Samuel Palmer’s (January 27, 1805 – May 24, 1881) best paintings and graphic work were a reflection of the natural world filtered through his rich, shadowy imagination. Palmer himself was very much a product of the Romantic era in which he lived. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Milton were among his major literary influences, while Turner stands out as one of the strongest forces in painting to have an effect on his development. Above all of these, though, it was perhaps William Blake who became the most important. While Blake’s work could be seen as more purely visionary, Palmer stood firmly in both the natural and the imagined world. At various times throughout his career, the imagery in his work might sway more one way than the other, but the visionary landscapes that mark both early and late periods in his life are the ones that maintain their power and have a continued presence even in contemporary painting.
The shadows in Samuel Palmer’s paintings convey a deep sense of mystery, the same profundity he once experienced as a young boy and tried to convey in his work throughout his life:
When less than four years old I was standing with my nurse, Mary Ward, watching the shadows on the wall from branches of an elm behind which the moon had risen. I have never forgot those shadows and am often trying to paint them.
– Samuel Palmer