Windmill, cows and heather
Oil on canvas, signed
20.5 x 30.5 inches canvas size
29.5 x 31.5 inches framed size
ARTIST BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS
Alfred William Parsons
(2 Dec 1847 - 16 Jan 1920)
Alfred William Parsons R.A. is a well known for his English landscape paintings and fine botanical illustrations which brought him into contact with William Robinson, for whom he provided illustrations. He regularly exhibited his art work from 1868 to 1919. He also artistically designed significant gardens mostly in England and some in Scotland and the United States.
Alfred Parsons was born in Laverton, near Frome, Somerset, the son of Dr Joshua Parsons, a surgeon and dedicated gardener of alpines and correspondent of William Robinson, and raised in London. After being educated privately, he started work as a clerk in the Post Office in 1867. After two years, he left the unsuitable desk-job to pursue studies at the Kensington School of Art, and went on to exhibit at various galleries including the Grosvenor Gallery and the Royal Academy, where he exhibited every year from 1874 to the end of his life.
He won the Chantrey Bequest in 1887 and the published his book Notes From Japan in 1896. Parsons became President of the Society of Painters in Watercolours in 1905, and among many other works, he illustrated Ellen Willmott's The Genus Rosa. He was a keen gardener and for the last six years of his life took care of his roses at Luggershill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England.
Parsons, whose interest in Englishness paralleled the tastes of upper-class American émigrés, joined the notable artistic community in the village of Broadway in the Cotswolds (Worcestershire). His associates included the American artists Francis Davis Millet, who remained Parson's closest friend until he drowned aboard the RMS Titanic, and Edwin Austin Abbey, with whom he collaborated in illustrated books. Through American contacts made while at the artists' colony he became an illustrator for Harper's Magazine, and also provided illustrations for books – including short stories by Thomas Hardy.
Parsons became President of the Society of Painters in Water Colour in 1905 and full RA in 1911 on the acceptance of his diploma work, the oil painting Orange Lilies, which Parsons probably painted in his back garden at Luggershill.
The three men, Parsons, Millet and Abbey, lived together and entertained sociably at 54, Bedford Gardens, London. William Robinson asked him to provide illustrations for The Wild Garden: Or, Our Groves and Shrubberies Made Beautiful by the Naturalisation of Hardy Exotic Plants (1881, the 1903-5th edition being the best one) led to Robinson's invitation for Parsons to lend advice at his Gravetye Manor. Several artists engraved Parsons' illustrations. As it was the custom, he never engraved himself. Parsons' first garden commission, however, came through the architect Philip Webb, who was designing "Clouds" in Wiltshire for Mr and Mrs Percy Wyndham, prominent figures among the esthetic-minded group called "The Souls": Parsons provided an unostentatious planting of spring bulbs, Magnolia × soulangeana, roses and lilies, in a framework of clipped yews, wedding new and old elements.
Parsons' long-lasting association with the Anglo-American group centered in Broadway, Worcestershire, began in 1885, when Parsons and his London friends rented a house facing the Green, where John Singer Sargent began painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. Parsons' first made a garden for himself and his friends at Russell House facing the Evesham road at the western entrance to Broadway, then a garden setting for Mary Anderson, Mrs Antonio de Navarro at Court Farm (1896 onwards) and later for himself, at Luggershill (1903 onwards).
Parsons' fine illustrated book, his only published text, Notes in Japan (London, 1895, reprinted) came from his visit to that country between 1892 to 1894.