A devotee of the great visionary William Blake, Samuel Palmer became the lynchpin of the first British art movement. Leading a band of fellow artists – the brotherhood of Ancients – out of London to the village of Shoreham in Kent, he set out to create a new rural ideal. His paintings of slumbering shepherds and tumbling blossoms, of mystical cornfields and bright sickle moons, capture a world in which landscape and politics, religion and culture all meet. They reflect the concerns of the nineteenth century which his life spanned.
In his day, like his mentor Blake, Samuel Palmer was much neglected. He did not attempt the grand dramas of J.M.W. Turner or follow John Constable’s profoundly naturalistic path. But he belongs in their pantheon of great British Romantics as much for the numinous visions that are embodied in his loveliest paintings as for the vagaries of a life story in which he so often failed. If English tradition had ever encompassed the making of icons they would not have been so different from Palmer’s enchanted landscapes.
Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer offers for the first time in more than thirty-five years a vivid and intimate portrait of Palmer who, over the course of the past century, has become increasingly treasured as one of the most extraordinarily talented and quirkily eccentric figures of the British art world, or – as the art historian Kenneth Clark believed – an English Van Gogh.