Born in Boston to a New England family of shipbuilders, Norton's interest in ships led him initially to a career at sea. After his sea service, he enrolled at both Harvard Medical School and the Lowell Institute, where his interest in art led him to study under the master American landscape painter, George Inness.
Later opening a studio in Boston, Norton enjoyed immediate success. From the sale of his paintings he financed further art studies in Europe. While painting in London, he found wide acceptance in many of the major European galleries, including the Paris salon, the most prestigious venue for an artist of his day to exhibit. He was awarded an honorable mention by the salon in 1900.
Returning to America he continued to receive strong recognition, representing the United States at the International Exposition of 1900 and winning the coveted Osorne Prize for marine painting in 1905 & 1906. Today, this important American artist's work continues to attract connoisseurs of quality marine paintings in both Europe and America.