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Samuel Palmer

1805 – 1881

Christmas by Samuel Palmer

Christmas   1850

  Original etching.
Ref: Lister E4 iv/v
S 289 x 210 mm; P 124 x 102 mm; I 99 x 81 mm
Original Samuel Palmer etching.

Beautiful impression as first issued in Samuel Palmer, A Memoir by A.H. Palmer in 1882; with the engraved title “Christmas” and the words “from Bampfylde’s Sonnet”. A particularly fine, crisp impression with sparkling line.

The outstanding work of Samuel Palmer’s early etchings. This single year of 1850 was the most productive period of Samuel Palmer’s etching career, resulting in the completion of four of his finest etchings and culminating in this image inspired by Bampfylde’s Sonnet – the plate of Christmas or Folding the Last Sheep. Inspired by the rustic countryside of Devon and Cornwall, where he had stayed on recent trips, Samuel Palmer recaptured in this etching the glowing and intense passion for pastoral landscape which had so distinguished his Shoreham period.

The technique of etching as an art form seems to have completely renewed Samuel Palmer’s inspiration with extraordinary vigour. In this exquisite etched work Samuel Palmer has woven his image together in an intricate lattice through which gleams, in a myriad of tiny points of light, the warmth of the cottage interior, the cold white of the moon and the reflected glimmer of its light.

It was these fleeting nuances of light which fascinated Samuel Palmer, making etching his favourite branch of art. Samuel Palmer’s etchings were not the result of rapid and direct sketching from nature but were the result of long and painstaking effort and experiment. To him the charm of etching was in “the glimmering through of the white paper even in the shadows so that almost everything either sparkles or suggests sparkle”. To achieve this effect and the luminosity which he so loved, Samuel Palmer has used a dense web of finely etched lines, through which the white of the paper is allowed to sparkle in a thousand tiny dots, to create an infinite tonal range. In this small etching Samuel Palmer has encapsulated his vision of the idyllic pastoral scene, portraying it with a radiance which has never been equalled.

Although etched in 1850, this plate remained unpublished during Samuel Palmer's lifetime. This impression is from the first published edition, issued in Samuel Palmer, A Memoir by A.H. Palmer in 1882.

This etching was inspired by lines from a sonnet by John Codrington Bampfylde (1754-1796):
Old Christmas comes, to close the wanéd year,
And aye the shepherd’s heart to make right glad;
Who, when his teeming flocks are homeward had,
To blazing hearth repairs, and nut-brown beer;

On cream wove paper with full margins, as issued. Generally very fine original condition. Image surface excellent.

Provenance: From the personal collection of the Honourable Christopher Lennox-Boyd and with his collection reference in pencil verso.
Blindstamp of an earlier collection in margin.