Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PALMER, Erastus Dow, sculptor, born in Pompey, Onondaga County, New York, 2 April, 1817. He followed the trade of carpenter and joiner from the age of eleven until he was nearly twenty-nine, when he first turned his attention to art. Incited by a cameo portrait, he did his first work in this direction--a head of his wife on a bit of shell, with tools that were made by himself from files. Encouraged by a connoisseur of the neighborhood, he devoted himself wholly to this new occupation, and during the two following years cut about 100 cameo portraits. Then, finding that the delicate work was injuring his eyes, and led by a longing for artistic labors that would afford greater scope for his talent, he first attempted sculpture proper. An ideal bust, the " Infant Ceres," modelled in 1849 from one of his own children, was his first work in marble. It was exhibited at the Academy of design in 1850, and attracted much attention. This was followed by two allegorical bas-reliefs--representing "Night" and "Morning." The artist, having meanwhile settled in Albany, subsequently produced numerous other bas-reliefs, notably "Faith," "The Spirit's Flight," "Mercy," "Sappho," and " Peace in Bondage" (1863), the last one of his best. Of his ideal busts the principal are" Resignation," "Spring," "June," and " The Infant Flora." The " Indian Girl" (1856) was the first of his full-length figures, most of which were strongly idealized. The most important of these are "The Sleeping Peri," "The Emigrant Children," "The Little Peasant," " The White Captive," which is generally considered his best work (1858), and " The Angel at the Sepulchre." a monument in Rural cemetery, Albany (1868). His group, "The Landing of the Pilgrims," comprising sixteen figures fifteen inches high, was executed in 1857. It was designed to occupy the pediment of the south wing of the capitol at Washington, but its motive grated on the strong southern sentiment represented by John Floyd, the secretary of war, who had charge of the capitol extension, and the pediment is still vacant. It is a noteworthy fact that Palmer, unlike most American sculptors, did not study abroad, but acquired all his knowledge of art and technical skill in his native state, New York. It was not until 1873, when he had long been famous, that he went to Europe, visiting Italy and Paris. In the latter city, in 1873-'4, he executed a statue of Robert R. Livingston, which was placed in the old hall of representatives, Washington, in 1875; it received a medal of the first class in the Centennial exhibition, 1876. Palmer has also executed many portrait-busts, among them those of Alexander Hamilton, Commander Matthew C. Perry, Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Washington Irving (in the New York historical society), Moses Taylor, and a bronze bust of Dr. James H. Armsby, completed in 1878, now in Washington park, Albany.--His son, Walter Launt, born in Albany, New York, 1 August, 1854, studied with Frederic E. Church in 1871-'2, went abroad in 1873, and settled in Paris, where he was the pupil of Carolus Duran. In 1876 he was again studying in France, and he has since made repeated visits to Europe, sketching most of the time in Venice. He painted in New York city in 1877-'82, after which he returned to Albany. In 1881 he was elected a member of the Society of American artists, and in 1887 he received the second Hallgarten prize for his " January," which painting also gained him his election as an associate of the National academy. Among his works are "Dining-Room at Appledale" (1879); " An Editor's Study" (1880); " Waving Grain " (1881); "Venice " (1882) ; "The Oat-Field" (1884) ; "The Inlet" (1885); and "An Early Snow" (1887).
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