One of the most celebrated painters of snowy landscapes and a harbinger of American Impressionism, Walter Launt Palmer was born in Albany, New York, in 1854. Born into an artistic household (his father, Erastus Dow Palmer, was a famous neoclassical sculptor), Palmer began his prolific career at a young age. Several Hudson River School artists frequented his home, and he studied portraiture under Charles Loring Elliot and landscape painting with the renowned Frederic E. Church. When he was only 18, his work was selected for the juried exhibition at the National Academy of Design.
A family trip to Europe in 1873 left a lasting legacy on his style. He befriended American artist John Singer Sargent in Italy, and also studied in Paris under the French master Charles-Émile-Auguste Carolus-Duran. His subsequent artwork revealed both Realist and Impressionist techniques in a fusion of styles that helped shape American landscape painting. After a foray into depicting Victorian interiors, in 1881 Palmer returned to Europe, spending an extended period of time in Venice. There Walter Launt Palmer adopted the soft pastels of the Impressionistic palette, painting the iconic landmarks and waterways alongside artists such as William Merritt Chase and Robert Blum. However, it was when Palmer applied these techniques to his native North Eastern landscapes that his talent truly revealed itself.
Often painting from memory, Walter Launt Palmer relished in painting snowscapes that lent themselves, ironically, to be an exercise in color. The nuanced tonal qualities of the shaded areas and reflections reveal Palmer’s artistic authority, and the inclusion of blue in his shadows demonstrates his keen understanding of his palette. He was a master of mediums, working in oil, gouache, watercolor, and pastels, sometimes all within a single work, creating texture and depth to add to the overall sensory experience. His work has risen in popularity in recent years, as collectors avidly seek the transcendental quality bestowed by his seemingly poetic renderings.
Walter Launt Palmer received many awards during his lifetime, including a prize for outstanding young artists at the National Academy in 1877, as well as honors from the American Watercolor Society and the Paris Exposition of 1900. He was an active exhibitor, showing at the Brooklyn Art Association, the Corcoran Gallery Biennial, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Palmer’s work is now featured in the collections of many prominent institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Butler Institute of American Art.