An orphan, Picknell, born in Hinesburg, Vermont on 23 October 1853, was raised by an uncle in Boston, who urged him to develop his artistic talents. This led to a stay in Italy (1872-74), including some time in Rome where George Inness agreed to accept him as a student. From there he continued his studies in Paris under Jean-Léon Gérôme. During student breaks he was able to discover Brittany and he fell under the influence of Robert Wylie, a leading figure at Pont Aven. In 1876 Picknell's painting A Breton Farm was accepted at the Paris Salon; he would continue to exhibit there for the rest of his life.
The Phoenix Art Museum has Picknell's picturesque Pont-Aven Harbor (1879). He exhibited for the first
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