Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall by William Vaughan - review by Michael Prodger

Michael Prodger

Sage of Shoreham

Samuel Palmer: Shadows on the Wall


Yale University Press 412pp £50 order from our bookshop

In 1824 Samuel Palmer met a highly eccentric and little-known artist called William Blake. As Palmer later recalled, ‘He fixed his grey eyes upon me and said “Do you work with fear and trembling?” “Yes, indeed,” “Then you’ll do.”’ This brief exchange has the too-perfect air of careful buffing, but whether or not it happened that way, the meeting with Blake was to change Palmer’s life. It was also to influence a great swathe of British art.

The bloodline that started with this meeting runs through the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Ruskin, Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and a host of other pastoralists. The same blood can also be found in the veins of W B Yeats and John Berger (though here in a tainted form, since the latter described Palmer’s pictures as ‘landscapes

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter