Born in Nottingham, England, in 1861, he lived most of his life in Birmingham, and became an exponent of the British Arts and Crafts school of painting. A Quaker by faith, he was an articled clerk in an architectural firm in Birmingham before deciding to become a painter.
From 1882, he attended classes at the Birmingham School of Art, and had become a leading painter in that town by the 1890s. He visited Italy in 1883, staying for thirteen weeks, and returning after 1885 on a research trip on behalf of John Ruskin, whom he had met through an uncle. Subsequenly, he visited Italy and France for long stays in spring and fall.
Southall also became a good friend of Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, whom he visited freq
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