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 Ernest Parton  (1845 - 1933)

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Lived/Active: New York / England      Known for: landscape, genre, animal and interior painting

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Ad Code: 3
Ernest Parton
from Auction House Records.
When Lingering Daylight Welcomes Night
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biogoraphy is from John Finnegan.

Ernest Parton was the younger brother of Arthur, in whose studio he spent two winters.  However, he received no instruction in art from regular masters or in any schools.  He was elected a member of the Artists' Fund Society of New York in 1873, contributing one work each year to its sales.  In 1873, he traveled to Europe for the purposes of spending a few months mainly in Great Britain, but, meeting with success in London, he decided to remain, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and elsewhere.

In 1876 he visited the Swiss Lakes and Northern Italy, making many sketches.  He returned to New York in 1884 through 1886.  Among his most notable paintings are: Morning Mist, exhibited at the National Academy (NAD) in New York, and the following exhibited at the Royal Academy in London: Papa's Lunch, The Placid Stream, Sunny September, Poet's Corner, The Silent Pool, Reflections, and The Duck Pond.

Member:
Artists' Fund Society, Royal Institute of Painters, London

Exhibits:
Alpine Society, Dowsdell Galleries Earl's Court, 1897 Edinburgh, 1886
Fine Art Society, London Glasgow Institute of Art Grosvenor Galleries 1875-1880
Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester Jubilee, 1887
National Academy of Design 1866-97
New English Art Gallery, 1893
New Gallery, London Paris Exhibitions 1889 & 1900
Paris Salon 1892 & 1894
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts 1905
Royal Society of British Artists Royal Academy, Birmingham Royal Academy 1875- 1932
Royal Hibernian Society, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Toothe, Arthur & Sons, Twilight, 1893, Walker Art Galley, Liverpool

Museums:
South Kensington Museum, Tate Gallery, Walker Art Gallery, Reading Museum, Salford Museum, Sunderland Museum

Sources include:
Benezit, E. "Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs, Gründ", 1999.
Clement & Hutton, "Artists of the 19th Century and their Works", Boston 1879.
Champlin & Perkins, "Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings", Vol. III, NY 1887.
Falk, Peter H, "Who Was Who in American Art", Soundview Press, 1999.
Fink, M. "American Artists at the 19th Century Salons"
Fielding, Mantle, "Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers", New York, 1926
Graves, A., "A Dictionary of Artists 1793-1893, who have exhibited works in the Principal London Exhibitions", Kingsmead Press 1904
Graves, A., "A Century of Loan Exhibitions", Bath 1915.
Graves, A. Royal Academy of Arts, "A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their work from the foundation in 1769 to 1904", Vol. III. H. Graves, 1905
Jarmon, A. "Royal Academy Exhibitors", 1905-1970, Vol. III, 1987
Johnson, Jane, "British Artists 1880-1940," ACC, 1980
Johnson, Jane, "The Royal Society of British Artists, 1824-1893", ACC, 1975
Poynter, The National Gallery, 1900.
Schmidt, Mary, "Index to 19th Century American Art Periodicals", Soundview Press, 1999.
Thieme-Becker, "Allgemeines Lexikon Der Bildenden Künstler Von Der Antike Bis Zur Gegenwart, Seemann", band 25/26, Leipzig 1999
Waters, B. "British Artists Working 1900-1950",
Wood, C. "Dictionary of Victorian Painters", ACC 1975

Biography from Jeffrey Morseburg:
For more than fifty years, the expatriate American artist Ernest Parton enjoyed great success in England with his paintings of the English and French countryside.  A true cosmopolitan, Parton did works combining elements of the Hudson River School tradition that he was trained in as a young man with influences drawn from the French Barbizon School and the late-Victorian landscape movement to create a sophisticated international style that made him a sought after and affluent London painter. 

Parton won his fame by showing his works in the major salons and exhibitions of the day including the Royal Academy, The Royal Scottish Academy, the National Academy of Design in New York, the Paris Salon, the Exposition Universelle in Paris and the Chicago World’s Fair.  The large-scale paintings that he completed for these major shows and expositions – works such as The Waning of the Year or When Lingering Light Greets Night’s Pale Queen  – were reproduced in art magazines and as fine prints, securing his reputation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ernest Parton was born into a large and talented family who lived in the riverside community of Hudson, New York, located in the Hudson River Valley, just north of New York City.  His father George Parton (1812-1872), who came from Birmingham, England, immigrated to the United States in 1833 and married Elizabeth Woodbridge of Mystic, Conniecut the following year.  The Parton family grew rapidly, the growth rate only interrupted by George Parton’s two lengthy trips west, in 1849 and 1852, where he searched in vain for fortune in the gold fields of California.  Of twelve children, only six survived to adulthood, three girls and three boys, all of whom became fine artists.

For an artistically talented American youth growing up in the middle of the 19th century, there were few better places to live than New York’s Hudson River Valley. Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the founder of the Hudson River School, began sketching in the valley in the 1820’s.  Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) grew up in Hudson, New York, just across the river from Cole’s home, and Frederic Church (1826-1900), Cole’s protégé, built a Moorish castle overlooking a bend in river.  These were three of the major figures in what was the first great American artistic movement. The loose association of artists who lived or painted in the Hudson River Valley was drawn together by the influence of the Transcendental movement and the peace and beauty of the valley and the surrounding Catskill Mountains, and their school would come to dominate American art for more than half a century.

