John Pollen (1820-1902), became a fellow of Merton College in 1842. He spent 1843 travelling in the Near East with his brother. On his return he was ordained and appointed curate of St Peter-le-Bailey in Oxford. There he executed his first large scale decoration of a church, painting the ceiling in 1844. St Peter-le-Bailey was demolished in 1872.
Pollen traveled extensively in France, Italy and Germany in 1847, where he studied the Byzantine mosaics at Ravenna. His later architectural decorative work shows the influence of this trip, culminating in his condemnation of the prevailing influence of Pugin’s Gothic style on Victorian church architecture.
Pollen was a friend of John Henry Newman, and converted to Roman Catholicism in 1852, forfeiting his fellowship at Merton College.
His later career as an artist including membership of the Hogarth Club, the focal point of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, and commissions in Oxford which included the decoration of the Oxford Union debating chamber and the carvings of the façade of the Natural History Museum. He also acquired antique furniture and other decorative objects for clients, although his connection with William Sewell in this matter is unclear.
His watercolour sketches are considered to show greater talent than his large-scale works.