Walter Launt Palmer was born in Albany, New York in 1854, the son of the sculptor Erastus Bow Palmer, and consequently grew up surrounded by art and artists. He undertook his first art lessons while he was still a young man in his teens with the portraitist Charles Elliott. He was fortunate enough due to his father's friendship with Frederic Edwin Church to secure a selective spot as one of the great landscape artist's students. Afterward he traveled extensively in Italy and France. In Paris he began to study with the master of color tonalities Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran who taught Palmer the importance of tonality control. In addition Palmer studied the work of the great Impressionists as well as those of the American artists studying abroad such as John Singer Sargent, John Henry Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, Frank Duveneck, and Robert Blum. During his lifetime Palmer received numerous prestigious awards from such organizations as the National Academy of Design who awarded him the Hallgarten Prize for outstanding artists under 35 with potential, the Philadelphia Art Club and the Boston Art Club. The Metropolitan Museum purchased one of his paintings entitled Sunlight shortly after it was painted in 1921. This acquisition marked the importance of Palmer as an artist and provided an important note to his legacy. Palmer died in Albany, the very town where he was born, on April 16, 1932 at the age of 78. Palmer is still recognized today as the great artist he was when he was alive and painting his beloved snow scenes.
In 1870 Walter Launt Palmer became a student of the great landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, who was a close friend of Palmer's father the sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. Since Church was a central figure in the Hudson River School, the younger Palmer became indoctrinated into the traditional representation of landscape painting. Palmer next coupled this classical training with time spent in Paris studying under the French master Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran from 1873 until 1874 when Impressionism was taking root. It was Carolus-Duran who taught Palmer the importance of controlling and mastering the subtleties associated with different tonal colors. A close inspection of the watercolor Cedars at Twilight reveals a subtle blending of the panoramic yet exquisitely detailed vistas of Church with the more intimate renderings of the Barbizon "plein air" painters along with the influences of budding Impressionist works by such icons as Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir with all their outdoor nuances and distinctions. Cedars at Twilight shows to great degree Palmer's experienced and still sympathetic and detailed rendering of nature's landscape now shrouded in snow. His sharp well-trained eye for the depiction of the painterly qualities of light on objects can be seen in this instance in the day's dwindling light reflected along the horizon line and through the deep green evergreen boughs illuminated to a brilliant hue by these final last rays of day's winter sunshine. Palmer further renders a cold crispness in his depiction of the blue-gray shadows which contrast with the sharply textured white snow and the subtle apricot colored rays of soft fading sunlight. Walter Launt Palmer was the most celebrated American painter of snow scenes in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and thus played a further important role in the development and evolution of American landscape painting as a whole. Cedars at Twilight, an intricately painted beautiful and artfully lyrical rendering of a twilight pastoral scene bathed in winter white against a lowered end-of-the day sky stretched over a snowy blue-shadowed field, is truly one of Palmer's landscape pictures at its best.
Private Collection, Connecticut (since circa 1935)
Acquired by the present owner from the above