnell's reputation may well have been the result of his success. Arguably the most popular artist in England in the mid-nineteenth century, he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy for sixty years. In great demand as a portraitist in the first half of his career, Linnell painted such men as Thomas Carlyle, Thomas Malthus and Sir Robert Peel, while his subsequent career was devoted entirely to landscape, when his paintings regularly commanded prices higher that those achieved by Turner. One of the last of the great English Romantic school of painters, Linnell's style was overtaken by Impressionism, and only now are we beginning to discover his true worth as a painter of the English countryside.