The Fine Art Society, London, has most generously given its permission to use information, images, and text from its catalogues in the Victorian Web. This generosity has led to the creation of hundreds and hundreds of the site's most valuable documents on painting, drawing, sculpture, furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork, and the people who created them. The copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with the Fine Art Society. The following paragraphs come from Samuel Palmer, His Friends, and Followers (2012). —  George P. Landow.

It is the greatest mistake to regard Palmer merely as the disciple of Blake. His work is absolutely original and his vision is totally di!erent from Blake’s. — Keith Vaughan

Unlike his mentor Blake, Palmer found his vision in this world, in the unexceptional experience of rural life. The twelve completed etchings of Samuel Palmer comprise one of the smallest, and yet one of the most admired and influential, oeuvres in the history of printmaking. Palmer took up etching in 1850, at the age of 45, and was elected to the Etching Club having made a probationary work, The Willow, based on an earlier drawing. The Skylark was his first mature work in the medium and it was followed by a group of works on the same scale culminating in The Sleeping Shepherd in 1857. These small compositions are set either at dawn or dusk, times of the day when the artist felt the full intensity in Nature which is the hallmark of his work.

The Sleeping Shepherd and The Skylark were published in a volume of prints by the Etching Club,² published by the Art Union in 1857, together with The Rising Moon which saw the transition to a larger, landscape format. This he also used for The Weary Ploughman and its pair The Early Ploughman, and for The Morning of Life. These date from the late 1850s and the early 1860s. In 1861 his elder son Thomas More Palmer died, and this tragic loss was unbearable.

It was not until 1878 that he attempted a new etching, although in the intervening years three existing plates from 1858 to 1861 were completed or reworked and published. The Bellman and The Lonely Tower, both inspired by Milton’s poem “Il Penseroso” and completed in 1879, were based on watercolours commissioned by Leonard R. Valpy, Ruskin’s lawyer and Palmer’s principal patron. The Bellman was published in 1879 by The Fine Art Society, followed by Opening the Fold in 1880, the first of a planned series illustrating Virgil’s Eclogues, which the artist had translated from the Latin himself. He had begun four further etchings for this project which were unfinished when Palmer died in 1881. His son Herbert completed them, although the extent of his additions is not recorded. It is likely that they were in an advanced state,³ and Palmer’s English Version of the Eclogues of Virgil was published posthumously in 1883.

The Fine Art Society staged A Collection of Drawings, Paintings, and Etchings, by the late Samuel Palmer in 1881, both a memorial exhibition and the 'rst show of the artist’s work. The catalogue ran to 54 pages and listed 120 works, with a life of Samuel Palmer by his son A.H. Palmer, notes by F.G. Stephens, art critic and member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and an essay on the Milton series by Leonard R. Valpy, who had commissioned the series. Lenders to the exhibition included important artists and collectors. — Gordon Cooke

Palmer's influence

Gordon Cooke's catalogue, which includes works by both the artist and his friends and followers, brings together Palmer's famous twelve etchings and those by Edward Calvert (1799–1883), George Richmond (1809-96), Frederick Griggs (1876–1938), Graham Sutherland (1903–1980), Paul Drury (1903–1987), and Robin Tanner (1904–1988 ).


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Cooke, Gordon. Samuel Palmer, His Friends, and Followers.Exhibition Catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society, 2012.

Lister, Raymond. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer.

Palmer,A.H. The Life and Letters of Samuel Palmer, Painter and Etcher. London, 1892.

Vaughan, Keith. ‘A View of English Painting’, in New World Writing and Daylight (Winter 1943–44); reprinted in Penguin New Writing (31) 1947.

Last modified 26 May 2014