One of Britain’s leading stained glass designers during the early decades of the 20th century, Karl Parsons drew portraits invariably for pleasure rather than commissions, throughout his life, and it is in these that one sees most clearly the influence of some of the artists whom he most admired, notably Botticelli, Rossetti and Burne-Jones.
Though harkening back to these illustrious forebears, both technically and compositionally, this portrait also epitomises the type of portraiture that was fashionable in British high society at the start of the 20th century. Karl Parson’s technique here, with delicate shading and strong outlines, is certainly comparable to Gerald Leslie Brockhurst’s graphic style. It is clear that Parsons took delight in demonstrating his skill at sculpting human forms through gentle shading.
Karl Parsons was an English stained glass artist associated with the arts and craft movement. Parsons was born in Peckham in Surrey in 1884, the 12th child of Arthur William Parsons (1838–1901), a foreign language translator, and Emma Matilda Parsons, née Bergemann (1837–1914).One of Parsons’ older sisters was the artist Beatrice Emma Parsons (1869–1955).
Karl Parsons career was devoted to stained glass, becoming in 1899 a pupil-apprentice of Christopher Wall, the leading Arts and Crafts proponent of this medium. Parsons was a gifted student, from the outset collaborating on major commissions, such as that for the Gloucester Cathedral. By 1910, Parsons had set up his own studio, and would undertake several more significant commissions, including for the windows of Canterbury, Cape Town and Johannesburg cathedrals.