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 C. R. Parker  (1799 - 1849)

About: C. R. Parker
 

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Lived/Active: Louisiana/Connecticut      Known for: portrait, figure

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C.R. Parker
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of a Girl
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

From AskART archives (for a discussion of his birth place please consult the text by Overby and Jennings, below):

Itinerant portrait and historical painter, believed to have been born in England,  who traveled through the South of the U.S.  His political portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette and Franklin were displayed in 1826 at the state legislative hall in New Orleans.  He is known to have been in London, England, in 1828, where he painted a portrait of John James Audubon.  Subsequently, he and Audubon traveled together to Paris and Versailles. 

Parker was back in New Orleans by 1832, then in 1838, and 1845 to 1848.  He also worked in Columbus, Georgia in 1838, Mobile, Alabama in 1840, and again in 1843-44, Natchez, Mississippi sometime in the 1930s-1840s, in Montgomery and Huntsville, Alabama, and in Charleston, South Carolina. 

The following biographic data courtesy of Robert Overby and J. L. Sibley Jennings, Jr.:

Most arts or museum publications that mention C. R. Parker identify him as an itinerant portrait painter from England who traveled the South creating portraits.  He did travel the South painting portraits and he sometimes had a studio in New Orleans as well as Mobile, Alabama, and St. Louis, Missouri, among others.  Yet, Charles Parker was not from England, he was born / baptized in Cheshire, Connecticut, on 30 September 1799; his sister Juliana (“Julia”) was baptized there on 15 February 1795 (she ended up in Alexandria, Louisiana).  There was no Louisiana plantation, and he did not paint James Bowie in 1862 because Bowie died at the Alamo on March 6th, 1836.  C. R. Parker died in New Orleans on February 1st, 1849. 

We do not yet know where he received his earliest art training.  What we do know is that whatever that training was it put him in contact with the best antique American models as well as the most recent ones.  C. R. Parker is first reported as an artist in New Orleans in 1825.  By 1826 he was exhibiting his portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, some on commission for the Louisiana Capitol.  By 1827 a set of the same portraits had been hung in the Georgia Capitol building in Milledgeville, Georgia, but Parker had been given an additional commission – to paint the portrait of the late General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia.

These first known paintings by Parker are usually taken from other paintings of the four leaders that Parker had seen.  The most common source for the backgrounds of all except Thomas Jefferson, is the Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart known as the “Lansdowne” portrait.  All of Parker’s portraits demonstrate great facility with the background setting, draperies, furniture and landscape views seen behind, and to the side, of the subject.  However, when it came to the human figure and particularly the identifiable faces of his subjects, Parker had greater difficulty.  His figures were invariably wooden and malproportioned, and his heads always too small for the bodies on which they sat.

Immediately after his sale of these large portraits he left New Orleans for England.  He studied there at least from 1828 until 1832.   He exhibited with several arts related organizations, particularly the Free Society of Artists in London, and at the Royal Academy.  In 1828,  John James Audubon also arrived in London and that August “… He met a Mr. Parker whom he had known formerly in Natchez, and agreed to sit while Parker did a picture of him as a woodsman.  This took more time than he had expected, time that he resented having to give up, but he was pleased with the final results.”
 
In the Fall of 1828 Audubon went to Paris and there Parker again joined him: “So far it had been a wonderful trip, and it became even better the following day [Sunday], when he and Parker, his friend from Natchez, who had also joined him, went to Saint-Cloud to attend the fete.” 
 
Through Audubon, Parker was introduced to Baron Georges Cuvier, secretary of the National Institute, Professor of Natural History in the College de France, and member of the Council of the Imperial University, who sat for a portrait by Parker.  Parker returned to New Orleans in 1832; he re-established contact with Joshua D. Waterman, Parker’s cousin from Wallingford, Connecticut, who was prominent in New Orleans as a managing partner in the firm of Newton & Co.  There exists a certificate / note for John Jacob Astor, dated May 23, 1819, endorsed on the reverse by Waterman, who was actively in business in New Orleans before the first arrival of Stephen F. Austin and still in business when Austin returned in 1835.
 
Between 1832 and 1835 Parker was making frequent forays across the South seeking new clients, particularly the wealthy and powerful.  Parker would obviously be passed around from household to household, via friends and relatives of satisfied clients, some of whom would prove to be active in the creation of the Republic of Texas.  Nowhere is this more clear than the web of connections between Texas and Milledgeville, Georgia, the state capital whose Capitol building held five of Parker’s first paintings.  Milledgeville was also the home of Mirabeau B. Lamar and Joanna Troutman, the creator of the Lone Star Flag and congressman Hines Holt among many others.


Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
During the nineteenth century, American art patrons in the South regularly enlisted the talents of artists traveling throughout the region—the so-call “itinerant painters.” Portraiture became the mainstay for these itinerant artists, who found success by establishing studios for brief periods in various communities.  Records indicate that such artists could find a sufficient number of customers in the South.  Southern patrons favored portraiture above other subject matter such as landscapes and still life paintings. Fortunately, for these artists, photography was not as widespread in America until the later 1840s.(1)

This itinerant painter under review, C.R. Parker, originally hailed from England where he exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists.  He immigrated to the United States and worked in the South from 1825 to his death in 1848 or 1849.  Parker first appeared in Louisiana in 1825 when he copied portraits of Washington and Lafayette for a commission for the Louisiana state house.(2) 

Parker returned to England and exhibited his work there, but for the next 20 years, he returned to America using New Orleans as a base from which to travel.  We do know that these trips included Natchez, Mississippi; Mobile, Montgomery, and Huntsville, Alabama; Charleston, South Carolina, and Columbus, Georgia, where he made a living painting the citizens of these cities.(3)

Footnotes:
1. David Bundy, ed., Painting in the South: 1564-1980 (Richmond: Virginia Museum, 1983), 67.
2. Estill Curtis Pennington, Downriver: Currents of Style in Louisiana Painting 1800-1950 (Pelican Publishing Company, 1991), 43.
3. Encyclopedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918 (The Historic New Orleans Collection), 291.  Patti Carr Black. Of Home and Family: Art in Nineteenth Century Mississippi (Jackson, Miss.: Mississippi Museum of Art, 1999), 99.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum.

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