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The Caroline Skeel Archives Reading Room

Scan of the front page of a programme from an exhibition of artworks by Samuel Palmer in 1881

Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) tutored by John Linnell (1792-1882), another English romantic painter, helped him to emerge as one of the most significant landscape painters of the romantic era. Palmer, like his father before him was an eccentric, dressing in unusual clothes, for which he received jeers and the label ‘dandy’. He became a member of ‘The Ancients’, a group of artists and followers of William Blake who lived together for a time in a village in Kent. During this time he produced works in a visionary style, such as A Rustic Scene 1825, Early Morning 1825 and In a Shoreham Garden 1829. He was inspired in the 1830s by his travels in Italy, and painted some landscapes from a broader perspective. Among some of this greatest works were watercolours produced in his later life.

Palmers’ personal life was marred with tragedy and turmoil. When he returned from Italy he learnt that his brother had pawned his paintings. He had 3 children with his wife, daughter of John Linnell, only one of which survived. Palmer was distraught after the death of his eldest son at 19, and never fully recovered, blaming himself for pushing his son too much. Palmer’s relationship with Linnell became strained due to their differences over religion and politics and resentment over his continued financial support. Palmer received little critical attention during his lifetime but posthumously has been more widely recognised. His work featured in ‘Watercolour’, an exhibition at Tate Britain (Feb-Aug 2011).

See more examples from his collection in Madness, Poverty and Genius Gallery.

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