Biography of Russell, John
John Russell was born in Guildford, son of John Russell, Mayor of Guildford and proprietor of a print and bookshop. Russell became a pupil of Francis Cotes (1726 - 1770) and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1770. He soon established himself as highly fashionable portraitist in crayon (i.e. pastel) and in 1772 published Elements of Painting with Crayons.
In 1785 he was appointed "Crayon Painter to the Prince of Wales" and by the 1790s could command prices comparable to those of Sir Joshua Reynolds. His high key colouring and bold, smudgy style achieved by bleeding, or "sweetening" as he called it, with his fingers, clearly has great appeal.
A staunch Methodist, Russell's extreme devoutness found no reflection in his modish portraits or sentimental "fancy" pictures. Although based in London, Russell toured extensively during the winter months, working in country houses as far north as York. Russell was also a noted astronomer.
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