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Robert Andrew Parker

Robert Andrew Parker

by Joseph Montebello

They say that everything happens for a reason. In Robert Parker’s case, if he hadn’t come down with tuberculosis as a child, he might never have become a painter. And what a terrible loss that would have been.

“My father worked for the public health service, so we moved around quite a bit," Parker explained. “Although I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, we lived in Michigan, St. Louis, Chicago, Harrison, New York, to name just a few places. We took a trip every summer to Delphi and many of those images still inspire me."

While living in Detroit, he became ill and it was discovered that he had tuberculosis. This was before the advent of antibiotics. Parker and his family moved to New Mexico where the dry climate seemed to benefit those suffering with the disease. There was a large clinic there for Merchant Marine and Coast guard personnel with tuberculosis. While they were housed in well-ventilated surroundings, there was little to do except lie in bed. “The radio reception was terrible, so I began drawing," said Parker.

He eventually recovered, but once back in high school, drawing took a back seat. After graduation and a stint in the army, he enrolled at the Art Institute in Chicago and realized how much he had missed creating art.

In1952, having successfully completed his courses, his work was chosen as part of a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Exhibition of American Watercolors, Drawings and Prints" He was the youngest person in the show and there his work hung alongside John Marin, Stuart Davis, and Jackson Pollock.

Following the success of that show, he sold pieces to the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney museum of American Art and had his first solo show in 1954. Since then he has continued to be revered among American painters and his work is included in many major collections and museums throughout the country and in Europe.

In addition to the children’s books he has written and illustrated, Parker published Travels with Bob, a compendium of his extensive travels including over 300 sketches, watercolors, family photographs, and various mementos of his many trips.

Painter, illustrator, writer. But that’s not all. Parker is also an accomplished and popular musician.
“My father was a music lover, mostly jazz, and my brother and I both liked it. My uncle played the drums and so we followed his lead. In the army I played clarinet in the squadron level."

But the drum is his true love and he has instilled that passion in his sons (he has five sons and five grandsons.) “I always try to have at least two of my sons paying beside me," Parker said. They play regularly at the Interlaken Inn and Music Mountain. Definitely put them on your list of must-go-to events.

Now in his mid-80s, Parker shows no signs of slowing down, even with his failing vision.“It hasn’t affected my painting, but I don’t fish anymore or ride my bike. But I still take long hikes and take advantage of the beauty this part of Connecticut has to offer."

Parker will be curating a show at the Washington Art Association this spring and hopes to include art by his artist son.

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