Charles Parsons is a name which deserves to be widely recognized throughout American art circles. An accomplished watercolorists and a lithographer nearly without peer, he served as the art director for Harper’s Weekly and Magazine from 1863 to 1889. As such he was instrumental in the development of the art of American illustration and directly influenced the early careers of numerous artists, including Winslow Homer, Edwin Abbey, Howard Pyle, Frederick Church and Frederick Remington, among dozens more.
Parsons apprenticed at 15 to the New York lithographic studio of George Endicott. Through Endicott’s studio he worked directly for the famous firm of Currier & Ives, and deserves credit for many of the best marine lithographs ever produced. Before he left for Harper’s he was made a full partner and it was undoubtedly his marines which earned him the position and drew the most public attention. He chose to revisit nautical subjects when he returned to watercolors and lithography in retirement from Harper’s.
As an artist and art director, parsons held high regard for technical precision. The demanding pace of producing a weekly news publication full of illustrations in the years before commercial photography required strict control over a stable of qualified artists. Yet by all accounts, parsons remained universally well-liked and respected by those under him, for his leadership and accomplished critical eye as well for his outright compassion.
Parsons was an associate member of the National Academy of Design and a member of the New York Watercolor Society.