Robert Andrew Parker: Artist-Musician-Poet on view until September 30, 2018

Robert Andrew Parker’s exhibition at Rachel Walls Fine Art in Cape Elizabeth, Maine will run from June 21st to September 30th, 2018 featuring portraits, figures, animals—dogs, sheep, birds and monkeys, World War I warplanes, World War II warships, cityscapes and landscapes from his travels around the world.

Known for both his painting and prints of figures, landscapes and animals, Robert Andrew Parker also produced set designs for operas and films. Early in his career, Parker was hired to be Kirk Douglas’ hands in “Lust for Life” the celebrated 1956 biopic directed by Vincente Minnelli about Artist Vincent Van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas. The film was an MGM Technicolor classic. Kirk Douglas won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama and Anthony Quinn won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Parker has made a living selling his art and teaching classes at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, the Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Robert Andrew Parker has produced countless bound and portfolio-style books: alphabets, journals of dreams and travels, portraits of women writers, all collected in folios of various shapes, sizes, and mediums with old hollowed-out books he picked up at rummage sales serving as repositories for his own visual stories.

Parker creates as a matter of daily life. He likes to work quickly, and switches mediums with the seasons—etching he associates with the winter and sculpting with the summer. Parker likes to have jazz playing in the background on tape or classic LPs as he paints in his studio. He is also an accomplished jazz drummer.

When Parker graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952, he and his young family moved to New York after he spent a summer at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he studied under Jack Levine. He continued to develop his printmaking skills at Atelier 17, an historically important printmaking studio founded by the renowned English painter and printmaker, Stanley William Hayter. 

In the six decades since his artistic debut, Robert Andrew Parker has seen his work acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Between 1953 and 1978, Parker was included in twelve exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art.

He was recognized by the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1962 for his “witty, delicate, and astringent content and for the rightness of its pictorial presentation.”

Parker has illustrated for The New Yorker, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Playboy and Time; for numerous literary classics by authors from Franz Kafka to Joseph Heller; and for the United States Air Force in Rwanda and Panama.

Robert Andrew Parker has illustrated 100 children’s books, received a Caldecott Award and earned several prestigious fellowships, including a Guggenheim.

Of Robert Andrew Parker’s children’s books, his favorite is the Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum, which he wrote and illustrated in 2008. Art Tatum was nearly blind, but his passion for the piano and sound memory drove him to become a virtuoso who was revered by both classical and jazz pianists.

Parker’s creativity extends beyond painting and printmaking into sculpture, writing, and music. In the 1960s and 1970s, he created album covers for Columbia Records and a handful of other labels.

With his eyesight dimming since 2000 as a result of macular degeneration, Robert Andrew Parker has continued to paint, illustrate, write and play the drums for the past 18 years.

Parker still listens to records while he paints, plays gigs weekly as a drummer with a jazz band and is known to play the drums in his studio. Parker's love for music and drumming, he's proud to say, has been passed on to four of his five sons, all serious, accomplished drummers who have formed a much-respected, family drum dynasty.

Parker's oldest son Chris has recorded or toured with Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, The Brecker Brothers, Cher, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Will Lee, and was a member of the "Saturday Night Live" house band for six years. Son Eric has toured internationally with Joe Cocker and performed with such luminaries as Bonnie Raitt, Steve Winwood and Ian Hunter.

Chris, Eric, Tony and Nicholas, have all drummed with their father, their first inspiration and mentor. Geoff, the only non-drumming son, plays guitar and chose his father's other path, and is an accomplished artist. Robert Andrew Parker currently lives in the country with his wife, Judy Mellecker.