Samuel Palmer

The Waterfalls, Pistil Mawddach, North Wales


Not on display

Samuel Palmer 1805–1881
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 406 × 260 mm
frame: 524 × 632 × 45 mm
Purchased 1968

Display caption

After his so-called 'visionary years' at Shoreham in Kent Palmer sought new places to inspire him. During the 1830s he paid visits to the West Country and more particularly to Wales, where he saw 'grand novelties & enlarged the materials of imagination'. He paid his first visit in 1835 with the animal painter Henry Walter. Palmer appears to have made a drawing on the spot of the Pistil Mawddach falls, which lie north of Dolgellau, and then to have worked up both a watercolour (now at the Yale Center for British Art) and this oil of the subject. He returned to Wales in 1836, this time with Edward Calvert.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Samuel Palmer 1805–1881
Not inscribed.
Canvas, painted area 16×20 1/4 (40·5×51·5); the original canvas extends approx. 1/4 (0.5) at the top and on the left.
Purchased from P & D Colnaghi & Co Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1968.
Coll: ...; found at his home by S H Nazeby Harrington; his daughter-in-law Lady Harrington, sold to Colnaghi's.
Exh: ? R.A., 1836 (656) as ‘Pistil Mawddach, near Pistil Cain, North Wales’.
Lit: Geoffrey Grigson, Samuel Palmer, the Visionary Years, 1947, p. 132.

The work exhibited at the R.A. in 1836 was hung in the Antique Academy which contained mainly water-colours but also small oils such as this picture. A work of the same title was hung in the Water-Colour Room at the Spring Exhibition of the Society of British Artists the same year (586); this opened in the middle of March and may have overlapped the R.A. exhibition which ran from the last week in May.

A watercolour and gouache version of T01069, 17×20 1/2 in., was sold at Sotheby's on 18 March 1964 (30, repr.), bought Agnew, and may be the watercolour shown at the Society of British Artists. It is very similar to T01069 save for the flanking trees and the absence of the two figures; the girl's fishing-rod is however shown, lying on the bank with a jar.

Palmer visited North Wales in the Summer of 1835, travelling with the animal painter Henry Walter, another of the ‘Ancients’. T01069 was probably painted on his return. He went there again in 1836, with Calvert, but this would have been after he had sent in his works to the Royal Academy. As well as the water-colour mentioned above another one, 18 1/2×14 5/8 in., concentrating more on the waterfall itself, was sold by Bryan Westwood at Sotheby's on 12 July 1967 (228, repr.), bought Agnew. Palmer exhibited other views of Welsh waterfalls in 1836 and 1837, and there is a gouache of Pistil Rhaiadyr in the Spooner Collection, Courtauld Institute Gallery.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969

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