Introduction

Among American illustrators, Maxfield Parrish (1870 – 1966) is a titan. With a rich career spanning over 60 years, Parrish was an artist who made his name known throughout the country and has intrigued countless souls. Parrish made his name as an illustrator of children’s books, magazines, and advertisements, as well as a fine artist whose paintings were reproduced for wide distribution.

A.S. Hall, "Maxfield Parrish". ca. 1920. Library of Congress.

Biography

Parrish was born in Philadelphia in 1870, but lived much of his life in Plainfield, New Hampshire, near the art colony of Cornish. The bohemian artistic landscape of Cornish, benevolently ruled by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Irish / American, 1848 – 1907), doubtlessly contributed to Parrish’s ideas and style. Parrish’s art depicted a world similar to ours, but not quite. Colors were brighter, love was always in the air, thick vegetation grew like weeds, and supernatural creatures were as common as squirrels. His illustrations of books, magazines, and advertisements introduced this world to his viewers, who escaped the troubles and pains of their world by gazing into his.

Maxfield Parrish, "Romance" from "The Knave of Hearts". ca. 1924. Lithograph.

Daybreak

Since Maxfield Parrish produced artwork for reproduction and distribution, works by him are both available on the art market and hold considerable value. Nest Egg Auctions, therefore, has handled a number of works by Parrish, including some of his most renowned works. For instance, Nest Egg is selling a number of Parrish prints in our New Year’s Gala Auction for 2022. Included in this sale are examples of a number of Parrish’s masterpieces, including Daybreak (ca. 1922). The magnificent landscape is paired with a group of young, androgynous figures relaxing in a colonnade. Certainly a puzzling image, it is Parrish’s most commercially successful image.

Maxfield Parrish, "Daybreak". ca. 1922. Lithograph.

Androgyny in Parrish’s Art

Images of young androgynes were among Parrish’s most popular motifs, visible in many of his works. It seems that Parrish was fascinated by Youth, and desired to depict the beauty of the human form without its more risqué connotations. In works like The Dinkey-Bird (1904), we see one of these young figures swinging happily in front of a floating castle. There is a freedom and joy to the piece that escapes mundane anxieties.

Maxfield Parrish, "The Dinkey-Bird". ca. 1904. Lithograph.

Parrish’s Advertising Work

Maxfield Parrish also did much advertising work, and some of his most popular works were completed for advertisements. His illustrations for Edison Mazda Lightbulbs, for instance, were beautiful works of art that the company used on giveaway calendars. Sometimes the works have everything to do with the product being sold, but, commonly, they do not. Works like Ecstasy (1929), for instance, were fully engaged in Parrish’s dreamworld vision, with little connection to Edison Mazda; the popularity of the images, however, was excellent advertising, and made sure that the light bulbs sold very well.

Maxfield Parrish, "Ecstasy". ca. 1929. Lithograph.

Selling Parrish at Nest Egg Auctions

Nest Egg Auctions is always happy to sell the works of Maxfield Parrish. If you have a print, or an original, by Maxfield Parrish, we would love to see it! Please send us a photo, and we would be delighted to discuss it with you.

Sell your Maxfield Parrish with NEA!

Have a work of art by Maxfield Parrish that you'd like to sell? Nest Egg Auctions would love to sell it for you for the highest price!

Further Reading

Coy Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish. (New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1973).

Maxfield Parrish, "Stars". ca. 1926. Lithograph.