Palmer began his career as an artist at an early age. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of fourteen (one of his sketchbooks from this time is in the British Museum's collection). In 1824, he met William Blake whose influence helped confirm his visionary approach to art. Palmer retreated into rural isolation in the village of Shoreham, Kent, his own 'Valley of Vision'. Here he produced his most distinctive work, and gathered around him a group of artists (including Edward Calvert and George Richmond) known as 'the Ancients'. He married in 1837, and on his two-year honeymoon in Italy, his style turned to intensely coloured watercolours, with an obvious spiritual connection to his subjects. The striking watercolour 'A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star' is one of his finest works from the Shoreham period and was acquired by the British Museum in 1985 after a public appeal.