Clara Weaver was born into a wealthy Alabama family in 1861. She grew up on her family's plantation near Selma where she and her siblings were encouraged to develop their artistic skills and talents. As she grew older, Parrish’s interest in art increased and when she reached her early twenties, she moved to New York City to study painting at the Art Students League. Among her teachers were such notable artists as William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Siddons Mowbray, and J. Alden Weir. While she was primarily based in New York, Parrish often returned home to visit her family in Alabama.
In 1887, she returned home to marry William Parrish, also from Selma. They moved to New York where William worked as a broker in the New York Stock Exchange. Two years later, the couple had a daughter who unfortunately died shortly after her first birthday. Following the death of her child, Parrish pursued an interest in stained glass design and went to work in the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany sought to infuse artistic value into living spaces, both private and public. The success of the American Aesthetic Movement depended on the collaboration of architects, furniture designers, craftsmen, and artists. The colorful and organic style of Art Nouveau developed in the Tiffany studios was an outgrowth of this Aesthetic Movement. Parrish worked as a stained glass designer and her work can be seen in St. Michael's Episcopal Church in New York City, as well as in several churches throughout Alabama.
Sadly, Parrish’s husband passed away in 1901 leaving her a widow at the age of forty. While her true passion may have been for stained glass, her paintings and pastels also received high praise and were exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Exposition, the Paris Salon, and at the Royal Academy in London. Parrish’s paintings and drawings were inspired by the Art Nouveau style and show the influence of her experience with stained glass in their simple and symbolic compositions. Many of her painted subjects are women who have also experienced personal tragedy, and are perhaps somewhat autobiographical. In the 1890s, she served as an officer of the New York Women’s Art Club, dedicated to promoting women artists. From 1910 to 1914, Parrish lived in France where she took private art lessons, studied at the Académie Colarossi, and visited the country’s great cathedrals. She died in New York in 1925.