James Thomas LINNELL (Hampstead 1820 - Redhill 1905)

A Surrey Landscape Sold

Watercolour and bodycolour, over an underdrawing in pencil, on blue paper.
Small made-up sections at the upper corners.
368 x 533 mm. (14 1/2 x 21 in.) [sheet]


The present sheet almost certainly depicts a view near the Linnell home of Redhill in Surrey. Cara Denison has succinctly described the artist’s technique in this watercolour: ‘In this sweeping landscape, James varied the concentration of brilliant colors to suggest a beautiful late summer day in the country. The densest application is reserved for the wheat in the foreground, which he stroked on in a pale but brilliant yellow, using lighter washes of dark green for the foliage and deep blue for the background of farms and receding hills.’

Another recent scholar has identified a religious undertone in the composition of the present sheet: ‘John Linnell…raised his children to see the fertile fields as expressions of God’s blessing. He trained his son, James, as a painter, and James’s work was geared toward religious subjects and landscapes. A clear testament to divine beneficence is found in his drawing of newly harvested wheat sheaves in Surrey, where the family had moved in 1857. There is a hymnlike harmony between the warm-toned fields in the foreground and the cooler hills beyond, all composed as a celebration of God’s bounty. The overall unity is achieved by the use of a sheet of blue tinted paper, which, while serving the practical purpose of acting as a middle tone, also assumes a metaphoric quality by symbolizing the existence of an omnipresent deity whose hand lies behind everything as the creator of all things. The drawing might almost be an illustration of the words of the sixty-fifth Psalm: “The valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.”’

By descent in the family of the artist
Somerville and Simpson, London, in 1980
Charles Ryskamp, New York.

William M. Griswold et al., The World Observed: Five Centuries of Drawings from the Collection of Charles Ryskamp, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2001, pp.102-103, no.92 (entry by Cara Denison); Matthew Hargraves, Varieties of Romantic Experience: British, Danish, Dutch, French and German Drawings from the Collection of Charles Ryskamp, exhibition catalogue, New Haven, 2010, p.169, no.135, illustrated p.171.

James Thomas LINNELL

A Surrey Landscape


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