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Samuel Palmer, 'In a Shoreham Garden', 1829. Museum no. P.32-1926

Samuel Palmer, 'In a Shoreham Garden', 1829. Museum no. P.32-1926

The visionary poet -painter, William Blake expressed his esoteric beliefs in powerful imagery derived from the Bible, Milton and Dante. He worked tirelessly and published many of his own 'prophetic books', but his wayward genius met with little success in the fiercely competitive London art-world.

These visionary works of the 1820s were forgotten until the 1890s, when artists and connoisseurs became excited by the prints of the Ancients. Later still, from the 1920s, Palmer's early landscape drawings became the crucial influence for English Neo-Romantics.

In 1824, Blake, then sixty-seven, poor and neglected, was discovered by a group of young, idealistic artists. Samuel Palmer, Edward Calvert and George Richmond despised the pomposity of modern art and claimed affinity with the classical world.

Calling themselves 'the Ancients', they sought to live close to nature and to paint and draw in a state of poetic rapture. They were inspired particularly by Blake's illustrations to Virgil's Eclogues. Palmer described these tiny woodcuts as 'little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry'.

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