Monday, August 21, 2006

Maxfield Parrish: Part One - benning's Favorite!

Parrish signatureMaxfield Parrish was among the most popular artists of the early 20th Century in America. His career began as an illustrator for books and commercial products and moved into paintings featuring a style of colors unparalleled by any other painter. His technique for painting became famous: A "Parrish sky" was understood by everybody as vivid, vibrant, spectacular.

A student of the famous Howard Pyle, Parrish was also influenced by such luminaries of American Illustration as Edwin Austin Abbey and N.C. Wyeth. His artwork was sought after by businesses large and small. Among them: Edison Mazda, Jell-o, Fisk Tires, and Colgate. His cover illustrations graced many magazines and predated the amazing magazine covers of Norman Rockwell.

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Djer-Kiss Cosmetics

"Girl With Elves" - 1918

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Jello Ad - 1921



Parrish used a 'glazing' technique to mix his colors, not the pallette. By applying color on a white background, thinly varnishing that layer, then applying another color layer and thinly varnishing that, and so on, Parrish's colors were not a blend, but the mixing of color by light. Or, as Jim at bpib.com puts it, "Letting the light do the mixing results in brilliant, luminous colors that actually intensify with the application of a stronger light source."

His technique was not original with him, but Parrish made it work, and created an entire body of art that exemplifies what this glazing technique can do.

If you'd like to read a bit of Parrish's own explanation of the technique, read this article at bpib.com. Take a look at the image below. This is an unfinished work that reveals the Parrish technique. It always makes me wonder how he managed to be patient enough to bring it off.
Image Hosted by Free image hostingA larger image can be seen: Dreaming October - 1942

But his career began with less exhalted works. Yet, they are revealing in thier choices of subjects. Fantasy was always uppermost, it seems to me. The more mundane subjects would be magnified in his paintings, but his illustrations for books and magazines were magnificent in thier own right.

"Blacksheep" is on the left; The 'Reluctant Dragon" is on the right.


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Parrish's illustrations were sought after by Calendar manufacturers, as well as candy manufacturers, so popular were they with the American public. The calendar below, "Venetian Lamplighters", is one example. It is a painting in all but name.


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There is more to come. This is barely a scratch on the surface. And, again, I recommend the websites "The Art Renewal Center" and "CGFA" as wonderful sources of art. You can also get an understanding of the great tradition and richness of American Illustration by visiting "The American Art Archives" and "Been Publishing, I'm Back", among many others.


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"Florentine Fete" - 1916


Stay tuned! I think you will love the next installment. Y'all come back, hear?

9 comments:

WomanHonorThyself said...

Hey Benning..I will link to this post..its stunning dude..:)

benning said...

Thanks, Angel! Ain't Parrish neat? LOL

ELAshley said...

I love Maxfield Parrish. Check out Michael Parkes as well. If Maxfield Parrish were Classical, Michael Parkes would be New Age.

blogagog said...

That 'glazing' technique sounds pretty cool. I wonder how hard it would be to find an original and hit it with different light sources to see what the effect is.

Probably not as much as I'm thinking. In my mind, it's gonna fluoresce. I'm really intrigued.

Gunz said...

Interesting and informative. I think I'm getting turned on to art now. LOL.

camojack said...

Very nice...

American Crusader said...

I've never heard of Maxfield Parish before...thanks for bringing him to my attention.

Brooke said...

I love it! It reminds me of the children's books I had as a little kid.

Anna said...

Ecstacy is one of my all-time favorite paintings! Diaphanous, airy, exultant... Daybreak is another favorite, as well as Morning. There is something so ethereal about so many of his paintings. I feel a sort of reverence when I look at his landscapes.