The eldest son of a London bookseller, Samuel Palmer was born in 1805. At the age of 12, he began drawing churches and abbeys and when he was 14 he exhibited landscape drawings at the Royal Academy. In 1824 Palmer met William Blake, whose woodcut illustrations to Thornton’s edition of “The Pastorals of Virgil” greatly impressed Palmer.
In 1827 Palmer found himself in poor health and moved in with his father and a nurse. Eventually, Palmer became the central figure in a group of artists called “The Ancients” whose talk and aspirations focused on ancient poets and painters. After his health improved, Palmer returned to London in 1835 and sketched in Devonshire and Wales. In 1837 he spent two years in Italy perfecting his drawing and painting in a topographical style. When he returned to London, he settled into a job as a drawing master to untalented pupils relieved only by trips to Devon, Cornwall and North Wales.
In 1843 Palmer was elected to the Old Watercolor Society and in 1848 he moved to Kensington to be closer to the countryside. He began an ambitious series of etchings made to accompany his own translation from the Latin of Virgil’s “Eclogues”. The etchings were unfinished at the time of Palmer’s death, but were later completed and published by his son in 1883.