Rapid, plein air, painting was the hallmark of William Lamb Picknell's works. His landscapes and figures in oil and watercolor were some of the most sought after works during the artist's lifetime, and he frequently had no extra inventory to sell to interested patrons.
He was an orphan who received encouragement from his uncle and pursued his formal education first in Italy, under George Inness and then in Paris where he was a student of Academic painter Jean Leon Gerome. His holidays spent in Brittany also allowed him to receive training from Robert Wylie.
By 1876 his work was accepted at the Paris Salon, and Picknell would continue to exhibit with the group for the rest of his life. His success in Paris gave him a quick international following and he would exhibit in locations around the world.
Upon his return to the United States in the 1880s, he opened a studio in Massachusetts, and remained in constant communication with his colleagues in France. By 1889 he had returned to the country and remained until shortly before his death 1897.
He was an active participant in the art world, receiving membership in many prestigious associations, including the Society of American Artists and the National Academy of Design. His paintings are in the collections of many major museums, including the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.