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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeWeb ExhibitionsHarvey-LeeSamuel Palmer Intro Harvey-LeeThe Early Ploughman

Samuel Palmer  
(Newington, south London 1805 – 1881 Redhill, near Reigate, Surrey)

The Early Ploughman or
The Morning Spread upon the Mountains

The Early Ploughman | Samuel Palmer | Etching | Elizabeth Harvey-Lee

The Early Ploughman
or The Morning Spread upon the Mountains
Alexander 9 iv/viii, Lister 9 v/ix
179 x 252 mm (plate)  131 x 198 mm (image); 162 x 249 mm (sheet)

Etching, begun 1861, though Palmer continued to work on it in later years. The first published state, as issued by Hamerton in Etching & Etchers, 1868. (A second edition, of 75, would be printed by the Trio, published 1926.) Trimmed or printed within the platemark, as issued to fit the page size. On cream laid paper with a red outside edge. The top border narrower.   




Additional Information about the Print

Lister suggests a classical source for the figure of the young woman emerging from the trees carrying a pot on her head. Inspired by Blake, who had borrowed poses from antique gems and coins, Palmer too had a study collection of plaster casts of antique gems. In a letter to a pupil, Miss Wilkinson, in 1862 he recommended:

At home, when you design a figure for introduction into your subject, after the first blot you should draw it faintly, undraped, so as really to know what the action is, and then add the dress. … Mr. Newman made me eight or ten of his cedar colour-boxes without partitions, and a little deeper than usual, in which I possess a fine sculpture-gallery, having filled them with casts from the finest antique gems. These are most useful for reference, when working out lines caught from nature.

Palmer exhibited a proof at the Royal Academy in 1873 entitled with the Biblical quotation The Morning spread upon the Mountains (Joel 2:2), a title he had already used in referring to the plate at an earlier stage.




The Early Ploughman | Samuel Palmer | Etching | Elizabeth Harvey-Lee

The Early Ploughman
or The Morning Spread upon the Mountains
Alexander vi or vii/viii, Lister 9 vii or viii/ix
179 x 252 mm (plate); 133 x 199 mm (image); 323 x 407 mm (sheet)

A proof impression, in the sixth or seventh state, the plate almost entirely re-worked since the published state above. Signed in pencil and inscribed Finished state *. On stout wove paper. 


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* The annotation Finished state was applied to proofs printed by A H Palmer from 1873 on the newly acquired ‘private press’ and are generally considered the ‘choicest proofs’. Herbert thought it a “great pity” when his father reworked the plate again in 1880.