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By the middle of the nineteenth century, the old themes of rural labour and cottage life seemed to be exhausted. Paintings of the countryside tended to be sweetly sentimental and formulaic. The work of John Linnell represented a self-consciously poetic alternative.

Looking back to the art of William Blake and Samuel Palmer, Linnell presented the countryside as a place of vision and religious mystery. Here, the undulating rhythms of nature and rural life that poets had written about for generations seem to be made apparent in the stylised forms of the landscape itself.

September 2004