Samuel Palmer, View at Tintagel, black chalk, watercolour and gouache on off-white wove paper

Cornwall, about AD 1848

Samuel Palmer (1805-81) was one of Britain's greatest artists. In this bold sketch of Tintagel powerful strokes of black chalk shape two massive rock formations lapped by waves and separated by a deep cleft. On the right a rugged peak pierced by a cave bears the ruins of the twelfth-century castle. On the left a crane stands upon a circular platform.

At the time when this painting was made, teaching obligations kept Palmer in London for most of the year. He had a young family and was often short of money and forced to reply on his father-in-law, the artist John Linnell, for financial support. Despite this, Palmer usually managed to make at least one brief sketching tour, often in August, and in 1848 he visited Cornwall. The materials he took on these tours were very simple, and friends reported that he carried everything he needed on his person.

In a letter to a friend, he described Tintagel: 'There is one most curious place on the peaks of two cliffs which are gradually tumbling by huge fragments into the sea, viz. Tintagel Castle, the birth-place and palace of King Arthur. It was a mouldered ruin in the days of Henry the Eighth. Some turreted fragments remain which are very quaint and strange.'

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More information


W. Vaughan, E. Barker and C. Harrison, Samuel Palmer, 1805-1881: visi (London, The British Museum Press, 2005)


Height: 26.200 cm
Width: 37.000 cm

Museum number

PD 1910-7-16-17



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