Unlike many of his contemporaries who studied in European academies, Palmer was self-taught, and enjoyed a successful career in Albany, New York. He chose not to depict themes of antiquity in his work. His art dealt instead with American concerns and his style was wholly his own. Such unique execution and emphasis on nature in portraiture made him an all-American sculptor and won him a loyal following. He successfully fulfilled his own stated goal, which was "not to imitate forms alone, but through them to reveal the purest and best of our nature."
Amy Pastan Young America: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2000)