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Mysterious Wisdom, The Life and work of Samuel Palmer…Ah! Samuel Palmer, shades of Arcadia in bucolic, leafy Kent. The rural genius infused with shepherds and sheep and the sound of tolling churchbells wafting through fruit-laden orchards. A veritable symbol for a fading english twilight…well, yes and no.

Rachel Campbell-Johnston’s biography is beautifully written, throwing open the shutters of dusty illusion to reveal the humanity and humility of her subject. We at once recognise Palmer without having him brought up to date by contemporary comparisons. Campbell-Johnston seems to live with her subject in his time yet delivers to us a glowing set of new insights into his touching life. To the extent that we can imagine him alive and  bustling about the hedgerows in his voluminous coat, dainty spectacles and trouser bottoms tucked into his socks against the deluges of a wet summer. Ah…and what images he created!


Philip Maltman