Saturday, April 18, 2020

Sketching Buddies: Abbey and Parsons

E. A. Abbey Invitation for an exhibition of Abbey and Parsons
Edwin Austin Abbey was called the "Stage Coachman" at Harper's because of his love of old fashioned things.

A Tea House at Kamakura, by Alfred Parsons from Royal Academy collection
"Abbey and [Alfred] Parsons had walked to Philadelphia and back, taking two weeks for the trip, sketching on the way, stage-coaches, taverns, tall houses and old wooden bridges all pinned together—just these and nothing else, save Independence Hall."
From: Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Painters, Book 2 By Elbert Hubbard


Jim Douglas said...

According to Wikipedia, Alfred William Parsons, Francis David Millet, and Edwin Austin Abbey, lived together and entertained sociably at 54, Bedford Gardens, London. I never knew that.

Jim Douglas said...

Also, I love this quote regarding Alfred Parsons. Henry James noted that Parsons' images of English country life mirrored the aspirations of Americans:
"Was it there that Mr. Parsons learned so well how Americans would like England to appear? ...The England of his pencil... is exactly the England that the American imagination, restricted to itself, constructs from the poets, the novelists, from all the delightful testimony it inherits."

Unknown said...

There seems to be some info missing from your post James. Where did the quote about walking to and from Philly come from? According to Jim they lived in mean feat to walk that in two weeks. If not London, from where did they begin? Also what medium was the piece by Parsons that you posted? And do you know if the sketches from that walk still exist?

James Gurney said...

Unknown, the excerpt is from "Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Painters, Book 2" By Elbert Hubbard. It explains that Parsons was Abbey's mentor at Harpers, and together they traveled all over in search of historical reference, including Boston. Ultimately, Abbey went to England to get authentic reference. Parsons traveled extensively, including to Japan, where he executed this little painting. It appears to me to be a gouache grisaille, but the Royal Academy, which owns it, lists it incorrectly as a photograph.

Linda Crank said...

There is a lot of great info to be found on Abbey, as well as Alfred Parsons in "Edwin Austin Abbey, Royal Academician; the Record of His Life and Work," a two-volume biography by E.V. Lucas. It is a fascinating, as well as an informative read. Actually, Abbey did not like Elbert Hubbard's book at all, saying that there were substantial inaccuracies in it (such as Alfred Parsons never did work at Harpers and that he never had gone on this walking expedition, etc. pp. 384-389), but it is true that Abbey loved to walk - great distances. One of the incidents in his relationship with his wife before marriage was a 15-mile walk they took together in which the weather took a nasty turn, which then had them slogging through muddy fields and arriving back home soaked to the skin.

The book referred to is online at:

James Gurney said...

Thanks so much, Linda, for that clarification. I have the Lucas bio but neglected to consult it on this. Always wise to compare sources, and we all appreciate the contributions you have made on Facebook to telling artists' stories from primary accounts.

Linda Crank said...

By the way, I really enjoy the Elbert Hubbard books, and it was a great disappointment to me to find out the inaccuracies, at least in his story on Abbey. Last year a friend gave me Hubbard's complete set, plus the scrapbook, and I treasure them! Thanks for all you do, James, in so many ways. I always appreciate your posts and videos!

My Pen Name said...

@ James, thanks so much for posting this! It's interesting that @Linda pointed out
"it is true that Abbey loved to walk - great distances"

Now there is so much evidence coming out about the mental health benefits of walking - but our forefathers didn't have to wait for a 'study' to 'prove' the benefits - it seems walking and thinking was a favorite activity of many writers and poets - Dick sens and Wordsworth among them.

In the series "civilization" - made in the 1960s -Kenneth Clark pointed out that professors used to walk around the quadrangles with their students and drill them or have 'office hours' - he sadly noted that tradition was fading out because it wasnt' considered practical!