- Museum number
A pastoral landscape, or Classical River Scene (as in catalogue); moonlit river scene, in the foreground on the left a man playing a flute, a woman with a child, and trees, in the middle distance a fortification to the right and possibly a figure to the left, and in the foreground to the right figures and a cart (?) seen from above
Watercolour with bodycolour, with gum arabic over black chalk on card
- Production date
- 1878 (circa)
Height: 229 millimetres
Width: 353 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following text is from Stainton 1985 [where listed incorrectly as 1958,0612.360]:
This little known watercolour must date from towards the end of Palmer's life; in mood, elaboration of technique, and richness of colour it recalls the series of eight watercolours illustrating Milton's 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso' which he painted in the mid-1860s. It combines the pastoral element which had been the central focus of the artist's Shoreham period with a more idealised and classical type of composition. In this he was perhaps inspired by Claude, whose painting 'The Enchanted Castle', now in the National Gallery, he described as "that divinest of landscapes". In this drawing and others like it Palmer sought to recapture the intense inspiration of his youth - "Thoughts on rising moon, with raving-mad splendour of orange twilight-glow on landscape. I saw that at Shoreham" - while reconciling his "visions of the soul" with a more publicly acceptable style.
The following is the entry on this drawing in W. Vaughan, E.E. Barker, and C. Harrison, 'Samuel Palmer, Vision and Landscape' (London, BM, 2005), cat. no. 158, p. 238-9:
Lister suggests that this may be the 'River Banks at Even' that was exhibited at the Old Watercolour Sociey in 1878 (238). The work has the limpid quality evident in a number of Palmer's last watercolours, notably the Huntington version of 'The Lonely Tower' (cat 238)The work seems to perfect evocation of the concept of the ‘Idyll’. It is a quiet, meditative representation of late evening with the sun having already set, leaving a purplish glow in the sky, and a sickle moon and the evening star in the clear sky above. There is a sense of the chill of early autumn in the colours. Dark-coloured birds - probably rooks - are circling in the sky above the castle on the river. A single white bird flies across the river. In the foreground, on a promentary overlooking the river, there is a shepherd and his family. He pipes against a tree while his wife – in deep blue costume – tends the baby who gestures in excitement towards the middle ground – probably at the sight of the birds. Further off is a solitary figure. Lower down, on the other bank of the river, travellers are making their way along a narrow path in the direction of the castle.
The overall composition of the work has clear debts to classical landscape, in particular Claude. The theme and treatment are close to certain of the Milton subjects, in particular the Towered city and the Lonely Tower. There is no evidence in this case, however, of Palmer illustrating a particular text.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1878, Old Water Colour Society, no 238, "river Banks at Even"
1959, British Museum
1960, British Museum
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.176
2005-2006, 22 Oct - 22 Jan., BM, Samuel Palmer, Vision and Landscape, no. 158
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Rev.E. Gurney, lent to FAS 1881 (41)?;R. H. Shillito; his sale Christie's 18 March 1935, bt Lloyd £27 6s..
UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number