Samuel Palmer, The Rising Moon or An English Pastoral or Evening Pastures

London, about AD 1855-57

Samuel Palmer (1805-81) was one of Britain's greatest artists. He took up etching in 1850 at the age of forty-five and in the same year was elected to membership of the Etching Club. The Rising Moon was presented to the Club in October 1855. It signified a change in format for Palmer: it is substantially larger than his previous etchings, and horizontally orientated. A shepherd, his belongings suspended in a bundle from a stick, pauses beside his flock. The full moon illuminates the mottled sky and roofs of a nearby village.

The etching evokes much of Palmer's earlier work. The solitary figure, woolly animals and moonlit sky recall the period between 1826 and 1835 when he lived in the village of Shoreham in north-west Kent; the hills evoke his visits to Devon and Wales; and the cypresses elicit memories of his honeymoon in Italy.

However, one element is unique: the sense of exaggerated perspective, whereby the huge sheep dwarf the tiny male figure. This effect was first associated with photographic lenses. Some Victorian artists used photographs as models of design, and Palmer was known to be familiar with the camera. But in this case, the problem was more likely to be the result of Palmer's practice of combining elements from various different sketches in his final designs.

This plate was extensively reworked over many years and this proof gives an insight into Palmer's working processes. At the base of the left-most cypresses, Palmer darkened the shadows with touches of graphite, presumably with a view to making improvements before the next printing.

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Height: 14.500 cm
Width: 22.400 cm

Museum number

PD 1872-5-11-977



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