Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Picture of the Week No.12 - Samuel Palmer

With just days to go until we open the new exhibition, 'Clocking In', at Bedford Gallery, I thought I'd give you a sneak preview of one of the works from the Cecil Higgins Collection that is included to hang alongsidethe many artefacts that tell the stories of peoples working lives in Bedfordshire. The exhibition space has been completely transformed since 'Edward Bawden' and includes just about everything between arcane agicultural tools and space-age technology. But for the art lovers missing the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery while it is closed for refurbishment, there is a fine selection of works that complement the exhibition's themes. This Samuel Palmer is one of many regular visitor's favourites both for the charming rural scene it portrays and the technical expertise with which it it is executed, most notably with the slightly thickened watercolour that creats the effect of the sunlight through the trees. The work features in a section of that questions the way artists depicted the countryside and those that worked in it. KP

SAMUEL PALMER (1805-1881) Harvest in the Vineyard,1859
watercolour and bodycolour on paper, 19.9 × 42.7 cm
Accession No.: P.117
Lister, who gives this drawing an alternative title of Returning from the Vintage, suggests that it is no doubt based on scenes Palmer witnessed during his Italian tour of 1837-9 and describes it as one 'of happy abandon'. Although not exhibited until 1859, Lister notes some stylistic affinities here with works of the immediate post-Shoreham Period (1828-35).

Palmer married Hannah Linnell in 1837 and for their 'wedding trip' as Palmer described it, the couple visited Italy, a trip beset from the outset with financial difficulties; it was later described by his son as 'humiliating and penurious'.

Palmer had hoped that through George Richmond’s influence he might find buyers for his work in Rome but he met with little success. Palmer considered Richmond to blame but he also lacked in social judgement; his clothing, for example, being described as 'appalling'.

It was, however, a period in their lives when they enjoyed a degree of happiness and freedom, away from Palmer’s over-bearing father-in-law, John LINNELL.

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