Samuel PALMER (Newington 1805 - Redhill 1881)

In the Chequered Shade

Watercolour, heightened with gouache and gum arabic, over an underdrawing in pencil.
Indistinctly signed and dated S. PALMER / 1861 at the lower right.
202 x 432 mm. (8 x 17 in.)

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The title of this watercolour is taken from the 17th century English poet John Milton’s pastoral ode L’Allegro, published in 16451. Milton’s work was a constant influence on Samuel Palmer throughout his life, and his work is filled with references to images found in Milton’s poetry. In 1863 Palmer began work on a series of large watercolours illustrating lines from Milton’s poetry, commissioned from him by the solicitor Leonard Rowe Valpy; a project that was to occupy the artist for the rest of his life. In the present watercolour, Palmer depicts a woman carrying an urn of water on her head to the right, while a hunting party chases a stag with attendant dogs ‘in the chequered shade’ to the left. The high viewpoint, looking down on an Italianate landscape, and the interest in effects of light and shade are typical features of Palmer’s work of the period.

Both In the Chequered Shade and In Vintage Time were among seven works sent by Palmer to the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1861. As a recent Palmer biographer has noted, however, ‘At the Old Watercolour Society exhibition his works had been dismally hung. The committee excused itself by saying that his pictures were so powerful that nothing could stand against them; but the outcome was that only three of the seven works submitted had been sold. The painter was in low spirits.’

Nevertheless, one review of the 1861 OWCS exhibition – in which the present pair was shown - noted that ‘one of the most original and remarkable landscapists in the room is Mr. Samuel Palmer, who, besides throwing an air of poetry over the scenes he represents, peoples them with figures perfectly well drawn, and with a classic style about them which reminds one of an earlier and more learned school of landscape-art. Like the generality of the artists of our day, he is too much devoted to one peculiar aspect of atmosphere – glowing sunsets, which, however, he manages so as to produce a considerable amount of variety. “After the Storm” (183), “In Vintage Time” (216) and “Sunset in the Mountains” (226) are all examples eminently deserving the high character we have specified.’

Another anonymous review of the exhibition made note of the present sheet in particular: ‘Mr. Samuel Palmer contributes his usual number of drawings, which still present his well-known merits; but we are happy to say on a more modified style of art. The work entitled “Distant Mountains” is not quite so good as some of the others. “The Chequered Shade” is a much more pleasing and successful production, in which the light is brilliant, broad and well distributed, fading in its vividness, and increasing in its fitfulness on the figures in the foreground.’

In this watercolour, Palmer depicts a woman carrying an urn of water on her head to the right with a hunting party chasing a stag with attendant dogs ‘in the chequered shade’ to the left. The high viewpoint, looking down on an Italianate landscape, and the combination of light and shade is a typical feature of Palmer’s work of the period.

Provenance:
Walker’s Galleries, London, in 1952
Probably acquired from them by a private collector
Thence by descent until 2010.

Literature:
‘Society of Painters in Water Colors’, The Building News, 10 May 1861, p.388; Alfred Herbert Palmer, Samuel Palmer: A Memoir, London, 1882, p.87; Alfred Herbert Palmer, The Life and Letters of Samuel Palmer, Painter and Etcher, London, 1892, [1972 ed.], p.411, no.105; Raymond Lister, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer, New York, 1988, p.189, no.586 (as ‘Untraced since 1861’).


Samuel PALMER

In the Chequered Shade

506

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