SAMUEL PALMER VISIONARY LANDSCAPES 12 January – 12 March 2024
Samuel Palmer and his visionary works of landscape art inspired the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership. Palmer resided in Shoreham in the heart of the Darent Valley almost 200 years ago, at a time when the area was considered deepest rural Kent. Such was the beauty of the valley that it motivated Palmer to produce what are widely considered to be his most creative and greatest works.
He painted and sketched the landscape around him to convey both the physical and spiritual connection between people and the land. It fully embodied the modern definition of landscape by the European Landscape Convention as “An area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and human factors”. This was a time just before the Industrial Revolution when mechanisation was beginning to threaten the livelihoods of rural workers, and Palmer was passionate in his defence of rural communities and their close links to the land on which they worked.
He was one of a small group of artists called ‘The Ancients’, who were largely inspired by the visionary poet and artist William Blake. He rejected the values associated with increasing industrialisation and turned back to what he and they saw as a Golden Age of pastoralism. Its core members were Palmer, George Richmond and Edward Calvert and although not a member, John Linnell (who later became his father-in-law) was also closely associated with the group.
Samuel Palmer influenced the work of later artists including F.L. Griggs, Robin Tanner, Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, Joseph Webb, Eric Ravilious, the glass engraving of Laurence Whistler, and Clifford Harper. He also inspired a resurgence in twentieth-century landscape printmaking, which began amongst students at Goldsmiths’ College in the 1920s.
Samuel Palmer: Visionary Landscapes An Exhibition
A new exhibition exploring the life and work of Samuel Palmer’s Shoreham Years with responses from artists living near Shoreham or influenced by Palmer’s work. Created by the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme, part of Kent Downs National Landscape.
Just as John Constable is closely associated with the landscape of the Stour Valley, so the name of Samuel Palmer is indelibly linked to the Darent Valley, and in particular the village of Shoreham. For a period of ten years, from about 1824 onwards, he found inspiration in this remarkably un-spoilt corner of the English countryside, where he made his most intensely visionary work. In the intervening years, the valley has obviously changed; but it is still recognisably Palmer’s. To preserve it and to share it with a wider public was the main impetus for the Darent Landscape Partnership Scheme, with which I have been involved from the outset. Making the Samuel Palmer Trail, it was heartening to rediscover the sites he knew, from the great trees in Lullingstone Park to the surviving barns in the fields round Shoreham. It was also enormously encouraging that so many contemporary artists responded to the call to produce work in the Darent Valley which showed, however loosely, affinities with Palmer. They have responded magnificently to the challenge of looking afresh at the landscapes immortalised almost 200 years ago by Samuel Palmer.
Colin Harrison, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Samuel Palmer visited, lived and worked in Shoreham, Kent from 1824 to c.1835. Such was the beauty of the valley that it motivated Palmer to produce what are widely considered to be his most creative and greatest works. He was a visionary artist, producing art inspired by poetry and his imagination, capturing the essence of the Darent Valley landscape. Although not very well-known at the time, Palmer’s work went on to inspire generations of artists, including Graham Sutherland (who lived for a time in Eynsford and Farningham), John and Paul Nash, F.L. Griggs, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, John Minton, Paul Drury and many other influential British artists. We are lucky enough to have been entrusted with works from a few of these artists for this exhibition.
The Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme (DVLPS) invited artists within the Sevenoaks and Dartford areas to submit works for an exhibition, in response to Victorian artist Samuel Palmer’s body of work created during his time in Shoreham, Kent. The DVLPS team selected a range of works to reflect specific aspects of Palmer’s creative methods and to support the stories told within the Samuel Palmer Trail, also commissioned by DVLPS. We invited those submitting works to use these Shoreham works as a point of inspiration, exploring the varied artistic techniques Palmer used – ink, watercolour, oil, gum arabic, pencil – or perhaps his fascination with shadows, moonlight or tree details, or it might be the visionary element of his work which appealed. Or, of course, the beauty of the Darent Valley landscape surrounding the village.
The exhibition features facsimiles of a selection of Palmer’s most important Shoreham works, together with responses from a variety of artists together with collaborators from earlier DVLPS projects.
A panel made a selection from the work submitted. Among those on the panel were Colin Harrison, Senior Curator of European Art at the Ashmolean Museum (and a Palmer specialist), Victoria Threlfall, artist and writer of the Samuel Palmer Trail, Kit Boyd, a neo-romantic (and Palmer-influenced) artist who created the Darent Valley Line posters, and representatives from the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme and the Sir Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford.
The exhibition is being held at both the Kaleidoscope Gallery in Sevenoaks from 12th January to 12th March 2024 and at the Sir Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford from 16th March to 16th May 2024, with other touring options on offer.
The exhibition is curated by Sarah Newman, Curator, DVLPS.
