Landseer was a child prodigy whose artistic talents were recognized early on. He studied under Benjamin Robert Haydon, the well-known and controversial natural history painter who encouraged the young Landseer to perform dissections in order to fully understand animal musculature and skeletal structure. At the age of just 13, in 1815, Landseer exhibited works at the Royal Academy. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy at the age of 24, and an Academician of the Royal Academy five years later in 1831. He was knighted in 1850, and was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1866.
Landseer enjoyed considerable popularity in Victorian Britain. He was widely regarded as one of the foremost animal painters of his time, and reproductions of his works were commonly found in middle-class homes. His appeal crossed class boundaries, as Landseer was quite popular with the British aristocracy as well, including Queen Victoria, who commissioned numerous portraits of her family and pets from the artist. Landseer was particularly associated with Scotland and the Scottish Highlands, which provided the subjects (both human and animal) for many of his important paintings.
Interestingly, he was rumored to be able to paint with both hands at the same time, for example, paint a horse’s head with the right and its tail with the left, simultaneously. He was also known to be able to paint extremely quickly when the mood struck him. He could also procrastinate, sometimes for years, over certain commissions.
Landseer was a notable figure in 19th century British art, and his works can be found in Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kenwood House and the Wallace Collection in London.