Old Pastel Master: John Russell

John Russell "The Sign Writer"
John Russell "The Sign Writer"

John Russell (1745 – 1806) was an English painter renowned for his portrait work in oils and pastels, and as a writer and teacher of painting techniques.
His extraordinary facility as a pastel painter brought him a fashionable clientele eager to have him execute their portraits. Russell was renowned for his ability to achieve masterful tonal effects by smudging broad areas. He then accented the painting by applying linear flourishes made with a hard-pointed pastels. Most of the hundreds of works he produced were portraits, although he sometimes depicted genre subjects such as children with animals. Russell’s achievements in the art of pastel were the result of his thorough understanding of its technique and materials. In 1780 he published The Elements of Painting in Crayon, one of a handful of known treatises on pastel written in the 1700s. At the time of its publication, it was considered a cornerstone for understanding pastel medium. Russell also experimented with pastel manufacturing, producing a recipe book for pastel making. In 1788 he was elected as a member of the Royal Academy and further distinguished by being appointed as the Painter for king George III.

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