Palmer C. Hayden (January 15, 1890 – February 18, 1973) was an American painter who depicted African American life. He painted in both oils and watercolors, and was a prolific artist of his era.
Much of Hayden’s influences came from the environment around him. He enjoyed painting, and used his time in Paris for inspiration. Over his next five years in Paris, Hayden was very productive, trying to capture elements of Parisian society. On his return to America, Hayden began working for the United States government. His body of work mostly consists of oil and watercolor paintings, but also includes pen/ink drawings. Most art historians agree that his most influential or well-known works would be the ones which reflect African American folklore. One of the best examples of this is his series of paintings called John Henry. Some people denounced his works as stereotypical and demeaning. Although Hayden is best known for his African folklorist artwork, his love for land and seascapes is overpowering. Many of his landscape paintings carry a nostalgic/religious significance.
Much of Hayden’s work after Paris focused on the African American experience. He tried to capture rural life as well as urban backgrounds in New York City. Many of these urban paintings were centered in Harlem.
Hayden continued to make contributions to the artistic community until his death on February 18, 1973.