Pauline Palmer (1865 - 1938)

pauline palmer
chicago society of artists,pauline palmer

By Ruth L. Bohan, Ph.D. © Illinois Historical Art Project

Artist and club woman Pauline Lennards Palmer garnered exceptional favor within the Chicago arts community over a career lasting more than four decades. Modernist critic C. J. Bulliet said after reviewing her memorial exhibition:

 

“Pauline Palmer will go down in the art history of Chicago as one of the city’s ‘significant.’”[1]

 

A versatile artist who excelled in portraiture, landscape painting and, to a lesser extent, still life and genre, she won virtually every honor offered by the Chicago arts community and through her active participation in a broad spectrum of women’s and arts organizations worked to solidify the vitality of the arts within Chicago’s cultural milieu.[2]


Palmer was born in 1865 in McHenry County, Illinois, to Nicholas and Franciska (Spangemacher) Lennards.[3] Shortly after birth her family moved to Harvard, in McHenry County.[4] Her father, a tailor and merchant, and her mother were Prussian immigrants who counted among their ancestors several artists and musicians.[5] Pauline’s parents encouraged their daughter’s artistic abilities with early art training locally, followed by studies at St. Mary’s Institute, a convent school, in Milwaukee.[6] After graduating from St. Mary’s,[7] Pauline settled permanently in Chicago, the city that would be her home for the remainder of her life.


In Chicago, Pauline Palmer became a supervisor of art in the public schools, a position she held until her marriage, on May 21, 1891, to Dr. Albert Elwood Palmer, an Englishman from Toronto.[8] Dr. Palmer, a professor of medicine at the Jenner Medical College in Chicago, encouraged his wife’s artistic pursuits, making it possible for her to return to school to complete her art education.[9] While Palmer’s formal stint as an art educator was, short lived, her commitment to advancing the cause of artists and their art certainly was not.


In 1893, the year Palmer enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the school’s female population outnumbered males at a ratio of seven to one.[10] Her work on the human figure was particularly strong, earning several honorable mentions before her graduation in 1896.[11] During the summers of 1896 and 1897, Palmer pursued additional studies with John Vanderpoel, the School’s principal instructor in figure drawing, in the bucolic setting of Delavan, Wisconsin, where he taught a summer art program.[12] In 1897, Palmer returned to the School of the Art Institute to study with the flamboyant and respected New York painter, William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), who held one of the first visiting professorships. The following year she studied with another of the visiting professors, the Munich-trained, Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and in 1902 returned for more instruction under Gari Melchers (1860-1932).[13] On instruction at the Art Institute, which she was particularly fond of, she commented:


“For the first five years’ study of art give me the Art Institute school. What happens to the beginner who goes abroad? …some great painter comes in and our young beginner is all aflutter. The great man makes his rounds, pauses beside two or three brilliant students, but has he time for our beginner? Never! The poor little newcomer has to struggle along without anyone to help him over the hard places. I tell you he’d be better off right here getting the kind of careful, solid training that Mr. Vanderpoel used to give so well, the fundamental work that every artist must have about five years of sooner or later.”[14]


The rising swell of enthusiasm for Impressionism had a formative influence on her work as well as on that of many of her contemporaries during her years at the Art Institute. Chicago audiences were first introduced to Impressionist paintings at the Interstate Industrial Exposition in 1890. Three years later the World’s Columbian Exposition included a small but impressive showing of the work of a broad range of international Impressionists, including several Americans.[15] With its loose brushwork, bright palette and focus on common, everyday events, Impressionism seemed refreshingly modern to an audience steeped in what novelist Hamlin Garland dubbed the “‘cooked up’” pictures of the traditionalists. Garland praised the Impressionists for their “fresh, vital themes,” “virile color” and local subject matter. In their unwavering commitment to the local and the present day, he advised, they offered valuable lessons for American artists.[16]


In 1899, a critic in Arts for America likened Palmer’s work to that of William Merritt Chase, noting in particular their shared concern for convivial subjects which “expressed so much happiness and pleasure.” “Among the younger artists,” the critic enthused, “there is no one with a more promising future.”[17] Two years before, Palmer had been awarded third prize at the Art Students’ League of Chicago annual exhibition. In 1899, she received both the Klio Association Purchase Prize[18] and the prestigious Niké Club Purchase Prize for works included in the annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago and Vicinity at the Art Institute. The Niké Club Prize in particular, was a tremendous honor, especially for an artist just three years out of art school.[19] Palmer would continue to exhibit regularly at the Art Institute and found modest success in exhibitions outside Chicago as well.[20]


