The Life and Works of William Parry A.R.A.

Author:Postle, Martin
Position:1743-1791 - Book review

The Life and Works of William Parry A.R.A. (1743-1791)

Miles Wynn Cato

This book is, as the author admits, the result of obsession. He states in his acknowledgements that during the course of his recent courtship he was unable to discuss anything with his fiancee without pointing out how it might relate to William Parry. This highlights the enormous efforts undertaken by the author to leave no stone unturned in his search for Parry. But why William Parry? The first thing to note is that the author is Welsh, as was Parry. The second thing is that, unlike other 'rediscovered' Welsh artists, notably Thomas Jones, William Parry really was--until the appearance of the present book virtually unknown, and unrecorded save in the context of his rather better-known peers. There has never been an exhibition of Party's work, and many of his paintings are lost or misattributed. It is a good time therefore to set the record straight.

Most people--and I am talking here about specialists in eighteenth-century British art--know Parry as one of the more talented pupils of Sir Joshua Reynolds and the son of a famous blind Welsh harpist. Indeed, in an etching of Parry by his biographer, Edward Edwards, of 1804, Parry is simply described as 'Pupil to Sir J Reynolds'. But there is more to him than that. Parry was born in London in 1743 and entered William Shipley's academy in 1759, where he won prizes for drawing from classical casts at the Duke of Richmond's sculpture gallery. These drawings survive today in the collection of the Society of Arts and reveal an artist of considerable aptitude. From there he went on to study from the living model at the St Martin's Lane Academy and by 1765 was established as a pupil of Reynolds--probably through the recommendation of the Parrys' Welsh patron, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, 3rd baronet. By the late 1760s Parry had left Reynolds and headed for north Wales, where he began to carve out an independent career, under the patronage of the 4th baronet at their country seat, Wynnstay. Here, he painted several portraits of his...

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