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Samuel Palmer ( 1805 - 1881 )  Category ( Painters ) [suggest a correction]
 

Samuel PalmerSamuel Palmer was a nineteenth-century English landscape painter, who also pursued the art of etching and printing. He is considered to be an important figure in the English Romanticism movement and is known for his interest in the pastoral. He was born in London, the son of a bookseller and Baptist minister. Due to his family background, Palmer was raised in Protestant piety, and indeed, many of his early works feature churches as subjects. His father supported his interest and encouraged the boy, who showed early promise.

At the tender age of fourteen he held his first exhibition at the Royal Academy, despite a lack of formal training. As to his academic education, his father taught him at home; and so, Palmer received very little formal education. It was perhaps for this reason, along with the young man's interest in ethereal subjects, that artist John Linnell introduced Palmer to William Blake. By this time Blake was an old man, but his ideas and techniques clearly were an influence for Palmer. Indeed, Palmer's greatest works were produced during the ten years following 1824, the year he first met Blake. The works in question are landscapes inspired by scenes in and around the area of Kent. Palmer portrayed mysterious and visionary vistas.

Many members of the Blake-influenced group known as The Ancients praised Palmer's work, though critics were brutal, and he rarely showed or displayed his work from that period again. In 1835 Palmer came into a legacy and was able to purchase a home. He began to paint in a more conventional manner, in order to attract buyers for his work. At this time he married Hannah Linnell, daughter of his mentor, John Linnell. Palmer was a good deal older than his bride and did not receive the support of his father-in-law, at least not of the financial variety. In order to establish more broad public appeal, he turned to watercolors, which was quite fashionable in England at that time. In 1837, the Palmers embarked on a tour of Europe, which was paid for by her parents. Like many artists before and after him, Palmer fell under the influence of the great Italian masters, and his palette, for a time, became brighter and his execution more dynamic. Despite his in-laws attempts to conventionalize Palmer, he was unable to obtain many patrons and had to resort to providing art lessons to paying customers. He is said to have been a good and effective teacher, but years of working with disinterested, uninspired students took a toll on his enthusiasm for teaching. Despite such pressures, Palmer continued to paint. His late work consisted of a mix of his more ethereal ideas with traditional subjects and landscapes.

Among his best later works include illustrations of Milton's poems, "L'allegro" and "Il Penseroso." By illustrating Milton he followed once again in the steps of his early mentor, William Blake, who also illustrated works by Milton. Palmer's final years were difficult. His eldest son, Thomas More Palmer, died at age nineteen. The elder Palmer fell into a depression from which he never recovered. He and his wife continued to suffer financially, once again mirroring the fate of his mentor, Blake.

Image: Samuel Palmer's Self portrait, circa 1826.


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