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 Sheldon Parsons  (1866 - 1943)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Mexico / Mexico      Known for: landscape, Indian pueblos and figure painting

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Ad Code: 3
Sheldon Parsons
from Auction House Records.
The Santa Fe Has Brought Invaders
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The first director in 1918 of the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, Sheldon Parsons was a painter of local residents, plaza scenes, and landscapes.  He applied Impressionist techniques to convey the New Mexico landscape, and his work became popular.

He was born in Rochester, New York, and studied at the National Academy of Design with William Merritt Chase, Edgar Ward and Will Low.   He was married to noted photographer Caroline Reed Parsons, and from 1895 to 1912, was a much sought after New York portrait painter, whose subjects included prominent persons such as President McKinley and Susan B Anthony.  He also won much recognition for his autumn scenes of the countryside of Westchester County.

In 1913, to start a new life after his wife's death and to find a better climate because of his tuberculosis, he gave up his successful career in New York to move to Santa Fe where he became one of the earliest resident artists.  The more he painted in that environment, the looser his style became, and his impressionist landscape paintings were popular.  They were exhibited at the Palace of the Governors and the new Museum of New Mexico, where a number of his paintings are in the collection.

American Art Review, August 2004

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Sheldon Parsons was born in 1866 in Rochester, New York one year after the end of the Civil War. He studied at the National Academy of Design with William Merritt Chase, Edgar Ward and Will Low. From 1895 to 1912 he was a successful portrait artist in New York City painting President McKinley and Susan B. Anthony among others. He also gained recognition for his landscape paintings of Westchester County scenes. Parsons was married to a well known photographer, Caroline Reed Parsons and had a young daughter named Sara. Caroline died in 1912 and Sheldon contacted tuberculosis about the same time.

Seeking a new start and a healthier climate, Parsons drove West with his daughter to Santa Fe. When he experienced the vivid colors and soft architecture of the Southwest, he never painted figures again. A Santa Fe art colony was not established until 1921, but Parsons became one of the earliest resident artists and was known for his "happy, serene, impressionist landscapes."

Parsons work was well received in Santa Fe. He often showed at the Palace of the Governors with many other local artists of the day. When construction was complete on the new building, he became the first director of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in 1918. A number of Parsons paintings are in the permanent collections of both places.

In 1919, several years into their life in Santa Fe, Sara met and married the artist Victor Higgins. Even though the marriage only lasted four years, it has been said that the influence of Higgins can be seen in some of Parsons best work from the '20s and '30s.

Parsons work was not considered modernism, but his affinity for the more progressive New Mexico artists caused political friction at the Museum and cut short his tenure as director. His life came to an end in September of 1943, just as abstract expressionism was beginning in New York City.

1. American Art Review, August 2004
2. SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST, Peggy and Harold Samuels
3. Serenading the Light, by David Clemmer

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Born: New York City (or Rochester) 1866
Died: Santa Fe, New Mexico 1943

Early impressionist Santa Fe landscape painter, museum director.

Sheldon Parsons studied at the National Academy of Design with Chase, Will Low, and Edgar Ward. He was a successful New York City portrait painter of national celebrities between 1895 and 1912. When his wife died, Parsons came to Santa Fe in 1913, one of the earliest of the resident artists. He painted happy, serene, impressionist landscapes. In 1918, Parsons was the first director of the Museum of New Mexico. In Santa Fe, Parsons painted “town plazas, Indian villages, desert, and mountains. His work began to show a greater freedom in handling forms and a stronger sense of color.”

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Boston Art Club:
Paintings have been found which were landscapes and images have been seen of genre scenes.  He was active during the last quarter of the 19th Century into the first quarter of the 20th Century.  It is known that he lived and worked in NYC for part of his career.

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