During the first decade of the twentieth century Palmer traveled extensively abroad, spending a portion of almost every year in Europe. Like many young artists, she was particularly drawn to Paris, widely considered at the time the center of the international art world. Beginning in 1899 and continuing for the next several years she studied with Gustave-Claude-Étienne Courtois at the Académie Colarossi and with Lucien Simon at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. She also studied under René Prinet at the government-run École des Beaux Arts and with Raphael Collin.[21] Her achievements were rewarded in 1903 when she won a coveted bronze medal in portraiture (after placing first in the trial) at the annual concours at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. The realistic rendering of a woman’s fur coat in her winning entry prompted praise from a fellow artist, who declared her painting “the gem of the whole collection! I have never seen fur so real.”[22] Guillaumina Agnew, the Parisian correspondent for The Sketch Book, hailed Palmer as “…the favorite among all the American artists here.”[23] That same year Palmer’s work was accorded a place of honor in the Parisian exhibition of the American Woman’s Art Association, and she later carried away a silver medal at Colarossi’s.[24] Similar honors accrued during exhibitions in America, beginning with her receipt of a bronze medal for her painting, The Silver Ball (location unknown), at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.[25]


Three years later, Palmer accumulated an astonishing three prizes at the Art Institute of Chicago exhibitions: the Municipal Art League Purchase Prize, the Young Fortnightly Club Prize[26] and the Arché Club Purchase Prize. In addition, she won the Marshall Field Prize at an exhibition of Chicago artists held in the galleries of Marshall Field & Company’s department store.[27] In 1910 she was the guest of honor at the annual meeting of the Art League of Decatur, Illinois.[28] In 1912, the Muncie Indiana Art Association awarded her a purchase prize.[29]

 

By far the most important influence on Palmer’s work came from her repeated encounters with the American artist, Richard Miller (1875-1943). A native of St. Louis, Miller was an established expatriate artist and the chief instructor at the Académie Colarossi between 1905 and 1914. Palmer seems to have studied with Miller at the Académie Colarossi and perhaps also privately during her years in Paris.[30] Miller was a competent and respected artist who excelled in decorative representations of women, usually in gardens or interiors. In the summer of 1910, Palmer again sought Miller’s guidance, this time at the artists’ colony at Giverny, the small village outside Paris where Monet spent the last three decades of his life.[31] Chicago critic Harriet Monroe, who visited Giverny in August, 1910, remarked on the sizeable contingent of Chicago artists among those who came for the express purpose of “freshen[ing] up their color.”


Monroe reported that Palmer herself claimed to be “learning lessons of inestimable value” while ridding her art “of faults which [sic] had hardened her work for years.”[32] Although her work was far from radical, her absorption of the Impressionist ideals of plein-air subject matter and bright colors proved too extreme for the conservative jury charged with selecting that year’s entries for the Art Institute’s American art annual. In informing Palmer that the jury had rejected her work, the museum’s director, William M. R. French, remarked that the jury “had no patience at all with things which [sic] they considered in any way tricky or superficial.”[33]


While in Europe Palmer did not limit her explorations exclusively to France, but traveled widely. After visiting the Paris Exposition marking the turn of the century in 1899 she traveled to Auvers in the French countryside and then on to the German village of Dorster to paint and visit relatives.[34] In 1902 she spent time in London, Spain and Germany where she visited her mother’s home in Düsseldorf.[35] While there she completed an homage of sorts to her mother, a painting entitled Mother Love, which included a cousin of the artist and mementos of her mother and grandmother.[36] In the years following she traveled and painted in Italy (1903 and 1904), the Austrian Tyrol (summer of 1904), Brittany and England (1906).[37] Following the conclusion of her studies at Giverny she and fellow Chicago artist, Jessie Benton Evans (1866-1954) spent October in Venice. Palmer would return the following year to paint in Verona and Portofino, and in 1912, traveled to Austria.[38] Her Italian paintings in particular, light-filled, picturesque “streetscapes,” found immediate favor in exhibitions geographically dispersed as far as Paris, Naples and Chicago. Critic Lena M. McCauley hailed them for being “as spontaneous as the painter herself.”[39]


