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Illustrator Extraordinare: Maxfield Parrish

I have been an admirer of the fabulous artwork of Maxfield Parrish for as long as I can remember. Many of my personal favorites are probably well-known to our readers, perhaps not by name, but definitely by sight. The first one that comes to mind is called “Daybreak” and highlights a beautiful garden scene with large pillars. There is a mountain in the background as well. One person (we believe it is a lady) is lying prone on the ground and a lovely nude lady is gazing down at her. It was circa 1922, and is an oil on panel.

Another of his incredible paintings was from 1926 and called “Stars.” It once again has a beautiful naked lady as the focal point. Well, the sky is supposed to be the place you should look, due to the title, but she is hard to ignore. She is perched on a large rock, long hair down her back, curves of her body so delightful. The coloring, like many of his pieces, is vibrant with rich blues as a backdrop. He is able to make a clear distinction of where the water ends and the sky begins.

There is one that is a bit of a mystery. Called “The Dickey Bird” it features another young lady, sans clothes, on a swing, wearing nothing but a rather carefree, joyful expression. There is a castle in the background, a fantasy for sure. Although the swing hangs from a tree, we see no bird and wonder where he got that title. Then we read that it was from an illustration for Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field, May, 1904. Boy, I wonder how many parents were surprised to find her inside the kid’s book!

I have also learned that Maxwell Parrish did some charming illustrations for other books including the cover of Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum. You may recognize that name from the many “Oz” books he wrote.

Not all of Parrish’s works were beautiful. In fact, some were rather grotesque! For example, check out Alberich, the Dwarf. He was an illustration for Wagner’s Ring of Niebelung, for Scribner’s Magazine, back in December, 1898. Creepy, huh?

Parrish also did numerous advertising illustrations, such as for Jello, Fisk Tires, Colgate Cashmere Bouquet, Wanamaker’s (department stores), Gold Dust Powder, and Community Plate silver ware.

He as also known for his fabulous murals. A real mind-blower is a huge favrile glass mosaic mural done by Tiffany after a design by Parrish. It’s called “Dream Garden” and is 15 feet x 49 feet, just breathtaking! It is in the lobby of the Curtis Publishing Company building in Philadelphia.

He had a full and interesting life, born in July, 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and lived until March of 1966. Ninety-five years. An incredibly long time and a lot of years to contribute to the art world. His originals are, of course, rare and expensive. But once in a while you come across an ad in an old magazine or a print, reasonably priced and a treasure you just have to have! Maxfield Parrish was one fantastic artist!  if you want to see much more of his work, and learn about his history, check out the Maxfield Parrish book by Coy Ludwig.


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peter Regarding the character on the swing in "The Dinkie Bird" - Parrish deliberately made many of his characters androgynous, so we should perhaps not attempt to assign a sex to the person. The two females in "Daybreak" are both young girls - Parrish's daughter, as someone else mentioned, and the granddaughter of William Jennings Bryan, who often modeled for him (the granddaughter, I mean). Parrish was great - I think he completely blows away Norman Rockwell who is perhaps his closest analogy. May 31st, 2011 at 11:09 PM

James in Acworth Need to Know if anyone is interested in misprinted Maxfield Parish Art Book or Wallace Nutting / Connecticut Countryside photo book / old call 678 499 8726 September 1st, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Marilyn Saccary I have a old print of the stars I've had it for twenty or more years. I have always had it in my bedroom. It is so peaceful February 3rd, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Kim Hi, I have several original prints in the original frames that im selling. Let me know if you would like a list of what I have. Thanks Kim March 29th, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Tom Boyes I have several pieces of material. 4 ftx4ft. There are several Maxfield Parrish pictures on it. I believe the material is polyester. I have had these pieces for 30 yrs. They were in a trunk. I cant fiend any information about it. Anyone have any ideas. Thanks Tom September 7th, 2014 at 4:39 PM

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