Samuel Palmer

Today's Observer reviews a biography of Samuel Palmer, by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. Who is Samuel Palmer? Well, he's another artist who was overlooked, neglected, abandoned (need I add more?) in his lifetime as well as well after it. There's nothing a biographer likes than to find a gem of a subject; one they can rescue and show how great and deserving they were. I know, I'm doing a bit of that myself with Fred Engels's partner, Mary Burns. But as soon as I clicked the link to the story and was presented with his painting 'Early Morning' (1825) I was struck by a pang of sadness and awe. I think I would have cried if I'd been at home, but I'm in Chiswick Cafe Nero, receiving odd glances from a man who I'm sure would dash over to enquire if I did - and I don't fancy him - he may not fancy me. He may just be giving odd looks because I look odd! Anyway, I digress, back to poor Samuel Palmer. Kathryn Hughes imparts the gist of Campbell-Johnston's biography, 'Mysterious Wisdom - The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer'. A landscapist, Palmer had a different approach to Turner and Constable (neither have moved me in the way that I was a moment ago at the sight of 'Early Morning'). There are no other paintings in Hughes's review, (which means the biog will have to be added to my 'to read' pile and trawl google), but she refers to Campbell-Johnston's own description of the intriguingly titled 'The Magic Tree' (c.1830), as a work of 'mad splendour'. She associates Palmer with that other artist whose life, letters and paintings move me - van Gogh. With Palmer's early works with such titles, it's no surprise to learn that, whilst in his twenties, he was part of a group that gathered around Blake - the visionary Bard! This group called themselves the Ancients because 'they were in love with an art that felt as old as time itself'. Instead of putting his works up for sale though, Palmer allowed his work to 'languish'; locked away for decades. His life became tragic, as Hughes explains. His work became recognised for its full worth throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. In 2005 an exhibition of his work was held in London, before transferring to New York.

Location:London,United Kingdom

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