Labour by John Linnell, 1792-1882. Engraved by J. Cousen. Source: 1865 Art-Journal.[Click on image to enlarge it.] Image capture and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Hathi Trust Digital Library and the University of Michigan and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one]

Commentary by the Art-Journal

Were we desirous of showing to a foreigner, ignorant of both, what is the character of English rural scenery, and what is that of our school of landscape painters, we should introduce him to tho pictures of John Linnell as best exhibiting the peculiar features of the one, while manifesting the highest qualities of the other. Turner be regarded as the chief of the idealists, Linnell may be accepted as the head of the naturalists; and yet, strange to say, there are people so devoid of perception that they cannot estimate at their proper value either of those two great artists. The former had laid aside his pencil for over, and was gone to his rest, almost before the public had learned to appreciate him at his true worth; and it is only within the last few years, comparatively, that the works of the latter came to be understood and eagerly sought after: now they command any price he chooses to ask for them, and must always hold the foremost rank in the productions of our native school.

Linnell's style is as original in its way as that of Turner; there is no artist, ancient or modern, with whom ho can be compared, not one to whom we can point as his model; he is, as it wore, his own master; he looks at nature with his own eyes, not with those of another, and represents her after his own fashion—one as true as it is beautiful. Simple as his subjects almost invariably are, he renders them grand by the boldness of his treatment, tho vigour of his execution, and the richness of his colouring; in this latter quality his pictures are absolutely unrivalled, and it is no exaggeration to affirm that an overpowering sense of oppression steals over the spectator who stands before one of his sultry-looking canvases in the crowded apartments of the Royal Academy—such, for example, as the picture here engraved.

The composition is simple enough, a portion of what seems to be an extensive undulated field, showing in its present state little else than stubble, for the husbandmen have almost cleared it to the foreground, and the gleaners have been allowed to enter and gather up the scattered ears of corn, that nothing be lost. The arrangement of the figures and objects in front is very easy and life-like, indicating that the artist has closely studied harvest operations.

At the extremity of the corn-field is a belt of trees, thoso in the centre of large growth; beyond is a wide expanse of country, other corn-fields interspersed with woods stretch far away right and left, gradually losing all distinguishing forms and character in the deep blue, or rather purple, tints of the distant horizon. The sky is treated in a manner which those acquainted with the works of this artist know to be a favourite method with him: large masses of fleecy clouds, some of them apparently charged with rain-showers, roll majestically onwards as the soft autumn winds move them; the largest mass stands out in bold relief against a background of blue graduated in tone. This portion constitutes a most beautiful part of the picture, and it is managed with great power of manipulation, yet tenderness of feeling, with respect to the delicate tintings which nature gives to her cloud-land.


“Selected Pictures from the Collection of James Fallows, esq. Sunnybank, Manchester: Labour.” Art-Journal (1865): 208-209. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. August 16, 2013.

Last modified 16 August 2013