John Peter Russell
Painter John Peter Russell was born on 16 June 1858 in Darlinghurst, Sydney, the son of a Scottish engineer. In 1880 his father died and he received an inheritance that enabled him to travel to Europe to study art. Initially, Russell studied at the Slade School of Art in London, under Alphonse Legros, where he admired the work of James McNeill Whistler, Jules Bastien-Lepage and the neo-classicists Albert Moore and Frederick Leighton.
In the summer of 1883 Russell visited Spain with his brother Percy, William Maloney and Tom Roberts, where they met the Spanish art students Laureano Barrau and Ramon Casas, who inspired them to paint directly in front of the subject. The following year Russell moved to Paris where he studied with Fernand Cormon and became friends with fellow students Emile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh, as well as with Auguste Rodin. Russell joined van Gogh on a painting trip to Belgium and, in 1886, painted a portrait of him. In Paris, in 1887, he met up with E. Philips Fox. In 1886, Russell had visited Belle-Ile and met Claude Monet. The two artists painted together during the summer of 1886 and, in 1888, Russell moved to Belle-Ile and lived there for over 20 years with his wife Marianna (who had been one of Rodin's favourite models).
During the summers of 1896 and 1897, he met Matisse at Belle-Ile. Russell had an extensive knowledge of colours and their properties, and he encouraged Matisse to exchange his earthy Flemish palette for intense, pure colours. After his wife's death in 1908, Russell left Belle-Ile and from that time mainly painted in watercolour. He travelled with his daughter, Jeanne, through the south of France and, in 1912, married his daughter's friend, the American singer Caroline de Witt Merrill. They settled for a time in Italy and Switzerland and, in 1915, moved to England where his five sons were serving in the Allied forces.
In 1921, Russell returned to Australia, and the following year he travelled to New Zealand where he established his son on a citrus farm. He returned to Sydney two years later to live in a fisherman's cottage at Watson's Bay on Sydney Harbour. He died of a heart attack brought on by lifting rocks, on 22 April 1930 in Sydney, aged 71.
Dr Anne Gray. refer Dictionary of Australian Artists Online (DAAO.org.au)