William Palmer

William Palmer (American 1906-1987)


This biography, submitted by Jeffrey Gold, is derived from the Catalog - William Palmer - Two Decades of Painting published in conjunction with the One man exhibitions at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Utica New York ( January 3 - February 7, 1971) and the Cummer Gallery of Art, Jacksonville Florida (March 20 - April 25, 1971).  

William Palmer (B. 1906 Des Moines, Iowa - D. 1987 Clinton New York)

The artist Isabel Bishop wrote of fellow artist William Palmer that he "performs the miracle that is at the center of pictorial creativeness.  In his paintings he makes a synthesis of disparate elements and causes them to promote each other..........[T]hrough his strong assertion of the physical surface, both in tactile paint quality and in the sense of plane, making a strong impact on the senses, he is able, mysteriously, without description to convey the character of a special piece of nature, with its individual geological form, even its kind of weather, and, as well his own rich feeling - reaction to it.

Little remembered today, William Palmer was an artist's artist, admired by his peers, curators, critics and the public alike.  During a career that spanned 5 decades, Palmer achieved a level of success rivaled by few others. 

Born in 1906, in Des Moines Iowa, Palmer spent his childhood shuttling between Iowa, Texas, New York City, and Picton, Ontario.  He graduated high school in Des Moines in 1923, receiving an honorarium in art.  Immediately thereafter, he moved to New York City, where for the next three years, he studied at the Arts Students League with Boardman Robinson, Henry Schnackenberg, Allen Tucker, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Thomas Hart Benton. 

In 1927, Palmer moved to Paris, where he studied fresco painting with M. Baudoin in Fontainbleu, France.  During that same period, he traveled throughout Europe.  Palmer returned to New York in 1928 to continue his studies with Kenneth Hayes Miller.  It was during this period that he met with some success as a private art teacher in New York City and painting commissioned residential murals.  He continued to summer in Iowa drawing.  In 1930, Palmer moved to Picton, Ontario where he worked in tempera and egg emulsion creating paintings based on his Iowa drawings.

In 1931, the Midtown Galleries in New York accepted Palmers work 103 degrees in the Shade for exhibition.  This began a four-decade relationship between Palmer and the Gallery.  He had one man shows at Midtown Galleries in 1932, 1938, 1940, 1944, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1967, 1969 and perhaps in other years as well.

During the 1930's Palmer was extremely productive.  He painted murals for the Hotel Roosevelt in New York, for the Queens New York General Hospital, and at the Arlington Massachusetts and Monticello Iowa Post Office for the WPA.  In 1933, he was elected a member of the National Society of Mural Painters, ultimately becoming Vice President of the society,  and his drawing Coon River was purchased by the Whitney Museum.  His work New York from the New Jersey Meadows was selected by President Roosevelt for the White House collection. In 1934 his work Dust, Drought and Destruction was exhibited at the Second Whitney Biennial and purchsed for the collection.  The same painting was exhibited at Paris International Exhibition in 1938, where it was awarded a Gold Medal.

In 1936, Palmer became an instructor at the Arts Students League, and he was featured twice in an articles in Life Magazine.  He also exhibited at the Carnegie Institute.

In 1941, Palmer moved to Utica New York to become the Artist in Residence at Hamilton College, and Director of the School of Art at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute.  He soon thereafter moved to Clinton New York, home of Hamilton College.  Between 1943 and 1945, Palmer was in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Fannon, Texas.  After the war ended, he returned to Clinton, where he became the full time director of the Munson-Williams Proctor Institute of Art.

Palmer won a Gold Medal at the Audubon Artists Annual Exhibition in 1948. That same year he was awarded the Jack Kreinder Memorial Award at the Salmagundi Club.  He was featured in American Artist Magazine, and had one-man shows at the Munson-Williams Proctor Institute and at the opening of the Des Moines Art Center.

Over the next twenty years years, he had one man shows the Des Moines Art Center, Cazenovia Junior College, Utica College of Syracuse University, Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, Oneonta State Teachers College, Schenectedy Museum, The Crandall Library, Munson Williams Procter Institute (4), The Edward W. Root Art Center, The Allentown Art Museum, St. Lawrence University, as well as the Midtown Galleries.  He received an Honorable Mention at the 1967 Audubon Artists, Exhibition, and was again featured in article written by Laurence Schmeckebier in American Artists

Palmer exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Kansas City Art Institute in Group Exhibitions.  He exhibited at the National Academy of Design and although, he was a regionalist, he was elected an Academician in 1965.  During his later years, his work was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, and the National Gallery.




On the Golf Course×

17.5 x 16 inch
44.5 x 40.6 cm
Windmill, Iowa 1933×

16 x 12 inch
40.6 x 30.5 cm