Childe Hassam, a much-admired American realist painter of the 19th century wrote this about his genre: "I believe the man who will go down to posterity is the man who paints his own time and scenes of everyday life around him."


Our own Olaf Palm (1935-2000) was just such a painter and well deserving of the posterity that Hassam predicted for him and others. Painterly canvases by Palm continue to be well-loved for their everyday subject matter rendered and lit in traditional, richly nuanced styles.


Unlike so many of his youthful artist peers in the 50's, seeking to please the god of Abstract Expressionism, Palm fell in love with the Dutch and Flemish masters and struck out on his own path. He came to be thought of as a kind of 20th century Rembrandt - a painter who used the techniques of "the old ones" as he once called them, to capture his own time and place.


Instinctively bohemian, rural in temperament, with plenty of practical life skills, he joined the sixties back-to-the-land movement, and began his search for the perfect natural environment to suit his own nature, and one that would nurture his work. He found it on the Mendocino coast, where on and off for thirty years, he painted his life and lived his painting. Travel adventures between 1976 and 1998 also provided subjects for a huge number of canvases and an equally large number of satisfied patrons.


He died much too young, of colon cancer, but not before preparing in his own inimitable way: selecting his grave-site , painting a self-portrait at the site, building his own pine coffin, and choosing the items that would accompany him to that next painting site in the sky. Those who attended his exuberant funeral will not forget it any time soon.


The Palm images here on this page are just a tiny sampling of Palm's prolific output. His biographer, Irene D. Thomas, found out firsthand the difficulty of adequately representing Olaf in images. He had not kept records, nor had the galleries that represented him over the years, so her research depended heavily on following word-of-mouth and other leads from community members. She found patrons as far flung as Hawaii and Cape Cod; a few were willing to have their paintings photographed for the book, but most were photographed here in Mendocino by our own John Birchard. The largest existing collection of Palm paintings today is on display at "The Restaurant" in Fort Bragg.


You can learn more about Olaf Palm's life and work in Irene Thomas's lavishly illustrated biography (180 full color images) : Olaf Palm, A Life in Art.  The book was designed and published by Dale Moyer of Redwood Springs Press in 2005. It can be purchased locally in bookstores and selected galleries and through her website


comment from a fan: "Thanks to Irene Thomas and this beautiful book, the paintings of Olaf Palm are available. He was a remarkable talent and this is a remarkable volume." (Gerald Haslam, noted California writer)

Contact: Irene Thomas



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Click on Any Image to Enlarg