Little is known of Robert Salmon's early life. He was born in England and moved around quite a bit as a young man. In 1829 he set sail for America and settled in Boston, living in a hut overlooking the bustling Boston Harbor until he left in 1840. Salmon had great familiarity with sailing vessels and his ship portraits were in high demand. Such prominent Bostonians as Samuel Cabot, Robert Forbes, and J.P. Cushing all commissioned Salmon to paint their boats. His attention to detail in concert with his remarkable ability to capture the natural effects of light and atmosphere make Salmon an important precursor to the American Luminist movement. Indeed, some scholars credit him with establishing the Luminist tradition in American painting.