Scope and Contents
The papers of artist and illustrator Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) who became enamored of art while a student at Haverford College. The collection consists of letters, original drawings and illustrations, magazines to which he contributed, catalogs, calendars and his famous chemistry notebook created while a student at the college.
Biographical / Historical
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), painter, muralist, book, magazine, art and advertising illustrator, a specialist with color and light, known for both his romantic and humorous art, was one of the most successful artists of the early 20th century. His start was as a painter of carefully-detailed landscapes rose even as abstract art was ascendant. In the 1960s, the Pop Art movement embraced the imagery of commercial art and reintroduced figurative and objective elements, but even then Parrish's work had a differently-faceted quality. Parrish has been compared to Salvador Dali and other Surrealists.
Born in Philadelphia in 1870, he enjoyed the privileged childhood of a son of well-to-do Quaker parents, Stephen Elizabeth Parrish who took him on the Grand Tour of Europe and generally created a cultured environment for him. Parrish attended Haverford from 1888 to 1891; later he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His first oil painting, Moonrise, was exhibited in 1893. Parrish traveled a number of times to Europe on commissions or to study painting masters; in his letters, he commented on the effect of the colors employed. In 1895, he married Lydia Austin who was not a Quaker and Parrish soon left the folds of the Society of Friends.
As an illustrator, Parrish's works appeared in books, magazines and posters. He also created a quantity of purely “commercial” art, earning a great deal of money through the sale of color reproductions, and, by
the late 1920s, he was able to leave commercial art and to paint whatever he chose. By the 1930s, he had chosen to paint only landscapes.
Maxfield Parrish's subject matter came both from his own vivid imagination and from meticulously laid out still-life arrangements in the form of miniature landscapes and architectural models. Parrish
regularly painted from photographs which he had made, and when transferring the images to his paintings, he made few major transformations in them.
His name became such a household word, that, by 1920 when F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his short story, “May Day,” he described the reflection in a restaurant window as being the color of “Maxfield Parrish moonlight.”