Walter Launt Palmer

Walter Launt Palmer, Roadside Cedars

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Walter Launt Palmer’s snow scenes earned him a reputation as a master of capturing winter on canvas. Influenced primarily by the regionalist principles of the Hudson River School, Palmer’s travels through the Catskill Mountains, Hudson River Valley, Paris and Venice are reflected in his landscapes, as well as his domestic interiors and portraits. Born into an artistic Albany, New York household Palmer grew up and interacted with many of the artistic luminaries of his time including Frederic E. Church, James and William Hart, George Boughton, Homer Dodge Martin, and Edward Gay. Palmer studied portrait painting with Charles Loring Elliot and landscape painting with Frederic Church in his early teens, and at the age of eighteen had his work accepted for a show at The National Academy of Design in New York.

In 1873 the Palmer family traveled to Europe and visited Scotland, France, Germany and Italy. While there Palmer studied with Charles Carolus Duran. During his time in Europe Palmer also spent time with many other artists including John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and Frank Druveneck. On his first visit to Venice Palmer was struck by the city’s natural and historical beauty and began painting its canals, churches, buildings, and interiors, subjects which he returned to often throughout his career.

At the age of 24 Palmer had become a protégé of Frederick Church, and ultimately shared a studio with him in New York city from 1878-1881. When Palmer and Church parted ways professionally, Palmer returned briefly to Europe and upon his return moved back to his native Albany. In 1890 he married Georgianna Myers, daughter of an Albany department store magnate, who unfortunately died in childbirth two years later. Palmer later married Zoe de Vautrin Wyndham.

A large number of Palmer’s canvases were painted from Palmer’s detailed notes, sketches, and photographs, which he compiled over time. He also was extremely meticulous about keeping records of his works, something he and Frederick Church had in common. While Palmer’s many Venetian scenes were in vogue among his clients and provided a steady income for the artist, he was equally if not better known for his luscious renditions of snowy woods and streams. The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired his snowscape Silent Dawn. Many of his winter scenes earned him awards and prizes from various art clubs. Palmer attributed much of his success with winter snow scenes to painters John Ruskin and other Pre-Raphaelites who inspired his experimentation with blue shadows on traditional white snow. He was able to capture the variations of colors reflected in the winter landscapes around the Hudson River Valley. In 1908, the New York Times art critic covering Palmer's annual exhibition at the Noe Galleries in New York wrote,

        Mr. Palmer is a devotee of the bleak and wintry season of
        the year, when everything is snowed under, that is, except
        Mr. Palmer's work, and all but one of these fourteen pictures
        are snow scenes­-- the exception is a hot, turgid, sunny
        Venice... as rosy red and warm as his snow pictures
        are blue and blue, and Mr. Palmer is no less happy in both.

Walter Launt Palmer lived in Albany from 1882 until April 16, 1932 when he died of pneumonia. The Walter Launt Palmer Collection now resides in the Library at the Albany Institute of History & Art and includes diaries and personal papers, photographs, and his studio books, which document the provenance of much of Palmer’s work.

1 In the Art Galleries. The New York Times. Mar. 6, 1908: p.6

Compiled by Hali Thurber

1854 Born August 1st
1870 Begins summer studies with Frederick E. Church
1872 Mountain Pasture accepted by National Academy of Design (NAD)
1873 Family trip to Europe
1874 Enrolls in Carolus Duran Paris studio in January, leaves in June
1876 Returns to Paris to study with Duran again
1877 Moves back to Albany and begins a series of interiors
1878 DeForest interior exhibited at National Academy of Design (NAD)
1881 Closes shared New York studio with Church, returns to Europe     
Elected member of the SAA on the basis of his painting, Waving Grain
1882 First Venetian scenes exhibited at NAD and SAA
1890 Marries Georgianna Myers
1892 Georgianna and infant die during childbirth on July 10th      
1895 Marries Zoe de Vautrin Wyndham
1897 Elected Academician at NAD
1903 Daughter Beatrice born
1921 Silent Dawn acquired by Metropolitan Museum of Art
1926 Appointed to Fine Arts Commission of New York State
1932 Dies April 16th at his home in Albany, New York

1887 National Academy of Design, Hallgarten prize
1892 Charleston, West Virginia Exposition, silver medal
1893 World's Columbian Exposition
1894 Philadelphia Art Club, gold medal
1895 Boston Art Club, gold medal
American Watercolor Society, W.T. Evans prize
1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition
1900 Paris Exposition, Honorable Mention, San Marco
1901 Pan-American Exposition, silver
1902 Charleston Exposition, second prize
1904 Universal St. Louis Exposition, bronze, Across the Fields
1907 Philadelphia Art Club, silver, November Snow
1910 Buenos Aires, Brazil, bronze
1919 Art Institute of Chicago, bronze, Silent Dawn
1926 Wilmington Art Society, Dupont
1928 Wilmington Art Society, Dupont

1876 National Academy of Design
1893 Columbian Exhibition/World's Fair, Chicago
1885 Boston Arts Academy
1888 National Academy of Design
1896 National Academy of Design
1897 American Watercolor Society
National Academy of Design
1898 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 
1899 National Academy of Design
Albert Duveen Collection
1900 New York Watercolor Club
1901 Society of American Artists
American Water Color Society
1904 National Academy of Design
St. Louis World's Fair
1913 Corcoran Gallery of Art
1916 National Academy of Design
1925 National Academy of Design
2007 Albany Institute of History and Art

1897 National Academy of Design
1881 Society of American Artists
Salmagundi Club
American Federation of Arts
Union Internacional des Beaux-Arts
New York State Fine Arts Commission
American Federation of Arts
American Watercolor Society
Brooklyn Art Association
New York Watercolor Society
Society of American Artists

Walter Launt Palmer, Winter Idyl
Walter Launt Palmer, Enchanted Wood
Walter Launt Palmer, Venice and Posts
Walter Launt Palmer, Venice and Posts
Walter Launt Palmer, Roadside Cedars
Walter Launt Palmer, Snow and Open Water

Works by the artist may be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Albany Institute of History and Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Maybelle Mann. Walter Launt Palmer: Poetic Reality. Schiffer Publishing, Pennsylvania. 1984.

Venetian Scenes by Walter Launt Palmer. Albany Institute of History and Art. 2008

In the Art Galleries. The New York Times. Mar. 6, 1908: p.6

Walter Launt Palmer. AskArt: The Artists' Blue Book.

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor-in-Chief. Who was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Vol. 3. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999. P. 2512-2513.