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Samuel Palmer

1805 – 1881

The Skylark by Samuel Palmer

The Skylark   1850

  Original etching.
Signed in the plate.
Ref: Lister 2 vii/viii
S 152 x 127 mm; P 120 x 97 mm; I 99 x 74 mm
Original Samuel Palmer etching.

Excellent impression of the completed image, as published in Etchings for the Art Union of London by the Etching Club in 1857 and with the plate number (17).

The Skylark is the earliest of Samuel Palmer’s etchings to display the glowing and intense passion for pastoral landscape which had so distinguished the artist’s Shoreham period. Indeed, it was through the inherent nature of the etched medium that Samuel Palmer rediscovered the inspiration of these early years when, under the spell of William Blake, he and the other members of the ‘Ancients’ had revelled in the ecstatic discovery of an untainted countryside around the village of Shoreham. It was in his etchings such as The Skylark, Sunset, The Rising Moon, Christmas and The Sleeping Shepherd that Palmer encapsulated his vision of the idyllic pastoral scene, portraying it with a radiance which has never been equalled.

The varied cross hatching technique which Palmer employed in The Skylark was new to his work and was due in part to instruction from Palmer’s friend and colleague C.W. Cope. However, the greatest development in Palmer’s etching technique is to be found in his handling of the sky and the effects of light throughout this print. In this respect Palmer was particularly indebted to Thomas Creswick, upon one of whose works (Evening on the Common) the sky of this etching was based.

Palmer lavished particular attention upon the sky in this etching and, in the words of his son, has captured “the delicate upward flush of early dawn over thin vaprous cloud”. An impression of The Skylark is known which bears an inscription in Palmer’s hand from Milton’s L’Allegro, thought to be the source for this subject:
To hear the lark begin his flight, And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-towre in the skies, Till the dappled dawn doth rise.

On pale cream India paper applied to original warm white wove backing sheet, with margins of about 1 cm beyond platemark on all sides. Mild suggestion of time tone, otherwise very good condition, image surface excellent.