HENRY D H PARKER
Born in 1858 in London, Henry H. Parker would base himself in the city for most of his life even as he went on become known as one of Britain’s best pastoral landscapists, with a career predicated on lush, tranquil scenes of Southern England. Surprisingly little is known about the artist’s life given how successful he was, probably because he refused to exhibit in the major exhibition halls of England during his lifetime (although his work was shown in the fertile markets of Canada and the US). His habit of signing his work under various pseudonyms, such as H. D. Hillier, has also made cataloguing his entire oeuvre difficult.
We know that Parker studied at the St Martin’s School of Art, one of the first generations to pass through the now venerable institution, and would then go on to be taught at the Royal Academy. Although little is known of his background this schooling is clearly indicative of his artistic talent being recognised from a young age.
His style shows a great influence by the Impressionists, through his use of bright colours and quick brush strokes, but a definite understanding of the Academic principals is also displayed. This style of painting was very typical for the late Victorian landscape artists who strove to incorporate the new Impressionist techniques in their more traditional paintings. His landscapes and skies were created with a free, but controlled, application of paint while the watery areas of his work were handled in the more traditional way, using glazes to create depth and reflections. His paintings are well composed, beautifully balanced and capture the landscape in its most pure and natural state.
This colourful and free look was a welcome relief to the traditional Victorian landscapes of the previous decades and this, coupled with Parker’s choice of subject matter, brought him great success. His favourite locales were in Surrey, Kent and Wales, especially views on the Thames, and he would often sign and title his works, with their exact location, on the reverse. Although living in the largest city in the world at the time, his work bears few marks of an industrialised England, which remains tranquil and bucolic throughout his works.