A new exhibition exploring the life and work of Samuel Palmer’s Shoreham Years with responses from artists living near Shoreham or influenced by Palmer’s work. Created by the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme, part of Kent Downs National Landscape.
Just as John Constable is closely associated with the landscape of the Stour Valley, so the name of Samuel Palmer is indelibly linked to the Darent Valley, and in particular the village of Shoreham. For a period of ten years, from about 1824 onwards, he found inspiration in this remarkably un-spoilt corner of the English countryside, where he made his most intensely visionary work. In the intervening years, the valley has obviously changed; but it is still recognisably Palmer’s. To preserve it and to share it with a wider public was the main impetus for the Darent Landscape Partnership Scheme, with which I have been involved from the outset. Making the Samuel Palmer Trail, it was heartening to rediscover the sites he knew, from the great trees in Lullingstone Park to the surviving barns in the fields round Shoreham. It was also enormously encouraging that so many contemporary artists responded to the call to produce work in the Darent Valley which showed, however loosely, affinities with Palmer. They have responded magnificently to the challenge of looking afresh at the landscapes immortalised almost 200 years ago by Samuel Palmer.
Colin Harrison, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Samuel Palmer visited, lived and worked in Shoreham, Kent from 1824 to c.1835. Such was the beauty of the valley that it motivated Palmer to produce what are widely considered to be his most creative and greatest works. He was a visionary artist, producing art inspired by poetry and his imagination, capturing the essence of the Darent Valley landscape. Although not very well-known at the time, Palmer’s work went on to inspire generations of artists, including Graham Sutherland (who lived for a time in Eynsford and Farningham), John and Paul Nash, F.L. Griggs, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, John Minton, Paul Drury and many other influential British artists. We are lucky enough to have been entrusted with works from a few of these artists for this exhibition.
The Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme (DVLPS) invited artists within the Sevenoaks and Dartford areas to submit works for an exhibition, in response to Victorian artist Samuel Palmer’s body of work created during his time in Shoreham, Kent. The DVLPS team selected a range of works to reflect specific aspects of Palmer’s creative methods and to support the stories told within the Samuel Palmer Trail, also commissioned by DVLPS. We invited those submitting works to use these Shoreham works as a point of inspiration, exploring the varied artistic techniques Palmer used – ink, watercolour, oil, gum arabic, pencil – or perhaps his fascination with shadows, moonlight or tree details, or it might be the visionary element of his work which appealed. Or, of course, the beauty of the Darent Valley landscape surrounding the village.
The exhibition features facsimiles of a selection of Palmer’s most important Shoreham works, together with responses from a variety of artists together with collaborators from earlier DVLPS projects.
A panel made a selection from the work submitted. Among those on the panel were Colin Harrison, Senior Curator of European Art at the Ashmolean Museum (and a Palmer specialist), Victoria Threlfall, artist and writer of the Samuel Palmer Trail, Kit Boyd, a neo-romantic (and Palmer-influenced) artist who created the Darent Valley Line posters, and representatives from the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme and the Sir Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford.
The exhibition is being held at both the Kaleidoscope Gallery in Sevenoaks from 12th January to 12th March 2024 and at the Sir Peter Blake Gallery in Dartford from 16th March to 16th May 2024, with other touring options on offer.
The exhibition is curated by Sarah Newman, Curator, DVLPS.
We want to ensure the show is fully accessible, so if you can’t get to either of these venues, we will be creating an Online Gallery for people to enjoy it remotely.
Please check our Events Web Page for a diverse range of free bookable events run by DVLPS and partners, inspired by Samuel Palmer’s visionary work and his love of the Darent Valley landscape.
Advisers and partners in DVLPS projects to date:
Colin Harrison has worked at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, since 1993, and is now the Senior Curator of European Art. Although his interests are very wide, covering British and French art until 1945, he has always given special attention to the work of Samuel Palmer. He was one of the curators of the great bicentennial retrospective at the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, New York, in 2005-6. He represents the Ashmolean on the Board of the DVLPS.
Victoria Threlfall was introduced to the work of Samuel Palmer when she was studying painting at Camberwell School of Art. Later she began to pursue her interest in the artist through extensive research, which included exploring the countryside around Shoreham and within the Darent Valley. This is where Palmer lived for eight years between c.1826 to 1832 and it was here he painted his most experimental and visionary works. In 2013 she led the first of many guided Samuel Palmer walks from Shoreham, and in 2018, was invited by the DVLPS (in collaboration with Sarah Newman) to devise and write the Samuel Palmer audio-visual trail (available on the App Store). In her capacity as an artist, she has led a series of linked drawing and painting workshops for the DVLPS all inspired by the work of Samuel Palmer.
Paul Cheese is a musician, producer and cyclist from Kent, UK. He is a forerunner in creating music from found sound and recording in unusual places, usually discovered on cycling missions carrying recording equipment and instruments. Whilst on the hunt for inspirational sounds and locations, Paul has written and recorded music in locations around the world and in every region of the UK. Paul Cheese’s latest audio project ‘The Big Record: Darent Valley’ is a movement of music inspired by the Darent Valley – the sounds of communities, individuals, industry, artistic works, landscapes, nature, history and present, and inspiration from Samuel Palmer’s paintings. Paul has been exploring the Darent Valley from its source near Westerham to its mouth at Dartford Creek collecting sounds, travelling on foot and by bicycle. To find out more about Paul’s project visit The Big Record Darent Valley. The project is funded through a Landscape Heritage Grant Scheme through DVLPS.
With special thanks to:
Rosalind Barker and Sue Evans, Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum and Kaleidoscope Gallery
Eija Burrell, Dartford Arts Network and Sir Peter Blake Gallery, Dartford
Mike Harding, Heritage Lottery Fund
Alun Hughes, Sandra Hirons, Heritage Lottery Fund
Sarah Hawes, Izzy PR
Edward Yardley, Yardley Books
Adam Green at Adam’s Gallery, Reigate
Bernard and Sue Pratt, Pratt Contemporary Art
Sarah Moon, Jennifer Smith, Selina Levinson Drake, DVLPS
Kathryn Hearnden, Catherine Bradley, Kent Downs National Landscape