If Palmer’s landscapes drew particular praise from the press, she was also known for her skills as a portraitist. A large pastel of her husband, Dr. Albert Palmer, was given a place of honor in the Art Institute’s annual showing of American watercolorists in 1901.[40] The following year Palmer was commissioned to do a life-size portrait in pastel of the son of Thomas E. Dougherty from the wealthy Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater.[41] A commission in 1912 to paint the children of singer Mme. Schumann-Heinke resulted in one of Palmer’s most memorable achievements.[42] Earlier that year she had gone so far as to publicly announce he choices for the most beautiful women of Chicago, as seen by the eyes of an artist. She stated her views on portraiture by saying:


“Of course I women as an artist. Coloring plays an important part as well as beauty of outline and regularity of feature. But all women who are called beautiful are not paintable. And some women who appeal to the artist as good subjects are not beautiful.”[43]


Not all of Palmer’s portraits, however, were privately commissioned. She also delighted in painting individuals of her own choosing, some of whom she knew only through casual encounters on the street.[44] Throughout her career, Palmer’s strongest institutional affiliation was with the Art Institute.[45] Following her graduation from the School of the Art Institute, she exhibited regularly in the museum’s principal annual exhibitions: the American Annual, the Chicago and Vicinity exhibition and the American Watercolor exhibition.[46] Her work regularly won awards and she was in demand as a juror as well.[47] It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in 1913 the institution would honor her with her first solo exhibition.


Palmer’s exhibition, which opened March 24, 1913, followed by three years a major showing of the work of the Giverny Group at New York’s newly-opened Madison Gallery. The Madison Gallery exhibition, which included the work of Palmer’s teacher in France, Richard Miller, impressed critics for its bright colors and optimistic themes.[48] If Palmer’s art demonstrated a close affinity with the light-filled canvases of her Giverny colleagues, it stood in sharp contrast to the modernist paintings of the Armory Show which opened at the Art Institute the same day as Palmer’s show. In Chicago as in New York and later Boston, where it opened next, the Armory Show took the city by storm. Critics had a field day, and with few exceptions decried the artists’ willful deviations from accepted, academic standards. Irate instructors from the School of the Art Institute, too, denounced the show and encouraged their students to do likewise.[49] Several days after the opening, members of the Chicago Artists’ Club staged a “Futurist Party” to mock what they could not comprehend. Attendees wore cubist costumes and listened to short speeches that attacked the works in the gallery “in mildly sarcastic terms.” Pauline Palmer was one of the speakers.[50]


William M. R. French, director of the Art Institute and a strong supporter of Palmer’s art, was concerned about the proximity of such a massive display of modernist art and that it might detract from the quiet integrity of her work. He offered to let her select alternative dates for her show, noting, “I doubt whether the company will be very good for you.”[51] As it turned out, he need not have worried. Several critics, including George Breed Zug, art critic for newspaper The Daily Inter Ocean and one of the speakers at the “Futurist Party,” considered her work a positive respite from the visual disjunctures fueling the Armory Show. He wrote, “instead of eclipsing the delicate art of Mrs. Pauline Palmer…[it] has indirectly aided in giving her a veritable triumph.” For those “dazed by the garishness of the revolutionaries,” he continued, Palmer’s art offered welcome “rest and serenity.”[52] Even Arthur Jerome Eddy, the Chicago lawyer and avid convert to visual modernism who delivered a lecture on Cubism during the Armory Show, encouraged museum patrons not to Miss Palmer’s exhibition.[53]


The exhibition of her work consisted of sixty-eight oils and pastels covering roughly a period of ten years. (She also showed two watercolors in the concurrent watercolor show).[54] Among the works on display were recent studies from Italy, including a series of “late afternoon” paintings objectifying the Impressionist concern with changing temporal modalities and plein-air aesthetics.[55] Palmer also exhibited a number of portraits and decorative works reminiscent of Miller’s representations of women who were clad in elegant attire within interiors. Poet and critic Harriet Monroe lauded the “vitality and variety” of Palmer’s work, which she judged a significant advance over the artist’s earlier efforts. “This exhibition gives Mrs. Palmer a strong push forward to a high place among American painters,”[56] Monroe advised. Critic Maude I. G. Oliver, aware of Palmer’s extensive foreign studies, assured her readers that she was “still quite decidedly a local product.”[57]


