Published: May 29, 2012
The National Museum of American Illustration (NMAI) is hosting what it terms a “milestone” exhibition this summer: “Maxfield Parrish: The Retrospective,” will be on display through September 2.
Maxfield Parrish (1870‱966) was best known for romantic images, captured by his uncanny use of color incorporating ultrasaturated hues and often times an intense cobalt blue. His paintings were created using alternating layers of color and transparent varnish over a monochromatic underpainting, sometimes totaling as many as 60 layers. This technique was perfect for period reproductions using the four-color printing process. The resultant luminosity of Parrish’s original artworks must be seen in person to be fully appreciated, for they are uniquely breathtaking with great depth and intense colors unmatched by any other artist before or since.
Among the works on display are the artist’s “Florentine Fete” murals, 18 separate canvases each 10 feet 8 inches tall, as well has his smallest work, “The Tallwood Pearl,” painted on a 1½-inch-diameter mother of pearl button.
Parrish’s work as a professional illustrator encompassed the years between the mid-1890s and mid-1960s. “Maxfield Parrish” features works from all periods of his career, including his early periodical and book illustrations with fantastical romantic images, compelling commercial advertising works for products that sold well due to his artist’s endorsement, depictions of fairy tales like the Brothers Grimm’s Frog Prince, and the popular Edison Mazda (General Electric) calendars, which hung everyplace one went †from the barber shops to law offices.
His “girls on rocks” images were ubiquitous in the 1920s, with an estimated one of every four American households having a Parrish print on display. His art sold a seemingly endless number of products, including Jell-O, Fisk tires, light bulbs, chocolate, soap, cameras, bicycles, silverware, cosmetics and root beer.
During the Parrish exhibition, NMAI will continue to exhibit highlights from last year’s “Norman Rockwell: American Imagist” traveling exhibition, recently acclaimed in England as “the best art exhibition in London for 2011.” NMAI is also highlighting works by author Tom Wolfe from In Our Time , his first museum art exhibition, comprising works from his book by the same name, lampooning 1970s American culture.
NMAI is at 492 Bellevue Avenue. For information, www.americanillustration.org or 401-851-8949.
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