Selected from hundreds of the artist's images for books, magazines, and calendars, this original collection spotlights Parrish's work from 1897 through the 1920s. Illustrations include art from publications such as Century Magazine, Collier's, and Scribner's. Numerous advertisements include the famed Edison-Mazda Lamp series, along with ads for Jell-O, Ferry's Seeds, and Swift's Premium Ham. A wide selection of book illustrations comprises scenes from The Arabian Nights, Eugene Field's Poems of Childhood, Louise Saunders' The Knave of Hearts, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales, and other treasured works
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Worlds of Enchantment
The Art of Maxfield Parrish
By Jeff Menges
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Jeff Menges
All rights reserved.
Maxfield Parrish stands some distance apart from his contemporary illustrators of the twentieth century. His long and productive career covered nearly two-thirds of the last century, and it would be hard to find another artist who could be called more successful in the visual arts. Forty years of highly specialized commercial illustration work, followed by another thirty years of very personal introspective work, created a legacy, and a unique "look," that continues to be extremely popular, as well as being the exclusive property of one artist—Maxfield Parrish.
He was born Frederick Maxfield Parrish in 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a young boy he was encouraged by a father who was always interested in art. Both of Frederick's parents were supportive of his creative expression, and young Parrish was given many opportunities to exercise it. When he was in his mid-teens, the family went traveling through Europe; there, Frederick got a first-hand look at the works of the Renaissance masters, the Impressionists, and the Pre-Raphaelites.
After nearly two years in Europe, the Parrishes returned to the Philadelphia area. Soon Frederick enrolled at Haverford College (1888), where his interest in design and architecture led him to pursue that course of study, but art was where he excelled, and it eventually won him over. After Haverford, in 1892, Parrish enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. A year later he crossed paths with another giant of early American illustration, Howard Pyle. Parrish was still looking for his path, but Pyle could recognize that he had all the tools he needed, and he told Parrish as much. Frederick audited a few of Pyle's classes, and then went on to prove himself. In 1894 Parrish began to receive steady commercial work, and for the next four years he ran a small studio in downtown Philadelphia and further developed his style. He also adopted his middle name—Maxfield, a family name—for his identity in commercial work.
Parrish's early style was strong and bold, accented with a dash of humor. It served him very well in the magazine market, where he became a regular contributor to Collier's, Scribner's, and the Harper's family of publications, among the many popular periodicals of the time. His characters were so playful and humorous that his artistry seemed a perfect fit for the appropriate children's book, and, in 1897, Mother Goose in Prose —both Parrish's first illustrated book and the first book by Frank Baum (of Oz fame)—found its way from Parrish's studio to the bookstores.
In 1898 Parrish and his wife, Lydia, relocated. Illustration work was brisk, but Parrish desired a place in the country in order to work undisturbed, and he found it in Cornish, New Hampshire. Many artists and writers had settled in the area, establishing a colony of sorts. The locale agreed greatly with Parrish, and it was a constant source of inspiration for the rest of his life. More magazine work, an occasional book assignment, and some lucrative advertising work provided the general rotation of tasks in Parrish's studio for most of his working years.
Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field was the first book to feature Parrish's paintings in full color. This success was followed by a lengthy magazine assignment in a very different area, featuring his illustrations for "Italian Gardens and their Villas" by Edith Wharton, appearing in Century magazine in 1904. These two assignments served as bookends in defining the type of work Parrish would devote himself to for the next twenty-five years: the first, the humorous characters for which he became so well known, and the second, architecture and landscape, passions that would occupy the last quarter-century of Parrish's life.
In this new selection of images, we look at Parrish's commercial years, from early magazine pieces through the prints and advertising work that brought him fame, and up to his last color book work, what many consider to be his greatest collected work, The Knave of Hearts.
Jeff A. Menges July 2009
Excerpted from Worlds of Enchantment by Jeff Menges. Copyright © 2010 Jeff Menges. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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