- Frederick Maxfield Parrish
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Frederick Maxfield Parrish

" is rather interesting to be alive and think of things; to take delight in the trivial qualities of the material world around you, having discovered long ago you don't have to go so far afield to get it. I sometimes think the dawn of a new day, the magic silence of mid-winter is about all there is, and however that may perhaps be, it is good to know no better."

Frederick Parrish was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 25 July, 1870. He later took the family name of Maxfield as a middle name, and it was by the name "Maxfield Parrish" that he became known professionally.

Maxfield Parrish grew up in a nearly ideal environment for a budding artist. His cultured parents encouraged the development of his artistic talents by exposing him to fine music, literature and the visual arts from an early age. His father, especially, encouraged young Frederick to develop his talent.

In 1888 Parrish entered Haverford College, intent on becoming an architect. Art was not a part of his study at the Quaker college, as it was looked upon with suspicion. In 1892 he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and began to prepare for a career in art. Maxfield Parrish's first major commission, in 1894, was for the Old King Cole mural and other wall decorations at the Mask and Wig Club of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

While in Philadelphia, he met Lydia Austin, a young painting instructor at Drexel Institute. She and Parrish became close friends, and after a year long courtship, they married in 1895. Shortly after their marriage, Parrish left for Europe, spending the summer studying a wide range of paintings by old masters and allowing him to meet and observe the many American artists studying in Paris.

In 1896 Parrish painted The Sandman, a work he later credited as being the most important in his early career. The Sandman was included in the 1897 annual exhibition of the Society of American Artists, and was later awarded honourable mention at the Paris Exposition of 1900. This recognition for aesthetic quality was important to Parrish, who had been criticised for earning his living in the more directly commercial areas of art.

Inspired by the beauty and quiet of New Hampshire, the Parrish's left Philadelphia in 1898. Parrish had purchased a large tract of land there and was designing and building a beautiful home which they called "The Oaks". Parrish's talent as an architect was lauded by numerous architectural digests and was the subject of many magazine articles.

For sixty-five years Maxfield Parrish worked in widely varied fields--book illustration, magazine illustration, posters, and advertisements, paintings and murals. His unique combination of colour, exotic characters and fanciful castles was particularly esteemed by the mass audiences, who had access to his work through the popular magazines and the books that he illustrated. He was a public artist, painting for a national audience.

In 1962, at ninety-one, Parrish put away his paintbrushes, arthritis and declining health having taken their toll on him. Maxfield Parrish died at "The Oaks" in 1966 at the age of ninety-five.

contributed by Gifford, Katya


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