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Monday, 4 April 2011

Painting of the Month (16 ) April 2011: Samuel Palmer

In a Shoreham Garden. Probably painted around 1830
Samuel Palmer was a British painter who was influenced by Turner and William Blake. The reason for the uncertainty of the date of this picture is that he kept his work private after some heavy criticism; that's often the fate of those trying to change the boundarys of art.
Samuel Palmer, self-portrait.
The painting has a mystical quality and is very stylised and heavily 'designed'. One's eye is taken to the female figure walking across the lawn but the subject really seems to be the tree in full blossom. But it has been depicted in an unrealistic, 'modern' way. Cascades of blossom hang down and overflow in huge bunches in a style that pre-figures Van Gogh. Palmer's work was not recognised in it's day and was rediscovered in the 1920s when modern taste had caught up with it. He would have been around 25 years old when he painted 'In A Shoreham Garden'.
Incidentally the title refers to Shoreham in Kent, very near to London and not to Shoreham in West Sussex as popularly believed.
I find it to be very beautiful and a pleasure to look at.


John said...

Hi bazza,
What a wonderful painting and a fascinating post! You really are a font of all knowledge!
My eyes were initially drawn to the lady, but on closer inspection the whole painting is a feast for the eyes!

klahanie said...

Greetings bazza,
Most interesting read, old boy. And jolly good paintings by Mr. Palmer.

"One's eye is taken to the female figure walking across the lawn"

My eye has now returned to one's socket.

Botanist said...

That is a wonderful painting, Bazza. And I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be experimenting like that in a world used to photo-realistic landscapes. I remember visiting a Turner exhibition at the Tate, many years ago, and being awed by the depth of light in some of his seascapes, but it took decades for the world to catch up, as you said.

bazza said...

John: You are far too kind: I have come to rely on your blog to broaden my knowledge of birds and wildlife. I had better move on before we become a luvvies mutual admiration society!

Gary: I am happy to discover your lightness of mood today! I am pleased for your eye; it can be so embarrassing out on a stalk.

Botanist: Welcome! You are absolutely right. The French impressionists were fully aware of the debt that they owed to Turner who also worked at a time when classic realism was dominant. The difference was that Turner was famous for nearly all of his life - unlike Palmer.

Anonymous said...

Hot from the deep mind that is Sir Tom Eagerly:
Very pretty old boy. If he's not that popular, do you think I could pick a Palmer up for a pound or two? I have a damp patch in one of the corners of Eagerly Heights that neeeds hiding.

THE SNEE said...

Yet another artist with whom I wasn't familiar...Till now! Yay Bazza for highlighting Palmer. The lines of the trees remind me a bit of Japanese paintings. Was he influenced by the far east at all? Also, did he work in oil? Just wondering.

Kelly said...

Yes, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the blossoming tree, at first. Then I looked at the lady. Like you were saying, I can imagine this new, unexplored style of painting did raise eyebrows back then before it's type was accepted. People, even today, are slow to accept some substantially different forms of art. It seems especially true of music. This painting, overall, gave me a sense of tranquility about it. Take care, bazza.

joanne fox said...

It does have a certain Japanese style to it, as Snee says. Very spring-like.

bazza said...

Sir Tom: I think you would need several tens of millions but I don't feel that the Victoria and Albert Museum want to sell. You could try offering them a hundred million pounds to prise it away! (That's about $165,000,000.)

Snee: Interstingly, I can see what you mean about the Japanese influence but that came later in the nineteenth century. Maybe he was prescient there as well. Also it's very intriguing that you should ask if this is an oil painting but suprisingly it isn't. He employed watercolours to imitate oils but added ink and bodycolour; that probably means white gouache (pronounced 'goo-ash') which is a kind of opaque watercolour.

bazza said...

Kelly: Yes, it's true that in all of the arts it's hard to breakthrough with innovative change. 'Tranquility' is the perfect desciption of the feeling I get when looking at this and I would have used that word if I had thought of it!

joanne fox: Yes, Joanne, see my comment in response to The Snee, above. I can see it too (now that it's been pointed out). The tree is apple blossom, possibly cherry, so Spring it is!

David said...

Dear bazza,
Great painting. I love Blake and Turner, too, which you mention as being Palmer's influences.
Had never heard of this guy before, bazza, so thank you for introducing me to his work.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

bazza said...

David: This is the only work of his that is really well known but there is some other decent stuff out there. He did revert to more conventional painting in later years because he had to eat! However, that period of his output holds no interest for me. I'm glad you like this one David.

Rob said...

I particularly enjoy your posts on art.

The self-portrait is captivating. His pensive expression reminds me a little of Bob Dylan's on the photo on the front of the Freewheelin' album. (Perhaps Samuel Palmer would have liked the 1960s: one can imagine him experimenting with various substances!)

As you probably know the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has the world's most important collection of Palmer's works.
The museum has a guidebook entirely devoted to Samuel Palmer....though only four or five paintings are actually on display in the galleries.

Apparently Palmer influenced a generation of English painters e.g. Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland.

bazza said...

Hello Rob, it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
I suppose Palmer could easily have been an opium user in the early nineteenth century! He does have a kind of Dylanesque quality in his appearance.
I knew that the Ashmolean had a lot of his stuff; it's one of my very favourite museums and not disimilar to the V&A.
I still miss your blog!

Ron Combo said...

I one went to The Bodleian (?) at Oxford and they have stacks of his stuff there that they will show you on demand if you are not swaying around with a can of Special Brew in your hand. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Ron Combo sent this comment, which appeared in my emails but not on the blog. It was at a time when Blogger was playing up (Bazza):
"I one went to The Bodleian (?) at Oxford and they have stacks of his stuff there that they will show you on demand if you are not swaying around with a can of Special Brew in your hand. Nice post."

bazza said...

Hi Ron. Thanks for visiting. I think it was probably The Ashmolean in Oxford. The Bodleian is a library I believe. Lot's of musuems have more goodies in the vaults than on display!
I presume you were swaying around from your remark?