Mysterious Wisdom: the life & work of Samuel Palmer || Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Samuel Palmer was part of the first British art movement, the Ancients. The problem is that, heavily influenced by William Blake, both artistically and philosophically, they were a bit of a backwater in terms of what was going on elsewhere. If you want something that that fits more conventionally into the canon, you’ll have to scroll forward to the Norwich School.

For this reason, as well as his general character, which is best described as less than charismatic, Samuel Palmer has largely been overlooked. In this thorough book, however, Rachel Campbell-Johnston has redressed the balance completely and done Palmer justice. While not being blind to his limitations, she lays out his life and the course of his work with clarity and, I think it’s fair to say, affection. A biographer should not get too close to their subject but, when they’re as fragile as Palmer is – certainly in terms of what’s generally known about him – a more gentle approach is appropriate.

This is a site that mainly reviews books aimed at the practising amateur painter and I can’t honestly say that this book really fits into its remit. Nevertheless, the publisher sent it to me and it seemed curmudgeonly to ignore it. In fact, it’s an enjoyable and intriguing read, especially if you like neglected corners.

Buy it on Amazon

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