Robert Salmon was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1775, the son of Francis Salmon, a silversmith. Although christened as Robert Salomon, he changed his name to Salmon in 1828 when he emigrated to America. He was a keen traveller and toured throughout the British Isles. Around 1800 he was in London and at the 1802 Royal Academy Exhibition a view of Whitehaven harbour was shown. In 1806 he settled in Liverpool, where he spent the next five years. Salmon then moved to Greenock in Scotland where he painted a considerable number of fine views of the river Clyde. He returned to Liverpool in 1822 and two years later at the Second Exhibition of the Academy of the Liverpool Royal Institution he showed five works depicting various locations in England and Scotland.
In 1825 he again travelled extensively, from Newcastle in the North East to Cornwall in the South West, but it was from Liverpool in 1828 that he made the momentous decision to emigrate to America. He settled in Boston for the next fourteen years, where he was to find tremendous success. Judging by the records of his large number of Boston exhibitions and auctions, it appears that Salmon continued to paint from memory a considerable number of British subjects, as well as local views. However, scenes of Long Island, Virginia and South Carolina are known, which suggets he travelled widely Eastern seaboard while in America.
One of the most oustanding and versatile marine artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, he had considerable influence on his own and the next generation of marine artists in America and Britain. Due to failing eyesight Salmon left Boston in 1842 and returned to England where it is believed he died two years later.
The largest number of his works are held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but his paintings can be seen in many public collections both in the United States and in Britain.