Drawings and Prints

Russell, Attributed John

RA (March 29, 1745 – April 20, 1806) was an English painter renowned for his portrait work in oils and pastels, and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.

Russell was born in Guildford, Surrey, he was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and soon showed a strong inclination for art. Russell trained under Francis Cotes RA (of Cavendish Square, London), one of the pioneers of English pastel painting, and, like Cotes, was an admirer of the pastel drawings of Rosalba Carriera whose methods influenced his technique of "sweetening". At the age of 19 he converted to Methodism, which was the cause of tension with his family and with his teacher; he made no secret of his strong evangelical leanings and would attempt to preach and convert at every opportunity.[1]

Russell set up his own studio, in London, in 1767. He made the acquaintance of the notorious Dr. William Dodd, whose portrait he painted in 1768.[2] He was introduced to Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade him to give up painting and attend her Methodist ministers' training college at Trevecca in Wales. On 5 February 1770, he married Hannah Faden, daughter of a Charing Cross print and map seller, whom he had converted. They lived at No. 7 Mortimer Street, Cavendish Square, where he had moved in 1770.[1]

Russell's work caused him to travel extensively around Britain. In 1772, he wrote Elements of Painting with Crayons, by which time he had won premiums for his drawings from the Society of Arts in 1759 and 1760, and entered the Royal Academy school of art in 1770, winning its gold medal for figure drawing the same year. He exhibited at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in 1768 and showed 330 works at the Academy between 1769 until and his death.

Russell's work can be viewed at many galleries in the UK and around the world, but the largest collection is held by Guildford House Art Gallery in Guilford. Many of his portraits were engraved by, amongst others, Joseph Collyer, Charles Turner, James Heath, Dean, Bartolozzi and Trotter.

Of his twelve children (of which four died in infancy), William Russell (1780–1870), exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy from 1805 to 1809. The National Portrait Gallery contains a portrait of Judge Sir John Bailey by him.[5] He was ordained in 1809, and gave up painting. He was forty years rector of Shepperton, Middlesex, and died on 14 September 1870