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Art Deco debuted at the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts in:

London in 1900.
Berlin in 1916
Paris in 1925
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ART DECO
1910 - 1939
by Charlotte & Tim Benton

Art deco—the style of the flapper, the luxury ocean liner, and the skyscraper—came to epitomize the glamour, luxury, and hedonism of the Jazz Age. After bursting onto the world stage, it quickly swept the globe, influencing everything from architecture to interior design, fashion jewelry, and radios. Above all, it became the style of the pleasure palaces of the age—hotels, nightclubs, and movie theaters.
                                   
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 The Master of Make Believe
by Bob Brooke

 

Maxfield Parrish was to the 1930s what Peter Max was to the 1960s. The culture of the time influenced them both. And both dealt in fantasy. While Parrish’s paintings were nearly as colorful as Max’s, they possessed an air of elegance and refinement—the ultimate complement to the Art Deco style.



Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Frederick Parrish was the son of painter and etcher Stephen Parrish. His mother was Elizabeth Bancroft, who raised him as a Quaker. Later, he adopted the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, Maxfield, as his middle name, and later as his professional name. He began drawing for his own amusement as a child. His parents encouraged his talent, although early on his main interest was in architecture. In 1884, his parents took him to England, Italy, and France where he learned about architecture and the painting of the old masters. During their two years of travels, Parrish studied at the Paris school of a Dr. Kornemann.

In 1888, he began studying architecture at the Haverford School, now Haverford College, where he attended for two years. From 1892 to 1895, he studied under artists Robert Vonnoh and Thomas Pollock Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. After graduating, Parrish went to Annisquam, Massachusetts to share a painting studio with father. A year later, Parrish audited a few classes taught by noted illustrator Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science & Industry. But Pyle told him he had nothing left to teach him, and soon Parrish agreed.

Parrish’s Artistic Career
After graduation, Parrish began an artistic career that lasted over 50 years. During that time, he produced nearly 900 works of art, including calendars, greeting cards, and magazine covers.

In 1885, his work appeared on the Easter edition of Harper’s Bazaar. He also did work for other publications. In addition to his magazine work, he also illustrated a children's book in 1897, Mother Goose in Prose written by L. Frank Baum. By 1900, Parrish had become a member of the Society of American Artists. And in 1903, he traveled to Italy.

Parrish worked as a freelance commercial artist until the 1920s. His commissions included many prestigious projects, among them Eugene Field's Poems of Childhood in 1904 and Tales of the Arabian Nights in 1909. Parrish’s illustrations also appeared in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales in 1910, The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics in 1911, and The Knave of Hearts in 1925.

By 1910, Parrish earned over $100,000 a year by 1910, a phenomenal amount even by today’s standards. Back then homes sold for $2,000.

Some of Parrish’s earliest color paintings became illustrations in The Century Magazine. Though he did some other early color illustrations, most were black and white drawings with color oil glazes added to prints of the originals.

From 1900 to 1910, the techniques of color reproduction varied quite a bit. It was still an art and individual printers varied widely in their skills. The invention of "process" color, in which a painting was photographically "separated" into three colors—cyan, magenta, and yellow—plus black, paved the way for more consistent reproduction. Parrish, like many other artists experimented with the best painting techniques to accommodate these new methods. What Parrish did was a result of printing methods and gave his works a unique 'feel' and luminosity.

Parrish’s Technique
Parrish suffered from tuberculosis for a time in 1890. While ill, he discovered how to mix oils and glazes to create vibrant colors. He would first mentally assess the blue of a composition and painted it directly onto a base of white paper or gesso in a thin, transparent glaze. He then painted other colored glazes over this. When he shined light on his painting, it would penetrate the transparent glazes, reflect off the white base and mix the final colors in a brilliant manner impossible to achieve with mixed pigments.

By 1900, Parrish had established himself as a professional artist and illustrator and became a member of the Society of American Artists. Magazine covers became a perfect showcase for his luminous paintings. Colliers took major advantage of this. Other magazines like Scribners and Century often featured Parrish in the lead spot with a color frontispiece in addition to the occasional cover. Whilel still others used Parrish’s art, including Harpers Weekly, Hearst's, Ladies' Home Journal, Life, McClures, and many more.

He would take photographs of models in black and white and project the image onto his works. This technique allowed for his figures to be clothed in geometric patterns, while accurately representing distortion and draping. This technique gave his paintings a more three-dimensional feel. He carefully calculated the outer proportions and internal divisions of his compositions in accordance with geometric principles such as root rectangles and the golden ratio.



Parrish wove a magical world, using the color lapis lazuli in its purest form. In fact, the color “Parrish blue” was named after him. His idealized the beauty of the female form adorned in classical gowns with backgrounds of electric violets, radiant reds and rich glowing earth tone pigments, created an idyllic world indeed. Other images had scenes embellished with billowing clouds in a fairy tale ambience of maidens and knights lying under porticoes and these were equally harmonic, idealistic, and beloved.

As a result of this ability to create such a sublime splendor, Maxfield Parrish became unquestionably the most successful and best-known American illustrator of the early part of the 20th century. His images were too realistic not to be believed. Their stark beauty and superb execution denied viewers any ability to question their existence. They were photographic, mechanical and above all, technically accurate.

Parrish’s Prints
While books and magazines provided him with an enormous public following, it was his prints and calendars that gave him the greatest exposure. It started in 1904 with reproductions of 'Air Castles', created from a Ladies' Home Journal cover, and continued through 1920 with prints from previously published pieces. His prints of images created for candy box lids had fueled the public interest. In the 1920s, Parrish turned his back on illustration and focused on painting. The first such image was “Daybreak,” which eventually became his masterpiece. Produced in 1923, it features female figures in a landscape scene.



More lightly clothed lasses in mock-classical settings followed. The public couldn't get enough. With the exception of his justly famous Knave of Hearts book in 1925, the remainder of Parrish's career was mainly spent painting these popular images and a series of sumptuous landscapes for Brown & Bigelow calendars published from 1937 through 1962.

Magazine Work
Parrish worked for popular magazines throughout the 1910s and 1920s, including Hearst's and Life. He also created advertising for companies like Wanamaker's, Edison-Mazda Lamps, Colgate and Oneida Cutlery. Parrish worked with Collier's from 1904 to 1913. He received a contract to deal with Collier’s Magazine exclusively for six years. He also painted advertisements for D.M. Ferry Seed Company in 1916 and 1923, which helped him gain recognition in the eye of the public.

In 1931, Parrish declared to the Associated Press, "I'm done with girls on rocks", and chose instead to focus on landscapes. He was also an avid machinist, and often referred to himself as "a mechanic who loved to paint." By 1935, Parrish painted landscapes exclusively.

In 2006, “Daybreak” sold for US$7.6 million. The National Museum of American Illustration claims the largest body of his work in any collection, with 69 works by Parrish. The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Cornish Colony Museum in Windsor, Vermont, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, all own some of his works. In 1925, one out of every four households in the United States had a copy of one of his art prints hanging on their walls.

After a long and self-satisfied life, Parrish died on March 30, 1966, at his home and studio, ‘The Oaks’ in Plainfield, New Hampshire at the age of 95. His artistic career had ended six years earlier upon hearing of the marriage of his mistress Susan Lewin.

Even the great American illustrator, Norman Rockwell, considered Maxfield Parrish to be his idol.


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