American, 1854–1932


The landscapist Walter Launt Palmer was born in Albany, New York, the son of the sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer (1817–1904) and was named in part for his father’s student Launt Thompson (1833–1894). He spent his childhood surrounded by such Albany artists as James Hart (1828–1901), William Hart (1823–1894), Homer Dodge Martin (1836–1897), Edward Gay (1837–1928), and George H. Boughton (1833–1905), who frequented the Palmer residence. The successful portraitist Charles Loring Elliott (1812–1868) gave young Palmer his first painting lessons, and during the early 1870s, he studied with the Hudson River School landscapist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), a family friend.

In 1872, Palmer began to exhibit at the National Academy of Design. The following year, he made a tour of Europe with his family and spent the winter in Paris studying with Emile August Carolus-Duran (1837–1917). After a brief visit home, he returned to Paris and continued his studies there until 1876. He then settled in New York, taking a studio on West Tenth Street. He traveled to Venice in 1881, and there he gathered material for the Venetian scenes, such as On the Lagoon, Venice, (Topeka Public Library), which dominated his work during the early 1880s. Palmer was among the earliest American artists to make a sketching tour of China and Japan.

Walter Launt Palmer returned to Albany by 1882, thereafter making his residence in that city and contributing his work to important exhibitions in New York. In 1887, after one of his snowscapes received the Hallgarten Prize at the National Academy, he was elected an associate member of that institution, and in 1897 he became an academician. As a successful water-colorist, Palmer exhibited at the American Water Color Society, winning its Evans Prize in 1895. He continued to paint well into the twentieth century and specialized in snowscapes, done in a decorative impressionist style, popular but rather outdated.

He died in Albany, and was eulogized as “one of the last members of that group of nineteenth-century artists whose work is in no small measure responsible for the evolution of the American landscape school of painting” (Bulletin of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts 24 [March 23, 1935], p. 58).

(Burke, Doreen Bolger, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. III, A Catalogue of Works by Art and Artists Born between 1846 and 1864, 1980).

Museum Collections:
Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of the National Academy of Design, New York, NY
Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Topeka Public Library, Topeka, KS
Wichita Art Museum, Witchita, KS

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