Palmer was William Blake's most important follower and a member of the'Ancients'. His most intense works, a series of tiny landscape paintings and drawings, were produced in Shoreham, Kent, which he first visited in 1825 and where he lived between 1827 and 1832.
Palmer was the son of a bookseller and first studied art under William Wate, a minor drawing master. In 1822 he first met John Linnell, the landscape painter, who introduced him to his friend Blake, encouraged him to look at Dürer's prints and stimulated the visionary qualities of his work. A further vital influence was Blake's illustrations to Thornton's Virgil (1821), which Palmer described as 'visions of little dells and nooks and corners of paradise'. It is probable that the linear designs of his early work attempt to emulate the qualities of northern renaissance woodcuts. After 1826 he developed a freer and more tonal manner. While he lived in Shoreham, artist friends visited him, including Edward Calvert, George Richmond, Francis Oliver Finch and Frederick Tatham. They formed a sort ofartistic brotherhood and called themselves the 'Ancients', because of their shared admiration for early renaissance art and their belief in the superiority of ancient over modern humanity. Palmer's visionary sensibility began to fade around 1832. He moved to London and during the 1830s travelled in England and Wales producing topographical watercolours in a more traditional manner. In 1837, he married Hannah Linnell, daughter of his mentor, and spent an extended honeymoon in Italy, after which he practiced as a watercolour painter and teacher. He was elected Associate of the Old Watercolour Society in 1843 and Member in 1854. At the end of his life he recaptured the visionary qualities of his art in a group of etchings after Milton. Raymond Lister's exhibition Samuel Palmer and 'The Ancients' was held at the Fitzwllliam Museum in Cambridge in 1984 and provides further biographical and bibliographical information about this major artist. — Hilary Morgan
Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989.
Vaughan, William, Elizabeth E. Barker, and Clive Harrison. Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881: Vision and Landscape. London: Lund Humphries, 2005.
Last modified 20 December 2001