Samuel Palmer

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Samuel Palmer
Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park
ca. 1828
Pen and brown ink, graphite, watercolor, opaque watercolor, and gum glaze on gray paper.
11 5/8 x 18 1/2 inches (296 x 470 mm)
Thaw Collection.
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This remarkable depiction of an ancient oak on an estate in Kent resulted from a commission from Palmer’s mentor, the artist John Linnell. Palmer approached the oak in distinctly anthropomorphic terms. His spirited pen work captured what he described in a letter as the tree’s “muscular belly and shoulders; the twisted sinews”—from the dense textures of bark and knots to the exuberant curves of the branches. Dots of opaque watercolor, so thick they project from the sheet, lend an unearthly glow.

Signed in graphite at lower left, "S Palmer fect [t superscript]--". Inscribed on verso in pen and black ink at lower right, "Shorehame".
John Linnell; by descent to his grandson Herbert Linnell; Mrs. E.A.C. Druce; Mrs. Hilda Pryor; private collection, England; sale, London, Christie's 8 June 2000, lot III, repr. In color pp. 108, 110 (detail), and on front cover (detail); Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.

Watermark: none.
After meeting William Blake, who became a friend and mentor, in 1824, Palmer developed a form of Romantic landscape combining naturalist observation with a visionary style. This drawing depicts a view in Lullingstone Park, near the village of Shoreham in Kent. The artist focused on the giant oak in the foreground, suggesting the texture of its bark with a brilliant skein of dots, circles, and tiny scribbles. He conveyed light through an innovative application of yellow watercolor over white gouache, to which he applied gum arabic, imparting shine, and occasional dots of red watercolor.

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