William C. Palmer

Year: 1989

Length: 60 minutes

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A portrait of William Palmer, an artist and teacher whose "work and life [mirrored] beautiful colors and vibrant textures woven together by time, travel, and his vision that art made life beautiful."

"One may wonder whether knowing an artist enhances a perspective of his work or if comprehending the creation enriches the view of his character.

In the instance of the late William Palmer (1906-1987), well known and endeared to the Clinton [New York] community, these thoughts elegantly blend together.

His work and his life mirror beautiful colors and vibrant textures woven together by time, travel, and his vision that art made life beautiful.

William Palmer was an artist and a teacher. While he was born in Des Moines, Iowa (with a few stops along the way: Mission, Texas, New York City, Ontario, Canada), Clinton became the setting he and his wife Catherine would grow to know as home.

Upon the urging of Edward Root (also a Clinton resident) and Thomas Rudd, he arrived in the Utica area in the early 1940s to establish the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute School of Art as well as father the creative art department at Hamilton College, a commitment he maintained until 1948.

He brought with him the influence of his year at the Ecoles des Beaux Arts de Foutainbleau in France, his travels in Europe and Mexico, his time at the Arts Student League in New York City and love for the natural serenity of his native Iowa.

His works, like his life, were changing and reflect time and experience: his formative works in the 1920s; his murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s; his expressionistic landscapes of the 1940s; the Cubist and palette knife landscapes of the 1950s and 1960s to two later years of "spot" paintings and embroidery.

It is his landscapes that observers might connect so closely to his vision of life and Clinton.

Driving back and forth to Utica, he was inspired by the shadows and lights reflecting from the hills upon his windows.

Palmer, who throughout his life approached his gardening and decorating as seriously as his painting, was himself a framed portrait. Palmer was himself art. From the way he dressed (with his colorful bow ties) to his home, to his gardens, he reflected the continuity of painting.

Perhaps more than any other phase of his life, it is Palmer's later years that personify the belief that one must always grow."


Broadcast as a PBS special program