We want to ensure the show is fully accessible, so if you can’t get to either of these venues, we will be creating an Online Gallery for people to enjoy it remotely.
A diverse range of free bookable events run by DVLPS and partners, inspired by Samuel Palmer’s visionary work and his love of the Darent Valley landscape.
Artist Talk: Feral Practice And Paul Cheese
Thursday 18th January 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Join artist Feral Practice and musician Paul Cheese at The Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks for a fascinating talk on their recent arts projects, funded by Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme.
Find out how Paul is creating a movement of music inspired by The Darent Valley and its multitude of sounds, taking inspiration from Samuel Palmer’s visionary paintings. Learn about Feral Practices’ 360 degrees VR experience, which explores and celebrates the Darent Valley’s diverse landscapes, unique biodiversity and precious habitats linking to the work of Samuel Palmer who lived in Shoreham in the 1830’s. After the talk, there will be a Q&A, followed by an opportunity to put on a headset and immerse yourself in the landscape as well as listen to some unique sounds. Explore our exhibition: Samuel Palmer: Visionary Landscapes.
This is a free event, booking essential. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/artist-talk-feral-practice-and-paul-cheese-tickets-773200372127
Artist Talk: Kit Boyd
Thursday 1st February 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Join artist Kit Boyd at Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks to learn out about his recent commission by the Darent Valley Community Rail Partnership to create posters inspired by visionary artist Samuel Palmer and the local landscape for the six stations on the line: Sevenoaks, Bat & Ball, Otford, Shoreham, Eynsford and Swanley. View a selection of Boyd’s stunning original paintings, linocuts, etchings and aquatints. Enjoy our exhibition: Samuel Palmer: Visionary Landscapes.
This is a free event. Booking essential. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/artist-talk-kit-boyd-tickets-774294464587
Curators Tour: Samuel Palmer: Visionary Landscapes
Wednesday 7th February 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Join Senior Curator of European Art at The Ashmolean Museum and renowned expert on Samuel Palmer, Colin Harrison for a fascinating tour of the exhibition Samuel Palmer: Visionary Landscapes at The Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks.
Find out about the time Palmer spent in the Darent Valley, where he produced some of his most important, and influential works. Explore a curated collection of Palmer prints, creations of artists inspired by Palmer and works crafted by local artists in response to Palmer’s enduring influence.
This is a free event. Booking essential.
Advisers and partners in DVLPS projects to date:
Colin Harrison has worked at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, since 1993, and is now the Senior Curator of European Art. Although his interests are very wide, covering British and French art until 1945, he has always given special attention to the work of Samuel Palmer. He was one of the curators of the great bicentennial retrospective at the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in 2005-6. He represents the Ashmolean on the Board of the DVLPS.
Victoria Threlfall was introduced to the work of Samuel Palmer when she was studying painting at Camberwell School of Art. Later she began to pursue her interest in the artist through extensive research, which included exploring the countryside around Shoreham and within the Darent Valley. This is where Palmer lived for eight years between c.1826 to 1832 and it was here he painted his most experimental and visionary works. In 2013 she led the first of many guided Samuel Palmer walks from Shoreham, and in 2018, was invited by the DVLPS (in collaboration with Sarah Newman) to devise and write the Samuel Palmer audio-visual trail (available on the App Store). In her capacity as an artist, she has led a series of linked drawing and painting workshops for the DVLPS all inspired by the work of Samuel Palmer.
Paul Cheese is a musician, producer and cyclist from Kent, UK. He is a forerunner in creating music from found sound and recording in unusual places, usually discovered on cycling missions carrying recording equipment and instruments. Whilst on the hunt for inspirational sounds and locations, Paul has written and recorded music in locations around the world and in every region of the UK. Paul Cheese’s latest audio project ‘The Big Record: Darent Valley’ is a movement of music inspired by the Darent Valley – the sounds of communities, individuals, industry, artistic works, landscapes, nature, history and present, and inspiration from Samuel Palmer’s paintings. Paul has been exploring the Darent Valley from its source near Westerham to its mouth at Dartford Creek collecting sounds, travelling on foot and by bicycle. To find out more about Paul’s project visit The Big Record Darent Valley. The project is funded through a Landscape Heritage Grant Scheme through DVLPS.
With special thanks to:
Rosalind Barker and Sue Evans, Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum and Kaleidoscope Art Gallery
Eija Burrell, Dartford Arts Network and Sir Peter Blake Gallery, Dartford
Mike Harding, Heritage Lottery Fund
Alun Hughes, Sandra Hirons, Heritage Lottery Fund
Sarah Hawes, Izzy PR
Edward Yardley, Yardley Books
Adam Green at Adam’s Gallery, Reigate
Bernard and Sue Pratt, Pratt Contemporary Art
Sarah Moon, Jennifer Smith, Selina Levinson Drake, DVLPS
Kathryn Hearnden, Catherine Bradley, Kent Downs National Landscape