Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 Maxfield Parrish was from a Philadelphia family of wealth and high social standing who grew up as an only child and whose father, Stephen Parrish, was a great and successful American etcher. At the age of seven, Parrish accompanied his mother and father on a trip to France. This short tour opened his young mind and freed his dazzling, fanciful imagination. This was also his first exposure to medieval architecture which made a lasting impression on him and his work. The family returned to Philadelphia and over the next seven years Stephen Parrish achieved success and recognition as an artist, solidifying his reputation as one of the finest etchers of the day. When Maxfield was fourteen the Parrish family left again for Europe, this time for an extended stay. The young Parrish spent days meandering through the wings of the greatest European museums, studying the classical art and figuring out the glazing techniques of the Old Masters. During that second summer in Europe, Maxfield caught typhoid fever and almost died. While recuperating from his sickness, Parrish's father began teaching his son to etch and draw and, unable to do much else, Parrish focused all his time on drawing.


At twenty-two Maxfield returned to Philadelphia in 1892 to matriculate in architecture at Haverford College but due to the many requirements and rules he felt artistically stifled. Almost unheard of for the 1890's Parrish dropped out after three years. He then spent some time visiting the art colonies of Cornish, New Hampshire (his parents had built an estate there) and the colony along the Annisquam River in Gloucester, Massachusetts. By the end of the 19th century Philadelphia was the hub for the arts and culture in America and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was the oldest museum and best art school in the country. In 1894 Parrish enrolled at the Academy and there he began to do his first real artistic works, quickly making huge steps towards his development as an illustrator. The teaching and standards at the Academy were of the highest caliber, and it encouraged experimental and innovative techniques. Flourishing in the climate of the Academy, Parrish developed his own technique for painting. First he photographed costumed models, then cut and laid out the images using for his guide the ancient Greek and Egyptian technique called "dynamic symmetry". Finally painting his compositions, he would painstakingly varnish each layer of color after its application to give his work the same luminist look of Old Master paintings. His artistic technique coupled, with his fantastic imagery, allowed his work to stand out.


At twenty-five Parrish sold his first painting to the magazine Harper's Bazar for their cover. Following that first sell was a flood of continuous commissions that made his work public for literally the rest of his career. His paintings were in high demand and his images graced uncountable magazines, calendars, murals and book illustrations. This era was known as "The Golden Age of Illustration", as without television and computers the media's main vehicle was through pulp entertainment and Parrish and others fully took advantage of the opportunity to have their images seen by the masses.
From 1901-1902 Parrish was commissioned by The Century Magazine to go to Hot Springs, Arizona and paint a series of illustrations for an article entitled "The Great Southwest".