Sheldon Parsons (1866-1943) rose to prominence as a skilled portrait artist. Born in Rochester, New York he moved to New York City where he studied at the National Academy of Design with William Merrit Chase, Will Low, and Edgar Ward. While working as a painter he met and married esteemed photographer Caroline Reed Parsons and they had a daughter, Sara. His talent attracted portrait commissions from national celebrities including President McKinley and Susan B. Anthony.
After many years of work in New York his life took a turn in 1912 when Caroline passed away and Parsons contracted tuberculosis. In an effort to recuperate in cleaner air he took a commission to paint a mural in San Francisco. However while traveling his condition worsened and he decided to stop in Santa Fe with his daughter.
Initially Parsons had to trade paintings he had brought from New York to find living quarters and other basic necessities but local residents we're welcoming and accommodating. As one of the first professional artists to make Santa Fe his home, Parsons was helpful in turn when he met artists moving to Santa Fe.
Inspired by his new surroundings Parsons worked to capture the subdued majesty of the land. Often painting outdoors he adapted his palette and brushwork, favoring a loose style with an emphasis on color. He had previously enjoyed acclaim for landscape paintings of Westchester County but his new work led him to abandon figurative painting altogether. His paintings were well received in Santa Fe and were often shown in the Palace of the Governors. Upon the opening of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in 1918 he became its first director.
As director of the museum Parsons helped develop the burgeoning art colony through support of local artists. When some brought Modernist ideas from New York and Paris he defended them against critics but ultimately lost his post as a result. Returning to life as a full time painter Parsons continued to paint impressionist New Mexican landscapes with particular talent.
Sheldon Parsons work is held in private collections and museums including of the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, the Museum of New Mexico, and the Jonson Gallery of the University of New Mexico.