Fearnley was born in Norway (until 1814 part of the Kingdom of Denmark and Norway), the grandson of an emigrated Yorkshireman. After training in Copenhagen and Stockholm, he moved to Dresden in 1828 and became the pupil of his fellow countryman Johan Christian Dahl. There, Fearnley also met the great German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. Both, Dahl and Friedrich, remained an inspiration throughout Fearnley’s career. He travelled widely, in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France, and returned to his home country only three times thereafter. Fearnley’s work consists of oil sketches, often prepared out of doors and completed in the studio, and larger, more finished compositions, mainly for exhibitions. In 1836-38 he visited England, spending time in London, where he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and in the Lake District. He died in Munich from typhus, aged 39.