Wooden cart.

Samuel Palmer is a brilliant self-taught British artist

Wooden cart.
Wooden cart.

Samuel Palmer is a brilliant self-taught British artist who never earned great fame and financial well-being during his lifetime

Samuel Palmer (January 27, 1805 May 24, 1881) a famous English artist of the XIX century, an outstanding representative of romanticism. He was a brilliant landscape artist of his era, with most of his paintings painted in watercolors. The best masterpieces of the artist’s work today are kept in British museums, and his biography is an example of selfless service to art.

Samuel Palmer, despite his lack of academic education, was also a good illustrator and engraver, but his whole life he experienced serious financial problems. Due to the constant lack of money, for almost 20 years he combined his professional career as an artist with the work of a drawing teacher, and only towards the end of his life was he able to devote himself completely to art.

Harvesting under the moon.
Harvesting under the moon.


Samuel Palmer was born on January 27, 1805 in London into the family of a bookstore owner. From early childhood, the boy was brought up in strict Christian traditions, his father was a Protestant priest in the past, and his mother worked all her life as a nurse in one of the capital’s hospitals for the poor.

Samuel had a talent for art from an early age, but his parents did not encourage his son’s hobby. From the age of twelve, the future artist enthusiastically painted city landscapes with images of churches, and two years later he presented his works for the first time at an exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Nevertheless, his father categorically did not want Palmer Jr. to become a professional artist and the young man had to independently comprehend the basics of painting. After graduating from high school, Samuel was forced to run the family business, but in his free time he often visited the British Museum, where he made sketches of unique exhibits

Sketch of old buildings.
Sketch of old buildings.

In the halls of the famous museum, Palmer met the artist John Linnell, who by that time was already a well-known London landscape painter. Inspired by the support of a new friend, Samuel finally decided to become a professional artist and left his parental home in 1825. He bought himself an old dilapidated house in the village of Shoreham, 50 km from London and was finally able to devote himself entirely to painting.

Palmer Sr. made several attempts to persuade his son to give up painting, but none of them was successful.

Samuel lived in Shoreham for 10 years and this period of creativity, according to most art critics, was the most successful in his professional career.

Underriver Hills, near Sevenoaks, Kent, from the property of Jay Herries, Esq.
Underriver Hills, near Sevenoaks, Kent, from the property of Jay Herries, Esq.

At the same time, Samuel Palmer joined an artistic union called “The Ancients”, uniting the followers of William Blake (William Blake). Members of this group opposed the commercialization of the visual arts, their ideas after twenty years were picked up and developed by the Pre-Raphaelites. Except for Samuel, all the members of the “Ancients” were students of the Royal Academy of Arts, but it was Palmer who became the leader of the creative union, which lasted until the early 1830s.

Although Palmer’s paintings sold poorly, he gradually gained some fame in England and began to get out of the deep financial abyss into which he found himself. And in 1835 the artist’s father died, leaving his son a small inheritance. Finally, the 30-year-old young man had money, he moved from Shoreham to London, where he could already afford to rent an apartment.

In 1837, Samuel Palmer married John Linnell’s daughter Hannah, who was thirteen years his junior.

Lonely tower.
Lonely tower.

This marriage was successful, the couple lived happily together for more than 40 years, despite constant financial difficulties. And immediately after the wedding, the couple went on a honeymoon trip to Italy, which lasted about two years.

Returning to England with numerous sketches and sketches, the artist could not find wealthy customers for a long time and he had to give private drawing lessons to feed his family. In the 1850s. Palmer was carried away by engraving, but this type of creativity did not bring him the desired financial well-being, however, as well as illustrating books.

In 1862, Samuel Palmer moved from London to the small town of Redhill, located in the south of England. Here he lived the rest of his life, occasionally visiting the British capital on business. Without achieving loud fame and widespread recognition, on May 24, 1881, Samuel Palmer died at the age of 76. His creative legacy was appreciated by his descendants much later, in the middle of the twentieth century. And nowadays, the paintings of the brilliant master are rightfully considered classics of British fine art.

Samuel Palmer Sketch from life in Zion Park.
Sketch from life in Zion Park.

The most famous paintings by Samuel Palmer

A talented self-taught British painter has given humanity many beautiful masterpieces. And yet, the most famous paintings by Samuel Palmer are:

  1. “The Garden at Shoreham” (1830) is a work saturated with bright colors, in the center of which a magnificent flowering tree appears before the audience. And the figure of a lonely woman in the background only emphasizes the beauty of a simple rural garden.
  2. The Cornfield by the Light of the Moon and the Night Star (1830) is a work performed in dark, gloomy colors. Behind an uncleared field of corn, the outlines of low hills are visible, illuminated by the moon and a lonely star.
  3. “Summer Storm near Pullborough, in Success” (1851) a painting, most of which is occupied by a formidable sky, covered with clouds. On it, on the eve of a storm, a woman with a child and a shepherd with a flock of sheep rush to shelter from the weather.
  4. A Dream in the Apennines (1864) is a masterpiece created by the author based on sketches brought from a honeymoon trip to Italy. The enchanting rural landscape evokes feelings of deep peace and tranquility in the viewer.
Samuel Palmer The rock near Boscastle.
The rock near Boscastle.

Samuel Palmer is one of the best masters of romantic painting of the 19th century, although most of his contemporaries were cool about his work. And the well-deserved recognition came to the artist only many years after his death.

Samuel Palmer Sunset.
Samuel Palmer Grain field in the moonlight.
Grain field in the moonlight.