Feel Art Again: "In a Shoreham Garden"

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This past Sunday marked the 203rd anniversary of Samuel Palmer's birth. The British Romantic painter had visionary experiences as a child, which influenced his works. "In a Shoreham Garden" is different from most of his other paintings, with a more modern, less mystical, feel. For today, I've prepared a few ­_flossy facts about Samuel Palmer.

1. First exhibiting at the Royal Academy at age 14, Samuel Palmer could be considered a prodigy. He taught himself to paint, receiving little formal training and no formal schooling, and had only begun seriously painting 2 years prior to that first exhibit.

2. Palmer is most well-known for his Shoreham years, "the happiest and most creative period of [his] life," during which he painted mysterious paintings that presented his "Valley of Vision" as a paradise of sorts. His home during those years was the run-down cottage "Rat Abbey."

3. In 1837, he embarked on a two-year honeymoon to Italy with his bride, a friend's daughter who was 12 years his junior. Upon returning to London, he discovered his brother William had pawned all of his early paintings. The great expense required to redeem the paintings strained Palmer's tight finances even more.

4. His wife, Hannah, was the daughter of landscape painter John Linnell, whom Palmer described as "a good angel from Heaven to pluck me from the pit of modern art." Palmer was the central artist of "The Ancients," a group that included Linnell and which was focused on early Renaissance art and poets. Through Linnell, Palmer was introduced to the works of master like Albrecht Dürer and met William Blake, who significantly influenced his Shoreham works.

5. Despite his early start, Palmer often had difficulty securing patrons. He also suffered severe criticism of his early works in 1825 and was generally dismissed after his death in 1881. In 1909, his son Alfred, who wrote and edited The Life and Letters of Samuel Palmer, destroyed a great amount of Samuel Palmer's early work in 1909. He burnt sketchbooks, notebooks, and original works. According to Alfred, ""¦no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt; I wished to save it from a more humiliating fate." Evidently, the destruction lasted for days.

A larger version is available here.

"˜Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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January 29, 2008 - 9:10am
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