The Head Waters

Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932)
Date: 1911
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 32 H x 24 W
Signed lower left: W. L. Palmer
Old label affixed to back of stretcher, inscribed in ink: "The Head-waters" / Walter L. Palmer.
Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Lorraine Foster in memory of CDR William Grandy Foster USN
Accession Number: 2019.42
Walter Launt Palmer, an artist known for his winter landscapes, was born in Albany to Mary Jane Palmer and sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. Throughout his long professional career as a painter he perfected the illusion of shadows on freshly fallen snow. More specifically, he was one of the first artists to paint shadows in colors. His snow scenes come alive with blue, violet, and rose-colored snow. The Head Waters is an outstanding example of Palmer’s talent.
According to the donor, the painting was originally purchased by her husband’s aunt, Miss Ethel Grandy, who was born in Johnstown, New York, in 1894. In addition to the family history, the painting also came with an old label, possibly applied to back of the stretcher soon after Palmer painted it. The title "Head Waters" provided the necessary information to delve deeper into the painting's history.
Contained in the Walter Launt Palmer manuscript collection in the Albany Institute's Library, Palmer's sales record book gave additional information. Palmer made an entry in 1914 for the sale of The Head Waters. He noted the size of 24 inches wide by 32 inches high, which exactly matches this painting, and he also indicated it was oil on canvas painted in 1911. The sales book additionally records that the painting sold at Annesley's Gallery, Albany's venerable art gallery and art materials supplier. Palmer exhibited many of his paintings at Annesley's and the gallery regularly sold his work.
Unfortunately, Palmer did not record the buyer of the painting, possibly because Annesley's did not provide that information, but it seems unlikely that the twenty-year-old Miss Ethel Grandy purchased the painting herself in 1914. More likely she inherited it from another family member. Perhaps additional information will come to light in the future.