The Valley Thick with Corn

A precociously talented artist, Samuel Palmer was exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy when only 14. Within a few years he began to be guided by the landscape and portrait painter John Linnell, who introduced Palmer to William Blake. This meeting in 1824 had a decisive effect on the young man. Having up to that point produced relatively conventional picturesque views in London and the surrounding area, Palmer was inspired by Blake’s powerful imagery derived from the Bible, Milton and Dante and he now began to work in the 'visionary' style that was to characterise his art for the next ten years.

The title of this work comes from Psalm 65, and the composition is characteristic of Palmer's belief in the munificence of God's bounty. The reclining figure reading in the foreground has been interpreted as Christian, the protagonist in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, resting halfway up the Hill of Difficulty. Iconographically, he descends from reading figures representing melancholia. The dream-like atmosphere is emphasized by the absence of perspective and such details as the disproportionate size of the ears of grain in the foreground. While much of the detail is extremely painstaking, the overall conception and composition of the drawing are of consummate mastery.

The six sepia drawings of 1825, of which this is one, are the earliest and most individual expressions of Palmer's unique genius. These visionary works were forgotten until the 1920s, when Palmer's early landscape drawings became the crucial influence for English Neo-Romantics.


  • Title

    The Valley Thick with Corn

  • Artist/maker

    Samuel Palmer ("Samuel Palmer") (1805 - 1881)
  • Associated place

    Europe (place of creation)
  • Date

  • Material and technique

    pen and dark brown ink with brush in sepia mixed with gum arabic; varnished

  • Object type

  • Dimensions

    sheet 18.2 x 27.5 cm (height x width)
  • No. of items


  • Credit line

    Purchased, 1941.

  • Museum location

  • Museum department

    Western Art

  • Accession no.


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Further reading

Brown, David Blayney, Ashmolean Museum Oxford: Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings, iv: The Earlier British Drawings: British Artists and Foreigners Working in Britain Born Before c. 1775 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982)

Lister, Raymond, Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 58

Piper, David, and Christopher White, Treasures of the Ashmolean Museum: An Illustrated Souvenir of the Collections, revised edn (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1995), no. 96 on p. 93, illus. p. 93 fig. 96

Harrison, Colin, Samuel Palmer (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2004), p. 22, illus. p. 23

William Vaughan, Elizabeth E. Barker, Colin Harrison et al., Samuel Palmer: Vision and Landscape; 21 October 2005-22 January 2006 (British Museum Press, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005), no. 15 on p.92

Moore, Jerrold Northrop, The Green Fuse: Pastoral Vision in English Art 1820-2000 (China, 2007), pl. 26 on p. 42

Drew, John, From A Kentish Family Album (Cambridge: Print-Out, 2008), Back cover

Harrison Colin, Palmer Caroline, Wodehouse Katherine, Dickinson Harry, Great British Drawings (Oxford, 2015), p.354

Reference URL

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