Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Samuel Palmer - part 1

Self-Portrait
Samuel Palmer (1805 – 1881) English painter and etcher of visionary landscapes who was a disciple of William Blake.

Palmer’s father, a bookseller, encouraged him to become a painter. By 1819 he had already exhibited small landscape studies at the Royal Academy. The works that survive from 1819 to 1821 are able but conventional. In the following years, however, there are signs of a profound change in his thinking, perhaps connected with his conversion from the Baptist faith to a personal form of High Anglicanism and with his discovery of medieval art.

A sketchbook of 1824 (British Museum), rediscovered in 1956, already shows all the elements of his visionary style: a mystical but precise depiction of nature and an overflowing religious intensity, united by a vivid re-creation of the pastoral conventions. In October 1824 the painter John Linnell took him to see William Blake, who encouraged Palmer in the mystical direction he was taking and provided examples of his own work for Palmer to follow. Blake’s influence can be seen clearly in the “Repose of the Holy Family” (1824–25) and the series of sepia drawings of 1825.

1824-25 Repose of the Holy Family
oil on panel 31 x 39 cm
Ashmolean Museum of Art, Oxford, UK

In 1826 Palmer visited Shoreham in Kent, and the following year he settled there. His Shoreham paintings became more naturalistic but were still charged with visionary intensity. The years 1827–30 were his most productive, but after 1830 his work shows unmistakable signs of artistic decline. As his religious fervour faded, the precarious balance between realism and vision was lost. He left Shoreham for London in 1834, and expeditions to Wales and Italy confirmed the break with his own past.

The house in Shoreham, Kent, where Samuel Palmer lived
( photo copyright Poul Webb )

Palmer’s real forebears are writers rather than painters. He read with enthusiasm the writings of the German mystic Jakob Böhme, the pastoral poems of John Milton, and above all the works of John Bunyan, whose “Countrey of Beulah” is the nearest equivalent to Palmer’s “Valley of Vision.”
Biographical notes from Encyclopaedia Britannica

This is part 1 of a 5 - part series on the works of Samuel Palmer:

1795 Hecate, or The Night of Enitharmon's Joy by William Blake
pen and ink with watercolour on paper 44 x 58 cm
Tate, London

1819 Sketch from Nature in Sion Park
oil on card 32.7 x 27.6 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1821 At Hailsham, Sussex: A Storm Approaching
watercolour and graphite on wove paper 59.7 x 43.8 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1821 Evening
pen and bistre 19.2 x 26.8 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1824-35c Untitled sketch
india ink wash 13.6 x 17.8 cm approx
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1824c Untitled Drawing
pen and ink on paper
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1824c Harvest Celebration
ink sketch 11.7 x 19.1 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1824c Sunset
pen sketch 11.7 x 19.1 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1825 Early Morning
pen and ink wash with gum arabic and varnish 18.8 x 23.2 cm
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

1825 Study of a Hand Holding a Knobbled Stick
pen and chalk sketch 10.2 x 7 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1825 The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
oil and tempera on panel
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

1825 The Valley Thick with Corn
pen and brush in dark brown ink with gum arabic 18.2 x 27.5 cm


Painted shortly after he settled in Shoreham in Kent. The Darenth valley appeared to Palmer a perfect, neo-Platonic world and he called it the 'Valley of Vision'. In this picture he creates an ideal image of pastoral contentment, unaffected by the outside world. The unseasonal combination of flowering horse-chestnut and huge ripe heads of wheat symbolise fertility and the richness of the soil:

1826-28c A Hilly Scene
watercolour and gum arabic on paper mounted on wood 20.6 x 13.7 cm
Tate, London

1826c Harvest Under a Crescent Moon
wood engraving on cream laid paper 13.3 x 10.5 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1826c Landscape, Girl Standing
ink and gouache on card 11.5 x 13.4 cm
Tate, London

1827 George Richmond Engraving "The Shepherd"
(see below)
pen and ink 12.7 x 11.7 cm
The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

1827 The Shepherd by George Richmond
engraving on paper 17.8 x 11.4 cm
Tate, London

1827c A Moonlit Scene with a Winding River
black and brown wash, gouache, and gum on wove paper 18.1 x 26.7 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1827c A Shepherd and his Flock under the Moon and Stars
pen and brown ink with grey washes heightened with white gouache on card 52.7 x 40 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1828 Ancient Trees, Lullingstone Park
graphite on cream wove paper 37.1 x 26.7 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1828 Oak Trees, Lullingstone Park
pen, brush, brown ink, graphite, watercolour, gouache and gum arabic on wove paper 29.5 x 46.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa

1828c A Country Road Leading Towards a Church
watercolour 18.4 x 15.2 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1828c An Ancient Barn at Shoreham
watercolour
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1828c Ruth returned from Gleaning
pen and ink and wash, heightened with white 29.4 x 39.4 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1829 Pear Tree in a Walled Garden
watercolour and tempera over brush and grey wash, traces of graphite, on grey paper 22.2 x 28.3 cm
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York City

1829-30c A Kentish Idyll
brown wash on paper 8.9 x 10.8 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1829-30c Nocturnal Landscape with Full Moon and Deer
bodycolour and wash
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1829c A Cow Lodge with a Mossy Roof
watercolour and gouache with pen and black ink on cream wove paper 59.7 x 43.8 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1829c A Wooded Hillside at Underriver, near Sevenoaks, Kent
pen and ink sketch on paper, heightened with white 15.2 x 27.3 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1829c Cornfields with Barn, Shoreham
pen and brown ink with grey wash over graphite on cream wove paper 33 x 20 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1829c The Bridge at Shoreham
pen and brown ink, brush and black and grey wash and white gouache, over graphite, on grey-brown paper 22.1 x 27.8 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

1829c The Primitive Cottage
pen and ink wash, heightened with white 22.4 x 30.2 cm
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1830 Coming from Evening Church
tempera, chalk, gold, ink and graphite on gesso on paper 30.2 x 20 cm
Tate, London

1830 Harvesters by Firelight
pen and black ink with watercolour and gouache on wove paper 28.7 x 36.7 cm
National Gallery Of Art, Washington, DC

1830 Shepherd Under a Full Moon
pen and brown ink with brush in India Ink heightened with bodycolour on white card
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

1830 The Magic Apple Tree
pen and Indian ink, and watercolour, which in some areas has been mixed with a gum-like medium on paper 34.9 x 27.3 cm
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

1830 The Sleeping Shepherd
oil, tempera and chalk 39.4 x 51.8 cm

1830-35 View from Wilmot Hill, Kent
watercolour over black chalk on cream wove paper 24.6 x 36.5 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL

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