Thomas Gambier Parry was schooled at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he received his B.A. in 1837. Shortly thereafter, he acquired his Highnam Court estate. He travelled widely in Europe as a young man, studying painting and architecture in France, Italy, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Through years of experimentation, he developed a fresco technique that could withstand the climate of the British Isles, and was later adopted by Ford Madox Brown and other artists. Gambier Parry put his technique to use when he painted half the nave roof and the lantern and octagon of Ely Cathedral. He was much influenced by the Norman style in these projects. He also did frescos for St. Andrew's Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral (1866-68), and an altarpiece including a scene of the Crucifixion, loaned to the Chapter House of Gloucester Cathedral after his death, was hung in 1914 behind the high altar at Tewkesbury Abbey. Gambier Parry often gave advice and financial assistance for restoring churches in Gloucestershire and elsewhere. As a citizen, Gambier Parry was active in local affairs, serving both as a County Magistrate (1847) and a Deputy-Lieutenant (1853). He bore most of the costs of founding the Schools of Science and Art (of which he was President from 1859 until his death), a free hospital for children, and a home for the poor. Even before his graduation from Cambridge in 1837, Gambier Parry had begun collecting paintings. At first his tastes were conventional, but an 1849 record of purchases shows a shift toward some finer works of the seventeenth century, including two Van Dyck portraits, and some Italian pictures indicating a nacent interest in the Quattrocento. This interest in Italian painting increased through the 1850's, though he still bought some 16th-century Flemish works. The last portion of Gambier Parry's collecting years were characterized by a predilection for Tuscan and Trecento art. He made a rough list of the pictures at his Highnam Court estate in 1860, and a December 1863 catalogue of the collection shows it to have been already in a state nearly identical to that of a century later. Gambier Parry also collected decorative art objects, his tastes following a similar development to that towards painting. He started out with purchases of 17th or 18th-century ivories, and by the late 1840's was clearly enthusiastic about maiolica--he bought several of his finest pieces of the latter at the 1848 Stowe sale and from the Castellani Collection. Other interests tending more to earlier periods included early German glass, some stoneware and lace, early Limoges enamels, Venetian glass, Islamic metalwork, and medieval ivories. He had purchased all his finest 16th-century Limoges enamels by the early 1860's, as well as a famous 12th-century reliquary châsse (later purchased by P.A.B. Widener and now in the NGA). Highnam Court and the collections housed therein were inherited by Thomas' son from his first marriage, Hubert Parry. Hubert was more interested in music than visual arts, but after his death in 1918, the estate passed to Ernest Gambier-Parry, Hubert's half-brother, who was highly enthusiastic about Highnam and its contents. It was Ernest [d. 1936] who catalogued the collections in 1897 and drafted a biography of his father around 1900.
Blunt, Anthony. "Thomas Gambier Parry: a great art collector." Apollo 81 (April 1965): 288-295.
"A Great Victorian." The Burlington Magazine 109 (March 1967): 111-112.
Blunt, Anthony. "The History of Thomas Gambier Parry's Collection." The Burlington Magazine 109 (March 1967): 112-116.
Courthauld Institute of Art, University of London. The Gambier-Parry Collection: a provisional catalogue. London, 1967.
Farr, Dennis, ed. Thomas Gambier Parry as artist and Collector. Exh. cat. Courtauld Institute Galleries, University of London, 1993
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