Samuel Palmer

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Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer - Self-Portrait - WGA16951.jpg
Self portrait, circa 1826
Born
Samuel Palmer

(1805-01-27)27 January 1805
London
Died24 May 1881(1881-05-24) (aged 76)
Redhill, Surrey
Nationality British
Known forPainting, printmaking, drawing,
Notable work
Garden In Shoreham,
Movement The Ancients

Samuel Palmer RWS Hon.RE (Hon. Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers) (27 January 1805 – 24 May 1881) was a British landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. He was also a prolific writer. Palmer was a key figure in Romanticism in Britain and produced visionary pastoral paintings.

Royal Watercolour Society Society of Painters in Water Colours founded in 1804 by William Frederick Wells

The Royal Watercolour Society is an English institution of painters working in watercolours. The Royal Watercolour Society is a centre of excellence for water-based media on paper, which allows for a diverse and interesting range of approaches to the medium of watercolour. The Society's offices are at Bankside Gallery in London.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Contents

Early life

Palmer, who was born in Surrey Square off the Old Kent Road in Newington, London, [1] was the son of a bookseller and sometime Baptist minister, and was raised by a pious nurse. Palmer painted churches from around age twelve, and first exhibited Turner-inspired works at the Royal Academy at the age of fourteen. He had little formal training, and little formal schooling, although he was educated briefly at Merchant Taylors' School. [2]

Old Kent Road road in South East London, England

Old Kent Road is a major thoroughfare in South East London, England, passing through the London Borough of Southwark. It was originally part of an ancient trackway that was paved by the Romans and used by the Anglo-Saxons who named it Wæcelinga Stræt. It is now part of the A2, a major road from London to Dover. The road was important in Roman times linking London to the coast at Richborough and Dover via Canterbury. It was a route for pilgrims in the Middle Ages as portrayed in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, when Old Kent Road was known as Kent Street. The route was used by soldiers returning from the Battle of Agincourt.

Newington, London district of Central London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark

Newington is a district of central London, just south of the River Thames, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It was an ancient parish and the site of the early administration of the county of Surrey. It was the location of the County of London Sessions House from 1917, in a building now occupied by the Inner London Crown Court.

Merchant Taylors School, Northwood independent day school for boys, originally in London, now at Northwood, Hertfordshire

Merchant Taylors' School (MTS) is a British independent private day school for boys. Since 1933 it has been on 285 acres (115 ha) of grounds at Sandy Lodge in the Three Rivers district of Hertfordshire.

Shoreham

In a Shoreham Garden. 1820s or early 1830s Samuel Palmer 002.jpg
In a Shoreham Garden. 1820s or early 1830s

Through John Linnell, he met William Blake in 1824. Blake's influence can be seen in work he produced over the next ten years and generally reckoned to be his greatest. The works were landscapes around Shoreham, near Sevenoaks in the west of Kent. He purchased a run-down cottage, nicknamed "Rat Abbey", and lived there from 1826 to 1835, depicting the area as a demi-paradise, mysterious and visionary, often shown in sepia shades under moon and star light. There Palmer associated with a group of Blake-influenced artists known as the Ancients (including George Richmond and Edward Calvert). They were among the few who saw the Shoreham paintings as, resulting from attacks by critics in 1825, he opened his early portfolios only to selected friends.

William Blake English poet and artist

William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. What he called his prophetic works were said by 20th-century critic Northrop Frye to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. While he lived in London his entire life, except for three years spent in Felpham, he produced a diverse and symbolically rich œuvre, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God" or "human existence itself".

Shoreham, Kent village in Kent, England

Shoreham is a village and civil parish in the Sevenoaks District of Kent, England. The parish includes the settlements of Badgers Mount and Well Hill, and is located 5 miles north of Sevenoaks.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south-west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

Palmer's somewhat disreputable father Samuel Palmer senior moved to the area, his brother Nathaniel having offered him an allowance that would "make him a gentleman" and restore the good name of the family. Samuel Palmer senior rented half of the Queen Anne-era 'Waterhouse' which still stands by the River Darent at Shoreham and is now known as the 'Water House'. Palmer's nurse, Mary Ward, and his other son William joined him there. The Waterhouse was used to accommodate overflow guests from "Rat Abbey". In 1828 Samuel Palmer left "Rat Abbey" to join his father at Water House and lived there for the rest of his time in Shoreham. While at Shoreham he fell in love with the fourteen-year-old Hannah Linnell, whom he later married.

River Darent river in the United Kingdom

The Darent is a Kentish tributary of the River Thames and takes the waters of the River Cray as a tributary in the tidal portion of the Darent near Crayford, as illustrated by the adjacent photograph, snapped at high tide. 'Darenth' is frequently found in the spelling of the river's name in older books and maps, Bartholomew's "Canal's and River of England" being one example. Bartholomew's Gazetteer (1954) demonstrates that Darent means "clear water" and separately explains the other name. Considering the River Darent runs on a bed of chalk and its springs rise through chalk, this is not surprising. The original purity of the water was a major reason for the development of paper and pharmaceuticals in the area.

