Walter Launt Palmer 1854-1932

Summer on the Hudson

  • 13 5/8 x 10 1/2 inches (34.6 x 26.7 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed with monogram lower left: WLP

Why We Love It

While Palmer was most famous for his paintings of snowy landscapes, Summer on Hudson displays his portrayal of nature in a very different season. Subtlety of color and soft, reflective light characterize most of Palmer’s work, and in this painting these qualities are given full effect in the still water and distant atmospheric haze.

The Value

Walter Launt Palmer’s paintings, particularly of winter, are widely collected. His consummate skill and commitment to his art earned him high standing during the height of his career. But like so many artists of his generation, his contribution to American art history was eclipsed by the advent of Modernism. Over the past 10 years his reputation was fully rehabilitated and his paintings commanded high numbers both at auction and privately. We have had the opportunity to place some of Palmer’s best work in important collections.

Artist Background

1854: Born on August 1st; 1870: Began summer studies with Frederick E. Church; 1872: First painting accepted to NAD exhibition; 1874: Travelled abroad with family and met Sargent in Florence; 1874: Enrolled in the studio of Carolus Duran; Opened studio with Church in New York City; 1878: De Forest interior exhibited at NAD; 1881: Travelled abroad again, principally in Venice; Elected a member of the Society of American Artists; 1882: Venetian scenes exhibited at NAD and SAA; 1887: Won Second Hallgarten prize at NAD for winter scene; 1890: Married Georgianna Myers; 1892: Georgianna died on July 9th; 1893: Won a “first” at Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago; 1894: Won a gold medal at the Art Club of Philadelphia; 1895: Won a gold medal at the Boston Art Club; Married Zoe de Vautrin Wyndham; 1897: Won a silver medal at Nashville Exposition; Elected Academician at NAD; 1899: Travelled to the Far East with his wife; 1900: Received Honorable Mention at the Paris World Exposition; 1901: Won silver medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York; 1907: Won silver medal at Philadelphia Art Club; 1910: Won bronze medal at Buenos Aires, Brazil; 1921: “Silent Dawn” acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1928: Won first and second Du Pont prizes; 1932: Died April 16th from pneumonia in Albany, New York.

Walter Launt Palmer was most famous for his paintings of snowy landscapes, here in Summer on Hudson one witnesses his response to and portrayal of nature in a different season. Subtlety of color and soft, reflective light characterize most of Palmer’s work, and in this painting these qualities are given full effect in the still of the water and distant atmospheric haze. The view itself is rather simple, and Palmer uses that simplicity to great advantage, evoking a mood that is at once familiar and intimate.

Palmer was born in 1854 in Albany, New York.  He was the son of the sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer, and thus grew up surrounded by art and artists.  As a teenager, he took his first lessons from the portraitist Charles Elliot and the landscape painter Frederic Church.  In 1872, when Palmer was only 18 years old, his work was accepted for the National Academy of Design show.

In 1873 he toured through Europe, eventually settling in Paris and resuming his artistic training until 1876.  Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran was one of his instructors; Duran’s influence is seen in the controlled tonality that softened the academic tightness of Palmer’s early work.

Upon returning from Europe, Palmer opened in a studio in New York in 1876.  In 1881 he traveled to Italy—a trip that provided material for numerous scenes of Venice.  In 1882 he returned to Albany and began to exhibit widely.  He accumulated awards and critical success for his oils and watercolors, particularly for his snowscapes.  Palmer traveled to the Far East in 1899 and was one of the first American artists to draw inspiration from Japanese and Chinese cultures.  He died in Albany in 1932.

Walter Launt Palmer’s paintings can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Butler Institute of American Art, and the Albany Institute of History and Art.