Alfred William Parsons RA, RI, PRWS

Alfred William Parsons RA, RI, PRWS

1847 - 1920

Born 1847 in Beckington, Somerset; Died 1920 in Broadway, Worcestershire

Landscape painter in oils and watercolours; also a book illustrator and designer of gardens.

Alfred William Parsons studied at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington (1867). He exhibited widely in a variety of media including oils, watercolours and pen and ink. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871 and continued to exhibit there every year until his death. Parsons was elected as associate of the RA in 1897 and a full member in 1911. He exhibited works with the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), receiving full membership in 1905, and also with the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours (RWS), receiving full membership in 1905. Parsons became the society's President in 1913 (PRWS).

Parsons counted among his closest friends two American artists, Edwin Austin Abbey and Francis Davis Millet. Through their friendship they established an informal artists' and writers' collective called the Broadway Group (located in the Cotswolds; Broadway, Worcestershire) and was active during the 1880s and 1890s. Through such associations, Parsons was commissioned to illustrate a number of books, working both independently and collaboratively with fellow members. Other closely associated artists included John Singer Sargent. Many of Parsons’ illustrations appeared in Harper's Magazine and also in gardening and botanical associated publications; his interest in botany caused him to pursue a career as a professional garden designer in 1899. Existing examples include Wightwick Manor, Staffordshire, and Great Chalfield, Wiltshire.

Parsons' landscapes and botanical studies reveal a particularly strong affinity with the quintessential English countryside. His accuracy for depicting English flora and beautiful rural scenes awarded him considerable success from an Anglo-American community in his own lifetime. Parsons once acted as a judge at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

Parsons is represented by a number of public collections including Tate, Royal Academy of Arts, the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), National Museum Wales and the National Trust. Regional collections include Aberdeen, Bath, Bristol, Falmouth, Glasgow, Hull, Kirklees, Liverpool, Oldham, Sheffield, and Stoke-on-Trent, among others.

(Benjamin Angwin - October 2014)