Samuel PALMER (Newington 1805 - Redhill 1881)

In Vintage Time

Watercolour, heightened with gouache and gum arabic, over an underdrawing in pencil.
Signed and dated S. PALMER 1861 at the lower left.
196 x 429 mm. (7 3/4 x 16 3/4 in.)

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This watercolour, depicting a peasant family returning home at sunset with a cart laden with grapes, was exhibited at the Old Water-Colour Society in 1861. It may have been intended as a pair with the following watercolour of the same size, In the Chequered Shade, which was also exhibited at the OWCS that year. The romantic Italianate landscape and strong colours, as well as the stippled effect and the extensive pencil underdrawing, are typical of Palmer’s mature work.

As William Vaughan has noted of his watercolours of this period, ‘Palmer had always been inclined to experiment with painting methods. With the abandonment of oil, he seems to have considered new ways of extending the power and range of watercolour...In his desire to strengthen effects Palmer developed practices already explored at Shoreham to augment watercolour with other media. He regularly added body colour and chalk to give his paints density. He even used glue to rival the viscosity of oil...By these methods he was able to retain a remarkable amount of purity of tone and delicacy of detail. His concern to use the best possible materials, the most reliable of pigments, was probably necessary in order for these effects to work. All in all, Palmer’s later watercolours are remarkable for their complexity.’

The format of this watercolour and its pendant is the so-called ‘little long’, measuring about 190 x 405 mm., which was Palmer’s preferred format for the watercolour drawings of his middle and later years. The horizontal format of these works allowed the artist to focus on the landscape, and the extensive pencil underdrawing and the highly finished stippled effect are also typical of Palmer’s mature draughtsmanship. Both of these watercolours may be closely related to other works of the early 1860s such as A Poet, which was exhibited at the Old Water-Colour Society the following year. Watercolours such as the present pair readily evoke not only Palmer’s experiences of Italy, but also often combine elements and motifs that are reminiscent of his travels in Shoreham, Devon and Wales.

As the author of a recent monograph on the artist has noted of Palmer, ‘his watercolours count amongst the finest of Victorian landscapes and are to be valued as well as part of the cultural life of that age.’

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 Colours [Second and Concluding Notice]’, The Illustrated London News, 8 June 1861, p.540; 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.107; Raymond Lister, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer, New York, 1988, p.188, no.582 (as ‘Untraced since 1861’).

Samuel PALMER

In Vintage Time

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