Wednesday, 20 April 2016

William Parkinson, sculptor, Gold Medal Winner 1901

A sculpture student at the Blackheath School of Art, William Parkinson, was awarded a gold medal for his Studies of Historic Styles of Ornament in 1901.[1] Parkinson won a number of awards for his art works at the school in the following years –
1901 – in addition to the gold medal he won a silver medal for Designs Based on a Flowering Plant.[2]
1902 – two book prizes for Ornament Modelled from the Flat and Flowers and Foliage Modelled from Nature.[3]
1903 – silver medal for Model of a Figure in Relief from a Figure Cast in the Round[4] and a  bronze medal for Model of a Figure from the Antique[5]
1904 – bronze medal for Chalk Drawing of a figure from the Antique[6]

Perhaps the most important legacy of his student years at the school that survives today is the illustration on page 24 of the 1903 award book depicting his silver medal winning work depicting a nude male figure. Its essentially classical appearance is betrayed only by the figure’s early twentieth century hairstyle and side-burns.

William Parkinson, Figure in Relief from a Figure Cast in the Round, 1903.
Source: National Competition 1903, List of Students Awarded, 1903, p. 24.

Parkinson’s skill was highlighted in the comments by the judges although overall the work in this category was felt not to be of the highest standard:
The work in this subject, on the whole, is very weak, and the only award the Examiners are able to make is that of a Silver Medal to William Parkinson, of Blackheath School of Art, for the carefulness of drawing and the thorough appreciation of relief treatment shown in his work.[7]

It may already become apparent that the history of the early years of the school of art depends greatly upon the review of the student exhibition of 1904. The review in the case of Parkinson highlights what the reviewer thought of the standard of sculpture produced at the school. Despite winning a bronze medal in 1902 Parkinson is not mentioned by name and the reviewer highlighted that there was nothing of ‘special ability’ outside of pure academic style in the field of modelling.[8]

As yet I have not been able to find anything more about whether William Parkinson continued working as a sculptor after he left the school. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the name William Parkinson is rather common in Kent (also Greenwich) during the early 1900’s. Assuming that William Parkinson was born circa 1880 (so that he would have been in his late teens, early twenties at the school) I have come across the following in the 1911 census –
William Parkinson, age 31, Soap Boiler, 23 Hatcliffe Street, Greenwich
William J Parkinson, age 35, Sorter Post Office, 107 Ilderton Road, Rotherhithe
Henry William Parkinson, age 33, Carmen (local transport?), 4 Topham Place, Prior Street, Greenwich
William Parkinson, age 24, Milkman Dairyman, 40 Staunton Street, Deptford
William C Parkinson, age 34, Mariner, Merchant Service, 9 The Grove, Gravesend

Hopefully in time it might become apparent what happened to William Parkinson and whether he continued a career as an artist. I will update this entry when anything further comes to light

[1] ‘1901 Catalogue of National Art Awards’, The Artist: An Illustrated Monthly Record of Arts, Crafts and Industries (American Edition), Volume 31. p. 76.
[2] loc. cit. p. 79.
[3] National Competition 1902, List of Students Awarded, 1902, p. 10.
[4] National Competition 1903, List of Students Awarded, 1903, p. 7.
[5] loc. cit. p. 8.
[6] National Competition 1904, List of Students Awarded, 1904, p. 7.
[7] loc. cit. p. 25.
[8] “Art Exhibitions: Blackheath School of Art”, Arts & Crafts Magazine, vol. 1-2, Hutchinson & Company, 1904, p.325.