John Russell was born at Guildford, son of a bookseller. He was a pupil of Francis Cotes, studied at the St Martin’s Lane Academy and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1770. He specialized in pastel portraiture, although he also made a few oils when travelling around the country to fulfill commissions. He was elected Academician in 1788, exhibiting 330 works at the Royal Academy between 1769 and the year of his death. In 1790 he was appointed ‘Crayon Painter to the King and to the Prince of Wales.’ Russell became a non-conformist and acquired an interest in astronomy and the study of the moon, perhaps influenced by Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) and by the Lunar Society (a scientific society that met monthly at full moon) of Birmingham. He invented and patented, in 1797, an apparatus for exhibiting the moon’s phenomena and was responsible for at least two prints describing the surface of the moon. He died of typhus in 1806 in Hull and is buried there.