The Sheep of His Pasture, 1828 / 1904
Time spent with the Ancients was, for Calvert, illuminating and inspirational, their meetings in Palmer’s cottage - ‘Rat Alley’, as it was affectionately known - involving discussions of poetry, printing technique and deeper spiritual musings. The elder Blake, whom Palmer described as a ‘prophet’ and a ‘man without a mask’, impressed upon Calvert and the group an ardent religious appreciation for Nature and the earth, as well as instructing the young artist in the process of wood-engraving and the visionary artistic style.
Calvert’s work after Blake’s death immediately matured, as if the loss of such an inspirational figure had spurred him on to greater heights. The period that followed from 1827 to 1831 is universally considered to have been Calvert’s pinnacle, comprising wood and copper engravings and lithographs all characterised by fine, dextrous lines depicting sylvan vistas - imagery redolent of both classical pastoral scenes and symbolic Christian parables.
The composition is very close to that of cut number VIII of Blake’s Virgil series. Yet the work has a character and strength of its own. It is another instance of Calvert’s mystical view of a lush and cornucopian nature, as much pagan as Christian.
This pastoral might as well have come from Virgil’s Eclogues as from the Twenty-third Psalm; it could be a paean of praise to Demeter as much as to Christ.
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