Ernest Parton (1845-1933) American
Birthplace/Origin: Hudson, New York
For more than fifty years, the expatriate American artist Ernest Parton (1844-1933) enjoyed great success in England with his paintings of the English and French countryside. A true cosmopolitan, Parton’s works combined 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 wealthy 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 and the National Academy of Design in New York, the Paris Salon, the Exposition Universelle and the Chicago World’s Fair. The large scale paintings that he completed for these major shows and expositions – works like “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 that 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 brothers, 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. The painters of the Hudson River School dominated 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, the fourth child of the Parton family and the oldest of what eventually became an artistic trio. Arthur 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 studies. After his studies, Arthur Parton began working extensively out of doors, directly from nature with William Trost Richards and with 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 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 moments a day to devote to it, is to practice directly from nature.” In his teenage years, he began to accompany Arthur on sketching trips along the Hudson and in the Catskills and to work alongside Arthur 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 era of Ruskin and Emerson and the maxim that “nature is always the best teacher”. When he was twenty, Ernest joined his brother in his studio on Broadway, in New York City and was soon exhibiting his works at the prestigious National Academy of Design.