He was born in Bloomsbury, the son of a frame knitter. He was largely self-taught, earning a living from making copies of Morland's works, but in 1805 briefly studied at the Royal Academy Schools and was probably apprenticed to Varley. His early works were mainly portraits but he went on sketching tours and in 1821 he exhibited his first landscape at the RA. He was influenced by Mulready (e.g. Gravel Pits at Kensington, 1813, London, Tate) and produced a number of rustic genre scenes (e.g. Shepherd Boy Playing a Flute, 1830, New Haven, Yale). The biggest influence, however, was that of Blake, whom he met in 1818 and supported financially through the Job commission (1821). He introduced his friend and later his son-in-law, Palmer, to Blake. In his later work, after the success of Eve of the Deluge (1848, Cleveland), he produced a series of ideal panoramas of a lush, pastoral Surrey (e.g. Last Gleam Before the Storm, 1847-8, Liverpool). Throughout his career he was a journeyman, prepared to take on any commission and work on any subject (he produced watercolours and ivory miniatures). He was hugely popular despite the repetitiveness of his late work, and won a gold medal in Paris (1855).