Palmer’s career received a substantial boost as a result of the massive public attention focused on the Armory Show. Many of the museum’s 180,000 visitors no doubt saw her exhibition, perhaps with the same sense of relief expressed by the critics. She received substantially greater press coverage than she could have expected otherwise, and for the first time her work was reviewed in a national publication. The International Studio, one of the leading art journals in the country, praised her work for its color, “luminosity” and “technical skill,” which it judged “on the best lines of impressionism.” At least as impressive were the three illustrations of her work that accompanied the article.[58] The year following the exhibition, Palmer’s work was featured in three additional solo exhibitions. It was common practice for the Art Institute to circulate shows to other Midwestern venues, and in January 1914, a slightly smaller exhibition of Palmer’s work opened at the Toledo Museum of Art.[59] Later that year fifty-two works were exhibited at the Springfield Illinois Art Club and from there traveled to the Withers Library in Bloomington, Illinois. Both exhibitions were part of an effort, backed principally by women’s organizations, to advance art in central Illinois.[60] That same year Palmer also garnered the Mrs. William Ormond Thompson Portraiture Prize at the Art Institute for An English Rose (location unknown) and was one of five recipients of the Fine Arts Building Prize, given by the Society of Western Artists.


The following year brought additional honors. After the Society of Western Artists disbanded and the Chapin family moved their prize to the Art Institute Chicago and Vicinity show, Palmer received the Fine Arts Building Prize again, this time for a group of four landscape paintings.[61] She also won Honorable Mention for her painting, Sketching Out of Doors (location unknown), at the Artists’ Guild of Chicago.[62]


The advent of the First World War brought an end to Palmer’s frequent trips to Europe, as well as all American artists.[63] In the summer of 1915 she began painting in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular artists’ colony which attracted many of the same artists who had previously summered at Giverny. By 1916 the picturesque fishing village at the tip of Cape Cod had five summer art schools and several hundred painters. Charles Hawthorne (1872-1930), an innovative teacher and former Chase student, headed the largest of the art schools. Hawthorne was known both for his open air teaching strategies and for encouraging liberal use of the putty knife.[64] Palmer was enthusiastic about her studies with Hawthorne, who shared her Impressionist sensibilities. In a letter to Chicago critic Lena M. McCauley, Palmer expressed complete satisfaction with Hawthorne’s “wonderful [teaching] system.”[65] In 1916 Palmer’s Parisian teacher Richard Miller joined the faculty of Hawthorne’s school, and in 1922, Palmer purchased a home and studio which she called “The Lanterns.”[66] She remained a regular fixture in Provincetown for the rest of her life and exhibited regularly with the Provincetown Art Association while also serving as a juror for the organization’s annual exhibition.[67]


Palmer’s art bore striking witness to her Provincetown summers. The Sketch Class (private collection), the 1916 recipient of the Mrs. Julius Rosenwald prize at the Art Institute Chicago and Vicinity exhibition, celebrated Hawthorne’s custom of holding his sketch classes outdoors on the Provincetown wharf.[68] Other scenes, noteworthy for their use of the palette knife, focused on the community’s picturesque narrow streets and small cottages, while decorative scenes of women in interiors revealed Palmer’s affinity for Miller’s celebration of light-drenched, leisure-class women.[69]


While Palmer summered in Provincetown, she continued to maintain an active presence in Midwestern art circles. In 1916 at the Art Institute, she received both the Municipal Art League Portrait Prize (Chicago and Vicinity exhibit) and Honorable Mention in the American Annual for her New England landscape, Pumpkin Hollow (location unknown).[70] In 1917, the Milwaukee Art Museum mounted a solo exhibition of her work, which included scenes of Italy and America,[71] and in 1918, she won the Clyde M. Carr Landscape Prize at the Art Institute for her painting, After the Blizzard (formerly R. H. Love Galleries).[72] Palmer was also increasingly in demand as a lecturer on art. The Municipal Art League, the Art Institute Alumni Association and various Chicago women’s clubs eagerly sought out her services as did the Springfield Art Club, which sponsored a lecture during that city’s solo showing of her work.[73] H. Effa Webster of the Chicago Examiner judged her an entertaining and “eloquent lecturer.”[74]


At a time when women’s clubs were virtually alone in their support for young artists in the Chicago area,[75] Palmer lent both her considerable organizational skills and her fierce determination to advancing the cause of both women and the arts. She was a charter member of a number of women’s and arts’ organizations, including the Chicago Woman’s Art Salon, the Cordon Club, and the Arts Club of Chicago. She served in a variety of capacities in the Municipal Art League of Chicago, the Chicago Watercolor Club, the Chicago Art Students League (president 1896-97), the Chicago Galleries Association, the Chicago Drama League (director) and the Literature Department of the Chicago Woman’s Club.


