Library at Arbour Hill (Olcott interior)

Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932)
Date: 1878
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 25 1/2 H 20 1/4 W

Signed, upper left: WALTER L. PALMER/1878

Credit: Gift of the heirs of the estate of Robert W. Olcott
Accession Number: 1947.56.4

Walter Launt Palmer, as the son of Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer, grew up surrounded by art and artists. After studying with master painters in the US and Paris, he painted interior scenes, views of Venice, and landscapes. In keeping with contemporary trends, his painting style was more fluid and less precise than that of his father's generation; he never tried to make the paint strokes invisible, as they had. This work shows Thomas Worth Olcott, a prominent Albany businessman, in the library of his home, Arbour Hill (now a historic house museum known as the Ten Broeck Mansion). The scene reveals far more about the sitter than simply a likeness of his face. We see, for example, that this is the comfortable and stylish home of a wealthy family. Both the library (in the foreground) and the parlor feature lavish and fashionable decorations, such as the Japanese screen in the parlor. The liberal display of books shows the family's literary bent. The abundant detail is rendered in a way that is readable, but without hiding the brushwork.