Julian Mitchell was born in 1968 in Reading. Before undertaking a degree in painting at Wolverhampton Polytechnic he studied Drawing and Printmaking at Heatherey's School of Art in Chelsea. Paul Caldwell and Daphne Todd were both tutors.
During his time at Wolverhampton he concentrated on the traditional genres of landscape, the figure and still life. At that time, this was a rather provocative choice. The prevailing feeling in many British arts schools at that time, was that the canon of classical painting was morally and aesthetically suspect. Mitchell was one of a small group who were trying to find a way of making an art that was at once modern, informed by the classical tradition, and accessible to the ordinary viewer.
Modernism and Postmodernism seemed to them to have alienated much of the audience that they most wished to address. Its denial of narrative, of sentiment, and the erotic seemed misguided.
For models, he looked to Balthus, and the Metaphysical Painters from which his art had drawn inspiration. He also says he looked at the European academic tradition and British Edwardian painters who had tried to synthesise European modernism with out own national tradition.
Mitchell says he wants his paintings to haunt the viewer. 'I recognise that my aims are paradoxical, I want on the one had to create an enigma but I want this experience to be clearly understandable to viewers however small or great their knowledge of painting'.