It is impossible to assess the life and work of Ernest Parton without discussing his older brother and mentor, Arthur Parton, who was born in 1842.  Arthur was the fourth child of the Parton family and the oldest of what eventually became an artistic trio.  He was an artistically talented youth, so despite parental reservations, he was sent to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under the great landscape and marine painter William Trost Richards (1800-1900).  He was a talented and resourceful student and began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design in 1861, while still in the final year of his art education. After his studies, Arthur Parton began working extensively out of doors with William Trost Richards and other members of the Hudson River School, who lived in the valley.

Though his father wanted to make a merchant out of him, Arthur’s younger brother Ernest Parton also began to exhibit artistic talent and an interest in becoming a painter.  In 1864, his brother Arthur wrote to him with advice: "If you think of following painting as a profession, the best thing you can do for a year at least, though you have only a few minutes a day to devote to it, is to practice directly from nature.  Try to draw as nicely and truthfully as you can before sitting yourself down to taking lessons, as Richards advises, or rather told me when I first went to him. I know that what little advances I have made within a few years is owing not to instructions from any master, but to labor out of doors…”

In his teenage years Ernest began to accompany Arthur on sketching trips along the Hudson and in the Catskill Mountains and to work alongside his brother in the studio.  Because he had Arthur to study with and other artists to rely on for advice and to join on sketching outings, he did not feel the need to enroll in an academy for formal training.  After all, this was the er

In 1865, the year that the Civil War ended, twenty-year-old Ernest joined his brother in his studio on Broadway, in New York City and was soon exhibiting his own works at the National Academy of Design.  In 1869 Arthur Parton embarked on an extended trip to England and the continent where he came under the influence of the French Barbizon School and came to know the other new artistic movements. When he returned, the older brother’s work began to change, and through his influence, Ernest’s maturing work began to grow as well.

In 1873, after he had sufficient confidence in his art, Ernest Parton followed in his older brother’s footsteps and left for an extended trip to Europe.  Because Arthur’s paintings of the Scottish lochs and English countryside were selling well in America, the trip was probably motivated as much by the realities of the commercial marketplace as it was by artistic reasons.  Parton landed in Glasgow, painted in the Scottish Highlands, then in the scenic Lake District of England and finally in the Welsh countryside.  He soon found that he enjoyed England and that in return, English buyers responded to his work. Ernest’s success motivated Arthur to give him some sage advice once again, “We read that you appear to be getting along in a swimming manner…Certainly I should try to make the most of your opportunities while there, chiefly on account of the flatness of everything in New York and all across the country.”

Parton installed himself in a studio on Newman Street in London, and set about adapting to a new land and a somewhat different culture.  With the U.S. mired in a long period of economic doldrums, Parton found commercial success in England and soon became a respected painter in the late-Victorian artistic milieu.  As an American expatriate artist, he was in good company, for in the last decades of the century John Singer Sargent, George Boughton, Frank Millet, James McNeil Whistler, and Edwin Austin Abbey had all settled in England.  Eventually he lived in fashonable St. John's Wood and had a studio in picturesque Wargrave-on-Thames.

In 1875, two of Ernest Parton's works were accepted by the Royal Academy, and he began a long run of success in the Academy's annual exhibitions.  In 1876, he painted extensively on the Continent, doing sketches at Lake Como and painting in the Italian countryside.  In 1877 his interest in the French Barbizon School sharpened, and he became part of a circle of Anglo-American painters who spent their summers in the French countryside.  In 1879, the Royal Academy's Chantrey Bequest purchased Parton's picture The Waning of the Year for the permanent collection.

In addition to his English subjects, Parton traveled and painted extensively in France, and contemporary critics saw a marked difference between his French and English pictures.  While most of his paintings were painted at the end of the day, which used to be called "eventide," the French paintings tended to be more atmospheric, revealing the influence of the Barbizon School.  This influence was inevitable as he was part of a circle of painters that painted and socialized in the small village of Grez-sur-loing, a short distance from Barbizon.

Even though he spent most of his life as an expatriate, Parton's American heritage was important to him, and he continued to send paintings home for exhibition.  In 1893, he sent When Daylight Dies and Close of the Day home for the World's Columbia Exposition, the Chicago World's Fair, where they were exhibited in the American Pavilion.  Parton also exhibited with the National Academy of Design in New York.  Some of the paintings were American scenes that he painted on trips home; others were Barbizon-tinged scenes of rural France, and the remainder were his depictions of the English countryside.

At the end of his life, Parton returned home one final time to die at the age of eighty-eight.  Over the course of his long life, the world of art had changed dramatically, with artistic tastes and styles shifting rapidly as one new movement succeeded another.  However, throughout his lifetime, Ernest Parton remained true to his own vision of the landscape - a contemplative, restful and poetic transcription of the natural world.

Jeffrey Morseburg
copyright 2006


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