About Thomas Gambier Parry
Thomas Gambier Parry, J.P., D.L., (22 February 1816 – 28 September 1888) was an English artist and art collector. He is best remembered for his development of the Gambier Parry process of fresco painting, and for forming the significant collection of early Italian paintings and objects that his heirs gave to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where many are displayed in the Courtauld Gallery.
Gambier Parry's parents, Richard and Mary Parry of Banstead, Surrey, died when he was young and he was raised by his maternal aunts and uncles, the Gambiers. He was the nephew of James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He moved to Highnam Court, Gloucestershire when he was 21 and, in 1839, he married, firstly, Anna Maria Isabella Fynes-Clinton, daughter of Henry Fynes Clinton. Only two of their six children survived to adulthood, Clinton Charles Parry and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (the composer); Isabella survived the birth of Hubert in 1848 by only twelve days. In 1851, Gambier Parry married, secondly, Ethelinda Lear, daughter of Francis Lear, Dean of Salisbury, by whom he had six more children.
Thomas Gambier Parry's father and grandfather were both directors of the British East India Company, and Gambier Parry devoted his inherited wealth to good works. He adopted the principles of the Tractarian Movement, and was a prominent member of the Ecclesiological Society. Thomas Gambier Parry was a notable collector of medieval and Renaissance art; the Courtauld Institute was bequeathed his collection in 1966.
After studying the technique of the Italian fresco painters, Thomas Gambier Parry developed his own spirit fresco method and executed grand-scale mural projects at Ely Cathedral, Gloucester Cathedral and the parish church at Highnam.
He gained the reputation of a philanthropist, founding a children's hospital, orphanage, and college of science and art at Gloucester, and providing a church and school for his tenants at Highnam. He constructed the Church of the Holy Innocents, Highnam between 1849 and 1851 in memory of his first wife and those of his children who had died at early ages. Gambier-Parry adorned the whole of the chancel, including the roof, and much of the nave with frescoes using the new Gambier Parry process he adapted from his study of Italian fresco painters. He is buried there in a tomb designed by his son Sidney. He started to lay out the Highnam Court gardens in 1840 and was one of the first to make a pinetum; by 1874 the gardens rivalled any in the UK.
Gambier Parry was a keen and versatile collector for most of his adult life. Many of his purchases were made on trips to the Continent, especially in Italy, but he also bought from dealers and auctions in England, and sometimes sold items. His most important collections were of late medieval and Early Renaissance paintings, small sculpted reliefs, ivories, and maiolica, but he also had a significant early collection of Islamic metalwork, and a variety of other types of objects, for example Hispano-Moresque ware, glass and three small post-Byzantine wooden crosses from Mount Athos, elaborately carved with miniature scenes. The Courtauld Gallery website shows images and descriptions of 324 objects from the 1966 bequest, which included the bulk of the collection.
Some items, including two Van Dyck portraits and The Gamblers by the Le Nain Brothers, as well as a collection of stoneware ceramics, were excluded from the bequest and remained at Highnam. Earlier a few important items, mainly medieval ivories, had been sold to pay death duties on the deaths of Thomas' sons Hubert and Ernest (see below). The most significant of these are three ivories in the Victoria and Albert Museum (who also have four 16th-century Limoges enamels sold in 1871) and a chasse reliquary that reached the National Gallery of Art in Washington via the Widener collection. All the objects mentioned below are included in the Courtauld bequest.
Gambier Parry began by collecting mostly 16th and 17th century works, but his focus gradually moved to 14th and 15th century works, still relatively little collected, although Prince Albert was among British collectors of "Italian Primitives", as Trecento paintings were then known. Among his most important paintings were a Coronation of the Virgin by Lorenzo Monaco, one of the larger works in the collection, three predella panels with roundels of Christ and saints by Fra Angelico, and a small but important diptych of the Annunciation by Pesellino. There are two further predella panels by Lorenzo Monaco, and many other small panels by lesser-known masters. Later Renaissance works include ones by Il Garofalo and Sassoferrato, and there is a Baroque Assumption by Francesco Solimena. There are a number of illuminated manuscript pages from the workshop of the Boucicaut Master.
The sculptures include three fine 15th-century marble reliefs of the Virgin and Child, the most significant of them one by Mino da Fiesole. There is a Limoges enamel book cover panel, a number of Renaissance Limoges items, and several small Gothic ivories.
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet (1848 – 1918) was a leading English composer, teacher and historian of music. As a composer he is best known for the choral song "Jerusalem", the coronation anthem "I was glad", the choral and orchestral ode Blest Pair of Sirens, and the hymn tune "Repton", which sets the words "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind". His orchestral works include five symphonies and a set of Symphonic Variations. He was head of the Royal College of Music, and concurrently professor of music at the University of Oxford from 1900 to 1908.
On the death of Hubert Parry in 1918, his half-brother Ernest Gambier-Parry (1853-1936) succeeded to the family estate at Highnam. Major Gambier-Parry, in addition to his military service, was an artist, author, and musician. He was at Eton from 1866 to 1871, and served in the Volunteers and Militia, The Royal Welch Fusiliers from 1874 and the Devon Yeomanry 10 years later. In the Eastern Sudan Expedition of 1885 as a special service officer, he was seriously injured and was promoted major for services in the field. For services in World War One, when he was commandant of No. 6 Red Cross Hospital, Oxfordshire, he was made an O.B.E. in 1918. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and other exhibitions, and served on the Gloucester Committee of the Three Choirs Festival. He married in 1882, Evelyn Elizabeth, R.R.C., daughter of the first Lord Haldon.
Sidney Gambier-Parry (9 January 1859 – 17 November 1948) was another son of Thomas' second marriage, and an architect, especially of churches.
Ernest had two sons. The elder, Thomas Robert, a versatile scholar and botanist, who became Keeper of the Oriental Department of the Bodleian Library, died in February 1935. The younger, Thomas Mark, was known for his studies in French biography, and bequeathed Thomas' art collection, which was still largely intact, to the Courtauld in 1966.
Sidney's son and Thomas's grandson, Michael Gambier-Parry (1891–1976), also became a soldier serving in both World Wars. As a Captain in World War I he was awarded the Military Cross. In World War II he was Aide-de-Camp to the King, then headed the British Military Mission to Athens in 1940. In April 1941 as General Officer Commanding 2nd Amoured Division, North Africa, he was captured at Mechili. In September 1943 he escaped with other officers. He retired in 1944.
Another son of Sidney, Brigadier Richard Gambier-Parry (1894-1965), served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in World War I and was mentioned in dispatches twice. He was recruited by Admiral Hugh Sinclair to form Section VIII, the communications section of the Secret Intelligence Service. This organised communications with SIS agents, the wireless interception network that served Bletchley Park and the wireless network that got the Ultra intelligence to commanders in the field. After World War II he was Director of Communications for the Foreign Office and SIS.