Edward Calvert, The Primitive City, a pen and ink drawing with watercolour

England, AD 1822

Calvert (1799-1883) spent five years in the Navy before leaving, after his closest friend was killed in action. In 1824, he joined the Royal Academy of Art, London as a student. Here he first came into contact with some of the young artists who revered the ageing William Blake. Calling themselves the ‘Ancients', they gathered in Shoreham, Kent, to discuss Blake's visionary ideals and to produce pastoral images with a mystical slant. Calvert owned a copy of Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job, and may have had a copy of his Illustrations to Thornton's Virgil, published in 1821. 'I have a fondness for the Earth,' he wrote, 'I feel a yearning to see the glades and nooks receding like vistas into the gardens of Heaven'.

This drawing was produced two years before Calvert moved to London, and four years before he met Samuel Palmer, the leading light of the 'Ancients'. It shows that Calvert was already travelling in the same direction in his art while still living in his native Devon. The miniature scale, intense colour and spiritualised pastoral setting, all show the influence of Blake. There is also evidence of Calvert's abiding interest in Classical art: the scantily-clad figure on the left is derived from a Greek statue of Aphrodite (Venus) now in the Museo Nazionale, Naples.

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

R. Lister (ed.), Samuel Palmer and the ancients (Cambridge, Fitzwilliam, 1984)

R. Lister, Edward Calvert (London, G. Bell, 1962)


Height: 79.000 mm
Width: 112.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1947-2-17-1


Presented by the National Art Collections Fund


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