Sheldon Parsons was born in 1866 in Rochester, New York. He studied at the National Academy of Design with William Merritt Chase, Edgar Ward and Will Low. From 1895 to 1912 Parsons was a successful portrait artist in New York City and painted portraits for those like President McKinley and Susan B. Anthony.
Parsons moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1913. When he experienced the vivid colors and soft architecture of the Southwest, he never painted figures again. The Santa Fe art colony was not established until 1921, but Parsons became one of the earliest resident artists and was known for his "happy, serene, impressionist landscapes." Parsons work was well received in Santa Fe. He often showed at the Palace of the Governors with many other local artists of the day. He became the first director of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art in 1918, where a number of his paintings are a part of the museum's permanent collection. When Parsons daughter married the artist Victor Higgins in 1919, it is said that the influence of Higgins can be seen in some of Parsons best work from the '20's and '30's.