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Henry Perlee Parker (1795-1873)

Henry Perlee Parker (1795-1873)

One of the best-known painters working in north-east England during the early nineteenth century, Henry Perlee Parker contributed greatly to the development of the region’s cultural life. While producing a variety of portraits and genre subjects, he became
synonymous with scenes of smuggling life.

Henry Perlee Parker was born at Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devon on 15 March 1795. He was the son of Robert Parker, a teacher
of marine and mechanical drawing to the Royal Navy, who has also been described as ‘a painter, carver and gilder’ (Wood 1978, p 356).

Though he worked briefly as both a tailor and a coachman, Parker soon turned to art, painting portraits and producing drawings for his
father’s pupils to copy. In about 1813, he was commissioned by C T Gilbert to illustrate his
Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall
(1815), and travelled with him through Cornwall in order to make preparatory drawings. This gave him the opportunity to see paintings
in the private collections of county families.

In 1815, Parker married a Suffolk-born woman at Maker, Cornwall, and returned to Plymouth to establish himself as a portrait painter.
However, while his work was admired, little of it sold, so he decided to try his luck in Sunderland, Co Durham, where he and his wife were
able to stay with relatives.

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