Samuel Palmer

Portrait of Samuel Palmer

Samuel Palmer was an English landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. He produced pastoral paintings and is seen as a key figure in Romanticism. He was born on 17th January 1805 in London and died in Surrey, England on 24th May 1881 aged 76.

Major Works

“Repose of the Holy Family” (1824)
“Coming for Evening Church” (1830) 
“Tintagel Castle” (1848)

Biography Timeline

Samuel Palmer was born on 27th January 1805 in Newington, London, England. His father was a bookseller and Baptist Minister. He was educated at the Merchant Taylor’s School in the City of London but had no formal training in art.

1817: He begins painting churches at the suggestion of his father.

1819: At the age of fourteen he has his first landscape paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

1821: He becomes interested in High Anglican church services and medieval art which is reflected in his paintings.

1824: In October the painter John Linnel takes Palmer to see William Blake who encourages him to try a more spiritual and mystical direction in his work. He begins painting “Repose of the Holy Family”.

1825: He produces a series of sepia drawings.

1826: He visits Shoreham in Kent for the first time.

1827: He moves permanently to live in Shoreham at a run-down cottage which he nicknames “Rat Abbey” and his work becomes more naturalistic but still contains his visionary style. He joins The Ancients, a group of painters in Shoreham including George Richmond and Edward Calvert. He enters his most productive period. He falls in love with the fourteen-year-old Hannah Linnel.

1828: He moves out of “Rat Abbey” and joins his father at the nearby Water House. 

1832: He marries Hannah Linnel.

1834: He returns to London to live in Marylebone after receiving a small legacy and embarks on expeditions to Wales and Italy. His work is now less mystical and more conventional and he sees a chance in London to sell more work and take on pupils as advised by his father in law, John Linnel.

1837: He begins to paint more watercolours which are becoming more fashionable in England. Hannah and he tour Italy for the next two years where he gains ideas for new work.

1854: He becomes a full member of the Water Colour Society and shows regularly at their yearly Exhibitions.

1861: His eldest son, Thomas More Palmer, dies at the age of nineteen which affects him terribly.

1862: Short of money he leaves London where his brother William has pawned his early paintings and he is forced to pay to reclaim them. He moves to Furze Hill House in Redhill in Surrey.

1864: He paints “A Dream in the Apennine” and illustrates poems by John Milton and Virgil.

1879: He creates the etching of “The Lonely Tower”.

Samuel Palmer died on 24th May 1881 at home in Redhill, Surrey and was buried with his wife in St Mary’s, Reigate churchyard. (In 1909, many of his Shoreham works were destroyed by his son Alfred Herbert Palmer, who burnt “a great quantity of father’s handiwork … knowing that no one would be able to make head or tail of what I burnt; I wished to save it from a more humiliating fate”).