Penrose was a skilful painter of portraits, historical and religious subjects and exhibited regularly at the RA from the 1890s until 1927. Born in Wicklow, Ireland, he was from a family of prosperous Quakers and formally trained in London at the RA schools, St John’s Wood and South Kensington Schools. Although many of his works reflect his Quaker beliefs, A Playful Parry instead turns to the classical genre popularized by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. In this painting, a rich celebration of colour and texture, he includes all the traditional accoutrements of fin de siècle classical images - peacock feathers, animal skin, scattered flowers, vibrant drapery, and elegant figures and sets them against a warm Mediterranean scene.
James Doyle Penrose was the father of Sir Roland Penrose, the influential artist, writer, and advocate of Surrealist art. His father’s strict Quaker beliefs and commitment to traditional subject matter, largely spurred Sir Roland Penrose to rebel against these conventions and he befriended modern artists such as Miro, Braque, Picasso, Man Ray, and Max Ernst. He became a prominent biographer and art historian and established the influential Elephant Trust to financially support and encourage experimental artists and writers in their artistic endeavours.