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 Samuel Palmer  (1805 - 1881)

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: luminous landscape and portrait painting, etching

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Samuel Palmer Watercolor
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Samuel Palmer (1805-1881)

An English landscape painter, etcher and print maker, Palmer was born in Newington, London on January 27, 1805.  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 did not have a formal schooling, although he was educated briefly at Merchant Taylors' School.

Palmer became an artist at a young age and was strongly influenced throughout his career by the work of his friend and mentor William Blake.  Palmer's early work was partly shaped by his interest in the 'primitive' artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth century.   For a time, he lived in the Kent village of Shoreham, whose surrounding countryside became his 'Valley of Vision'.   After this he married and spent time in Italy; following his return to London he worked in watercolor and took up etching.  In his later years, Palmer suffered a series of personal hardships - including the death of his favorite son - and ended his life living as a recluse.

Samuel Palmer was largely forgotten after his death.  In 1909, large amounts of his Shoreham work 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 really start 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 now 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 since being rediscovered.  Palmer was a notable influence on F.L. Griggs, Robin Tanner, Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, Eric Ravilious, the glass engraving of Laurence Whistler, and Clifford Harper.  He also inspired a resurgence in twentieth-century landscape printmaking, which began among 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 truly major retrospective of his work, timed to coincide with the bicentenary of Palmer's birth.  The show ran from October 2005 – January 2006, and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March - May 2006.

Palmer's style was frequently crudely mimicked by the art forger Tom Keating.

Sources include:
Lister, Raymond (1974). Samuel Palmer, A Biography Faber and Faber, London
Lister, Raymond (1988). Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer. Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Drury, Jolyon (2006). Revelation to Revolution: The Legacy of Samuel Palmer - The Revival and Evolution of Pastoral Printmaking by Paul Drury and the Goldsmiths School in the 20th Century.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Samuel Palmer was born in 1805. He was a visionary painter with an extremely poetic outlook. His later work tends to over-elaboration of technique, but many of the watercolors and drawings done in the decade beginning in his 20th year would look perfectly at home in modern exhibitions. At nineteen he met and was greatly influenced by the aged Blake and consequently was long regarded as his follower, but Palmer's talent had a highly individual power that only bloomed fully once he had moved away from Blake's shadow. He died in 1881.

Sources include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: English Water Colors

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

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