By 1919 she was so highly regarded within the city’s expanding art community that the Chicago Society of Artists, the city’s premier artists’ organization, unanimously elected her president. She was the first woman ever to hold this position, which she retained for three years.[76] In 1920, the organization awarded her the silver medal for a group of five of her paintings included in the Chicago and Vicinity show at the Art Institute.[77] Later that year she lectured and was “feted” on art day in Des Moines, Iowa.[78]


Following a trip to the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia in the fall of 1919,[79] Palmer expanded her repertoire to include Southern scenes. One of these, The Sunny South (last location, Chicago Public School system), was accorded the Edward Burgess Butler Purchase Prize at the Chicago and Vicinity show in 1920.[80] Later that year Palmer’s husband of nearly thirty years died. Shortly thereafter she spent time in a private studio on Cape Cod painting scenes of the sea and the dunes.[81] Within a few years, perhaps to supplement her income, she began teaching students in her studio in the Tree Studio building.[82] She also devoted increasing time to the lucrative business of portraiture.[83] She was particularly in demand for her portraits of young children, although critics came increasingly to regard her efforts in this genre as significantly weaker than her non-commissioned work.[84]


Throughout the decade of the 1920s Palmer continued to gain honors for her art. In 1921 she won the Silver Medal at the Peoria Society of Allied Arts, in 1924 her third Fine Arts Building Prize,[85] in 1925 Honorable Mention at the National Association of Women Painters & Sculptors,[86] and in 1926 the Morris S. Rosenwald prize for Morning Sun (Rockford Art Museum), a work which Lena McCauley termed a “masterly painting.”[87] As president of the Chicago Society of Artists, Palmer strove to maintain an open mind toward the more modern tendencies in art, which were gaining an increasing foothold within Chicago art circles.[88] To this end, she took instruction from an unknown eastern artist in hopes of enlightening herself as to its “mysteries,” but to no avail.[89] In 1923 she broke with the Chicago Society of Artists over its decision to exhibit several abstract paintings by Flora Schofield (1871-1960).[90] In protest, Palmer and the more conservative members of the organization founded the Association of Chicago Painters & Sculptors and in 1936 garnered the Gold Medal awarded at the annual show.[91] Between 1929-1931 Palmer served as that organization’s president. Palmer was also active with the Art Institute of Chicago Alumni Association (president 1927-1928), the MacDowell Society (director), the Grand Central Art Galleries Association, the Illinois Academy of Fine Art, and the National League of Mineral Painters.


Forever committed to advancing the cause of women artists, Palmer was often one of the few women to serve on exhibition juries that were still largely dominated by male artists. From 1925 through1928, she exercised a formative role in selecting the work of women painters for four Woman’s World’s Fair exhibitions.[92] She served as well on several juries for the Art Institute, including one for the1928 exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture.[93] Her service culminated in 1933 when she was chosen to chair the contemporary American painting gallery at the Century of Progress Exposition.[94] The one hundred seventy-eight paintings in this collection formed part of a larger survey of American and European art covering the last hundred years. This ambitious undertaking provided Chicagoans with a broad overview of recent developments in the arts on two continents.[95]


Palmer gained additional stature as an artist through a series of solo and small group exhibitions at a number of prominent Chicago art galleries. The Carson Pirie Scott & Company Galleries mounted two solo exhibitions of her work in the 1920s, followed by three more in the 1930s.[96] The first, in 1921, focused principally on scenes of village life.[97] The second, in 1927, included a full range of landscapes, portraits and still life, nearly sixty paintings in all. Critic Lena McCauley praised the ensemble, finding “first-rate pictures” on every wall.[98] In 1923 the Art Institute selected Palmer as one of six area artists to share gallery space during the summer exhibition season.[99] The Evanston News-Index reported that Palmer’s seventeen paintings were “the kind that make such fine home pictures of the sort one likes to ‘live with.’”[100] The Chicago Galleries Association, which accorded her a number of purchase prizes in the later 1920s and early 1930s, mounted its own exhibition of her work in 1928.[101]