Maturity

A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star c. 1830 Palmer. A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star. Watercolour with bodycolour and pen and ink c.1830..jpg
A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star c. 1830

After returning to London in 1835, and using a small legacy to purchase a house in Marylebone, Palmer produced less mystical and more conventional work. Part of his reason in returning to London was to sell his work and earn money from private teaching. He had better health on his return to London, and was by then married to Hannah, daughter of the painter John Linnell who he had known since she was a child, and married when she was nineteen and he was thirty-two. He sketched in Devonshire and Wales around this time. His peaceful vision of rural England had been disrupted by the violent rural discontent of the early 1830s. His small financial legacy was running out and he decided to produce work more in line with public taste if he was to earn an income for himself and his wife. He was following the advice of his father-in-law. Linnell, who had earlier shown remarkable understanding of the uniqueness of William Blake's genius, was not as generous with his son-in-law, towards whom his attitude was authoritarian and often harsh.

Marylebone inner-city area of central London

Marylebone is an area in the West End of London, England, which is part of the City of Westminster.

John Linnell (painter) British artist

John Linnell was an English landscape and portrait painter and engraver. Linnell was a naturalist and a rival to John Constable. He had a taste for Northern European art of the Renaissance, particularly Albrecht Dürer. He also associated with William Blake, to whom he introduced Samuel Palmer and others of the Ancients.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

Palmer turned more to watercolour which was gaining popularity in England. To further a commercial career, the couple embarked on a two-year honeymoon to Italy, made possible by money from Hannah's parents in 1837. In Italy Palmer's palette became brighter, sometimes to the point of garishness, but he made many fine sketches and studies that would later be useful in producing new paintings. On his return to London, Palmer sought patrons with limited success. For more than two decades he was obliged to work as a private drawing master, until he moved from London in 1862. To add to his financial worries, he returned to London to find his dissolute brother William had pawned all his early paintings, and Palmer was obliged to pay a large sum to redeem them. By all accounts Palmer was an excellent teacher, but the work with uninspired students reduced the time he could devote to his own art.

A honeymoon is a holiday taken by newlyweds immediately after their wedding, to celebrate their marriage; today, honeymoons are often celebrated in destinations considered exotic or romantic.

Later years

From the early 1860s he gained some measure of critical success for his later landscapes, which had a touch of the early Shoreham work about them – most notable is the etching of The Lonely Tower (1879). He became a full member of the Water Colour Society in 1854, and its annual show gave him a yearly goal to work towards.

A Dream in the Apennine (c. 1864) Palmer. A Dream in the Appenine c.1864 (watercolor and gouache on paper laid on wood) Tate Britain.jpg
A Dream in the Apennine (c. 1864)

His best late works include a series of large watercolours illustrating Milton's poems L'Allegro and Il Penseroso and his etchings, a medium in which he worked from 1850 onwards, including a set illustrating Virgil.

Palmer's later years were darkened by the death in 1861, at the age of 19, of his elder son Thomas More Palmer a devastating blow from which he never fully recovered. He lived in various places later in his life, including a small cottage and an unaffordable villa both in Kensington, where he lived at 6 Drouro Place, [3] then a cottage at Reigate. But it was only when a small measure of financial security came his way, that was he able to move to Furze Hill House in Redhill, Surrey, from 1862. He could not afford to have a daily newspaper delivered to Redhill, suggesting that his financial circumstances there were still tight.

Samuel Palmer died in Redhill, Surrey, and is buried with his wife in Reigate churchyard.

Legacy

Palmer was largely forgotten after his death. In 1909, many of his Shoreham works were destroyed by his surviving son Alfred Herbert Palmer, who burnt "a great quantity of father's handiwork ... Knowing that no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt; I wished to save it from a more humiliating fate". The destruction included "sketchbooks, notebooks, and original works, and lasted for days". It wasn't until 1926 that Palmer's rediscovery began through a show curated by Martin Hardie at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Drawings, Etchings and Woodcuts made by Samuel Palmer and other Disciples of William Blake. But it took until the early 1950s for his reputation to recover, stimulated by Geoffrey Grigson's 280-page book Samuel Palmer (1947) and later by an exhibition of the Shoreham work in 1957 and by Grigson's 1960 selection of Palmer's writing. His reputation rests mainly on his Shoreham work, but some of his later work has recently received more appreciation.

The Shoreham work has had a powerful influence on many English artists after being rediscovered. Palmer was a notable influence on F. L. Griggs, Robin Tanner, Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, Joseph Webb, Eric Ravilious, John Minton, the glass engraving of Laurence Whistler, and Clifford Harper. He also inspired a resurgence in twentieth-century landscape printmaking, which began amongst students at Goldsmiths' College in the 1920s. (See: Jolyon Drury, 2006)

In 2005 the British Museum collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to stage the first major retrospective of his work, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of Palmer's birth. The show ran from October 2005 to January 2006, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March May 2006.

Writings

Notes

  1. Samuel Palmer on the British Museum Website Archived 24 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  2. Minchin, J. G. C., Our public schools, their influence on English history; Charter house, Eton, Harrow, Merchant Taylors', Rugby, St. Paul's Westminster, Winchester (London, 1901), p. 195.
  3. Denny, Barbara; Starren, Carolyn (1998). Kensington Past. London, U.K.: Historical Publications. p. 114. ISBN   9780948667503. OCLC   42308455. The residents were somewhat lower perhaps on the social scale, but many had distinguished artistic reputations such as the sculptor Alfred Stevens, at 7 Canning Place, and the painter, Samuel Palmer, at 6 Drouro Place, 1851–61.

Sources

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