Born on 3 June 1786 in Lincoln, the son of a minor painter, he studied under J. R. Smith before entering the Royal Academy, London schools in 1806. Like his friend Haydon he was dedicated to history painting, and his style developed from the Neo-Classic to a Titianesque Baroque. He exhibited at the British Institution, London 1808-39 and Royal Academy, London 1803-38; he was elected Associate Royal Academician, London 1813, Royal Academician 1819, and Keeper 1827.
In 1825 he visited Italy with Thomas Phillips. He died in London on 30 December 1839, and the following year sixty-seven of his paintings were shown at the British Institution, London.