In 1930, 1933 and 1935 the Carson Pirie Scott & Company Galleries again celebrated Palmer’s art in a series of solo exhibitions. Conservative critic Eleanor Jewett of the Chicago Tribune judged the 1930 display, which included many portraits of children, “one of the most brilliant and diversified to be found at the moment in Chicago.”[102] Tom Vickerman of the Chicago Evening Post concurred.[103] Only C. J. Bulliet, in reviewing the 1935 exhibition, expressed concern with the growing conservatism of Palmer’s art. While acknowledging Palmer’s rebellious spirit, he lamented “the dead level” of much of her commissioned work.[104] Only a year earlier Bulliet had praised Palmer’s Old Stove (location unknown) from the 1934 annual exhibition of Chicago artists as “one of the twenty genuinely sincere pieces of ‘modernism’ the ‘modern movement’ in Chicago has produced.”[105] Palmer may indeed have thought of herself as “modern,” but not radical. As the forces of contemporary art and the Great Depression were beginning to pull apart the Chicago art scene Palmer noted:

 

“The radical trend in modern art has confused buyers to an extent that the great majority of brush wielders have been forced to abandon their palettes in favor of picks and shovels.”[106]


Palmer’s inclusion in the inaugural exhibition of the reactionary Society for Sanity in Art only reinforced Bulliet’s concerns about her solidifying conservative approach. Spearheaded by Josephine Hancock Logan, the “Sanity in Art” movement attracted a national audience to its vehement opposition to modernist practices.[107] Still, Palmer continued to win honors -- the Bronze Medal at the 1935 first annual summer salon at Chicago’s Findlay Galleries[108] and the Mr. & Mrs. Jule F. Brower Prize at the 1937 Chicago and Vicinity exhibition at the Art Institute. That Palmer’s art continued to win prizes well into the late 1930s is as much a commentary on the entrenched conservatism of the Chicago arts community as it is a statement on the quality of Palmer’s late artistic production.


During the 1920s and 1930s Palmer traveled only minimally outside her homes in Chicago and Provincetown. In the spring of 1922, at the invitation of former Chicago artist Jessie Benton Evans, with whom she had traveled earlier, she visited several Western states.[109] Five years later she returned to the West, spending four months touring art colonies in Taos and Santa Fe as well as those scattered along the California coast between San Francisco and San Diego. In Los Angeles she was the guest of newspaperman and former Chicagoan, Sam T. Clover.[110] It wasn’t until 1938 she returned again to, this time as part of an artists’ tour of Scandinavian countries headed by Art Institute lecturer Dudley Crafts Watson, who regularly organized such trips. It
was on this tour that she caught pneumonia and died in Trondheim, Norway, August 15, 1938.

 

Palmer’s death was felt throughout the Chicago arts community. The following year, in a remarkable outpouring of support for her personal and professional contributions to the arts, no fewer than four prominent institutions and arts organizations, led by the Art Institute, held memorial exhibitions in her honor. Included in this group were the Chicago Galleries Association, the Union League Club of Chicago and the Woman’s Club of Evanston, where Palmer was often an invited speaker.[111] The Chicago Galleries Association mounted two additional memorial exhibitions in 1950 and 1951, and in 1984 the Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences in Peoria gave her a solo exhibition, accompanied by a small, illustrated catalogue.[112]


Palmer’s commitment to the arts and to the professional advancement of young artists did not cease with her death. Prompted by a desire to return a measure of the support that had been granted her over the years, Palmer left the Art Institute a generous endowment in her will. The money, which amounted to $1,800 annually, provided a series of prizes in her name at the annual Chicago and Vicinity exhibition -- two at $750 and two at $150. The first awards were made in 1950.[113] Palmer also let the Art Institute select one of her paintings for its permanent collection.[114]


Ralph Elmer Clarkson once characterized Palmer as an artist whose “effervescent personality pervades and enlivens all wherever she appears.”[115] C. J. Bulliet paid her an even greater compliment when he singled her out as “the woman artist of Chicago you think of in the same breath with Lorado Taft and Oliver Dennett Grover.”[116] Like her better-known male counterparts, Palmer gained the lasting respect of her profession as much for the quality of her artistic production as for her engaging personality and extraordinary service to a broad range of arts organizations. As an artist she clung to the conservative art practices of her youth long after they had been supplanted by the international push toward modernism. By the time of her death, her art was clearly anachronistic, although her technical skills remained high and her art was still prized by Chicago’s art-buying public. In her unswerving commitment to the arts across more than four decades and particularly through her lifelong participation in women’s organizations, Palmer made a substantial contribution to the democratization of the arts within Chicago’s extended metropolitan community. Both as an artist and as an avid arts supporter, Palmer deserves to be rescued from the artistic obscurity that has clouded the memory of her many substantial achievements.

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