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Jean Sandro Russell1894

by John Peter Russell

Wealthy expatriate Australian artist John Russell spent most of his working career in France. From the late 1880s, he lived with his wife and family on the island of Belle Ille, off the coast of Brittany. 

This small but arresting canvas records Russell’s portrait sketch of his oldest son, Jean Sandro, aged 5. It showcases the artist’s practice of working with wet pigments, applying layers of colours draped loosely over one another. 

Painted early in 1894, the years from 1892 to 1896 were filled with loss for the Russell family, with the death of four infant daughters, perhaps making the creation of this portrait an even more urgent undertaking.