Samuel Palmer


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Shadows on the Wall

William Vaughan

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Samuel Palmer (1805–1881) was one of the leading British landscape painters of the 19th century. Inspired by his mentor, the artist and poet William Blake, Palmer brought a new spiritual intensity to his interpretation of nature, producing works of unprecedented boldness and fervency. Pre-eminent scholar William Vaughan—who organized the Palmer retrospective at the British Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005—draws on unpublished diaries and letters, offering a fresh interpretation of one of the most attractive and sympathetic, yet idiosyncratic, figures of the 19th century. Far from being a recluse, as he is often presented, Palmer was actively engaged in Victorian cultural life and sought to exert a moral power through his artwork. Beautifully illustrated with Palmer's visionary and enchanted landscapes, the book contains rich studies of his work, influences, and resources. Vaughan also shows how later, enthralled by the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Palmer manipulated his own artistic image to harmonize with it. Little appreciated in his lifetime, Palmer is now hailed as a precursor of modernism in the 20th century.

Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

William Vaughan is professor emeritus of history of art at Birkbeck College at the University of London. 

‘This beautifully illustrated book draws on unpublished diaries and letters, offering a fresh perspective on an idiosyncratic artist.’—Apollo.

‘This major work on Palmer is full of information and is very readable, with the text being accompanied by superb photographs of the artist’s work.’—Bill Spence, Yorkshire Gazette & Herald.

“The present magisterial volume is beautifully illustrated… Vaughan’s research allows a fuller (and now much more complex) view of Palmer’s childhood and Baptist adolescence to emerge; and he makes a strong case for artist’s later career as being at the centre of Victorian idealist artistic movement, rather than on the margins of fantasy and imagination.”—Revd. Dr. Nicholas Cranfield, Church Times

“Vaughan’s magisterial, readable account gives us the whole story of this artist whose work still resonates and surprises.”—Ruth Guilding, Evening Standard

“William Vaughan, the lead curator of the bicentenary exhibitions London and New York in 2005 and 2006, is well placed to offer fresh insights… Vaughan has been wonderfully served by his publishers, who have embellished the book with a host of enlarged details.”—Timothy Wilcox, Art Newspaper 

“At every point, Vaughan refuses to comply with the image of Palmer as an isolated visionary, doing him far greater justice instead by painting a rich portrait of the age as well of the man: where he was influenced and where he influenced, where he triumphed and where he fell short.”—Alice Spawls, TLS

“Yale University Press produces some of the finest art books on the market, and this is one of their finest…  Vaughan was the organiser of the 2015 retrospective on Palmer and is one of the greatest living experts on Palmer and his period.”—Stephen Prickett, Art & Christianity

“[A] substantial, fully illustrated, color monograph . . . [that] presents Palmer’s career chronologically and comprehensively.”—K. Rhodes, Choice

“Vaughan’s Samuel Palmer, with its many gorgeously reproduced images, shows Palmer’s deeply rural world . . . Palmer was an artist of an imaginary, unspoiled Arcadian England that nonetheless referenced contemporary costume and details of domestic architecture.”—Kate Flint, Public Books
ISBN: 9780300209853
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
412 pages, 9 1/2 x 11
180 color + 120 b/w illus.
German Romantic Painting

Second Edition

William Vaughan

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