ART | Sorting out an heirloom by Arthur Parton

PartonThis oil by Arthur Parton has been in my mother’s family for 80 years or so.

Though they aren’t serious about it any way, shape or form, my parents have amassed a nice little collection of art that includes watercolors, oils, sculpture, pastels and prints — none all that expensive or valuable.

Since my maternal grandfather’s death in 1984, a nice little oil has hung in the front hall of my parents’ house. He’d inherited the painting from some distant cousins in the late 1920s or early 1930s and my mother, his only daughter, kept it after she broke up his house. We’ve never given it much notice. Earlier this summer, spurred by the appearance of a Jasper Cropsey painting on “Antiques Roadshow,” I decided to check our painting out.

Before I share the results of my query, let me also say that my parents are also avid Hudson River School fans who’ve probably been to every major art museum in this country. For my own part, there are days when I wish I’d pursued a career as an art historian — my St. Lawrence thesis explored Frederic Remington’s various depictions of Canada.

It turns out our little oil was painted by Arthur Parton in 1872. Parton, born in Hudson, N.Y. in 1842, was a member of the Hudson River School. Here’s a biography, courtesy of the Pierce Galleries:

Arthur Parton was born in Hudson, N.Y. and along with his brothers Ernets (1845-1933) and Henry (1858-1933), he wanted to become a painter from an early age. Arthur Parton became a prominent 19th century landscape painter after studying with William Trost Richards in Philadelphia and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and after a trip to Europe where he was highly influenced by the Barbizon painters (1869). In 1872, his view of the Shenandoah River (Virginia) was published in Bryant’s Picturesque America and that publication gave him instantaneous recognition.

During the reign of the Hudson River School Parton became an Associate of the National Academy of Design (1871) and a full National Academician (1884). He was a leading member of the American Water Color Society and the Artist’s Fund Society. He exhibited at the National Academy (1862-1914), winning a prize at the NAD in 1896; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC (1907, 1908, 1910); Brooklyn Art Association (1866-1885); Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, 1876; Boston Art Club (1882-1909) and more. Awards include one in New York City (gold, 1886); Temple Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1889); a medal at the St. Louis Exposition (1904) and more. His work is represented in the Brooklyn Institute Museum; the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

Parton painted throughout New York state and is known for his paintings of the Catskill and Adirondack mountains. He was a well-known artist and well-liked, having exhibited for over a half-century at the National Academy, and moving from a tight academic Hudson River School palette into Impressionism.

From 1874-1893, he maintained a Tenth Street Studio at 51 West 10th Street, alongside William Merritt Chase in New York City, and he probably was highly influenced by Chase’s impressionistic canvases of Shinnecock.

We’re in the process of having the piece appraised. Stay tuned!

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