The potato field - Isle of Wight

John Linnell

The potato field - Isle of Wight

28 x 35.7 cm (11 x 14 inches)

Signed and dated J. Linnell f./1829 at the lower right), further signed and indistinctly inscribed The Potato field J Linnell/****** of *** on an old label attached to the reverse, and further inscribed, numbered and dated No 2 The Potato Field/1832 on the artist's card attached to the reverse

Purchased from the artist by Ralph Thomas, 1846
James Orrock Esq., 13 Bedford Square, London, by 1883
A.T. Hollingsworth Esq., by 1898

London, British Institution, 1830, n. 37 (30 gns)
Glasgow, Glasgow Dilettanti Society, 1830, no. 40 (£37 10s)
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of works by the Old Masters and by deceased masters of the British School including a special selection from the works of John Linnell and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Winter 1883, no. 108 (lent by James Orrock)
Edinburgh, International Exhibition of Industry, Science & Art, 1886, n. 1453 (lent by James Orrock)
Probably, Glasgow, Kelvingrove Park, International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry, 1888, n. 47 as The Potato Harvest (lent by James Orrock)
London, New Gallery, 1898, n. 204 (lent by A.T. Hollingsworth)
London, Royal Academy, 1903, n. 104 (lent by A.T. Hollingsworth)

G. Crayon, Jun., A Glance at the Exhibitions of the works of Living Artists: Under the Patronage of the Glasgow Dilettanti Society, Glasgow, 1830, p. 54
D. Linnell, Blake, Palmer, Linnell & Co., The life of John Linnell, Sussex, 1994, p.133 & 357, no. 48(b)

Linnell participated in the naturalist movement of the early 19th century, making oil sketches from nature along the Thames in the company of William Henry Hunt and William Mulready. He showed an interest in humble landscapes, often including labourers at work (e.g. Kensington Gravel Pits, 1812; London, Tate) and made several sketching tours. He exhibited his oils at the Society of Painters in Oil and Water-Colours in 1813–20. He also turned his attention to portraiture, acquiring royal and aristocratic patronage.

Linnell played an important part in the last years of William Blake’s life, commissioning the engravings for the Book of Job (1826) in 1823 and the watercolours for Dante’s Divine Comedy in 1824, and giving Blake a regular income in his old age. Linnell and Samual Palmer became close friends, and Linnell made several visits to Palmer’s house in Shoreham, Kent. The two men shared many of the same ideals, including a belief that landscape painting could be a form of religious art.

Dating from 1829, The Potato Field- Isle of Wight is a replica of a picture first painted in 1816. Linnell's handling of light and shadow gives an indication of the poetic landscapes that were yet to come. The present painting was one of seven works that the artist sent to the British Institution in 1830. At that time Samuel Palmer was often giving him advice and encouragement, and he copied Old Masters in the National Gallery.

The painting is included in a sketchbook recording Linnell’s output and now in the British Museum: Landscapes and other pictures not Portraits / Painted by John Linnell Senr / From 1807. The first Exhibited / To - / For My Son James Thos Linnell / October 1879 / John Linnell Senr". In this album Linnell drew a sketch of each of his paintings, arranged by their year of exhibition and included details such as the title, date, measurements of the paintings, sales, prices, and other notes. The present painting is the first to be recorded for 1830, the year it was shown at the exhibition at the British Gallery. The artist also noted that is was sold to Mr Thomas in 1846 and that it was his second picture on this subject.