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The Student

Walter Launt Palmer American

Not on view

Interior scenes were popular with critics and patrons of the era, as they offered glimpses into the lives and living quarters of the middle and upper-middle classes. Collectors and artists often commissioned Palmer to paint the interiors of their homes, and he approached these works like large-scale still lifes, harmoniously arranging objects into unique compositions, often inserting a solitary figure engaged in a contemplative activity such as reading. In The Student, Palmer depicts a fashionably attired young woman at work on a small watercolor. Seen in profile, she is dressed in black with her hair neatly tied back as she copies from the decorative folding screen before her. Likely of Chinese origin, this screen complements the large Chinese export porcelain vase filled with red maple leaves at left. Together, these two objects reveal the increased interest in Chinoiserie with American collectors in the late nineteenth century. On a cloth-covered table to the right of the female student is a small flower vase and a reproduction of the famed ancient Greek sculpture known as the Venus de Milo. While these items convey the fashionable taste and artistic inclinations of the young woman, the compositional arrangement—including the elevated perspective, foreground void, and asymmetrical cropping—speaks to Palmer’s familiarity with the design principles of Far Eastern art, which he was likely knew through French Impressionist paintings.

The Student, Walter Launt Palmer (American, Albany, New York 1854–1932 Albany, New York), Watercolor on paper, American

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