Samuel Palmer, John Martin, and John Sell Cotman

Visions of Paradise in the Eye of the Beholder?

in Religion and the Arts
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Abstract

This article considers how a viewer identifies spiritual meaning in landscape images of the Romantic era as well as the role of artists’ statements about their work in a viewer’s interpretive process. It examines landscapes by Samuel Palmer and John Martin, two early nineteenth-century British artists known for the spiritual content of their work, and the connection between the work and their published statements about it. The article also considers the “secular” landscapes by their contemporary John Sell Cotman for the work’s possible spiritual meaning despite the absence of published comments by the artist on the subject.

Samuel Palmer, John Martin, and John Sell Cotman

Visions of Paradise in the Eye of the Beholder?

in Religion and the Arts

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    Figure 1

    Samuel Palmer, Early Morning, 1825. Brown ink and sepia, gum arabic, on paper, 7 3/8″ × 9 1/8″ (18.8 × 23.2 cm). Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, WA1941.107.

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    Figure 2

    Samuel Palmer, The Valley Thick with Corn, 1825. Dark brown ink and sepia, gum arabic, varnished, on paper, 7 1/8″ × 10 7/8″ (18.2 × 27.5 cm). Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, WA1941.103.

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    Figure 3

    William Blake, “Sabrina’s Silvery Flood,” from The Pastorals of Virgil, 1821. Wood engraving; second state. Block: 1 ¼″ × 2 7/8″ (3.2 × 7.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931, 31.87.19.

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    Figure 4

    Samuel Palmer, Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park, 1828. Graphite, brown ink, brown wash, watercolor, gouache, gum arabic, on gray paper. 11 5/8″ × 18 7/16″ (29.6 × 46.8 cm). Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2006.53.

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    Figure 5

    John Martin, Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, 1812. Oil on canvas, 72 1/8 × 51 5/8 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, Friends Fund, 1566:1983.

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    Figure 6

    John Martin, Arthur and Aegle in the Happy Valley, 1849. Oil on canvas, 48″ × 71 7/8″ (122 × 182.5 cm). Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England.

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    Figure 7

    John Martin, Eve of the Deluge, 1840. Oil on canvas, 56 ¼″ × 86″ (142.9 × 218.4 cm). Royal Collection, Windsor, England.

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    Figure 8

    John Sell Cotman, Drop Gate, Duncombe Park, ca. 1806. Watercolor over graphite on laid paper, 13″ × 9 1/16″ (33 × 23 cm). British Museum, London.

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    Figure 9

    John Sell Cotman, Behold Yon Oak, 1804. Graphite and gray wash on paper, 12 ¼ × 17 5/8 inches (31.2 × 44.7 cm). Norwich Castle Museum, Norwich.

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    Figure 10

    John Sell Cotman, Scene from Milton’s “Paradise Regained,” 1804. Black ink and wash, graphite, on wove paper, 12 ½″ × 17 7/16″ (31.8 × 44.4 cm). Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2003.25.

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