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The Magic Apple Tree, watercolour by Samuel Palmer, c.1830

This watercolour belongs to Palmer’s so-called ‘Visionary’ period, c.1826-32, when he was painting some of his most intense and original landscapes inspired by the scenery of Shoreham in Kent. Reacting against the work of contemporary watercolourists, which he found lacking in profundity, Palmer retreated to the Kent Weald where the landscape offered him a taste of those ‘properties’ in nature which, he said, ‘lie still deeper’.

The densely laden apple tree, thickly wooded hills, golden fields of ripe corn and large woolly sheep all speak of the munificence of a bountiful God. The spiritual dimension of the subject is enhanced by the inclusion of a church spire which finds a compositional echo in the arch of trees framing the composition at the top.