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Maxfield Parrish

(1870 - 1966)

Maxfield Parrish's poster designs are some of the most reproduced of all American artists. The images he created are still widely displayed today.

Born in 1870 into a wealthy family, Parrish was the son of renowned etcher Stephen Parrish. Maxfield Parrish (born Frederick) was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, his native city. He also studied with well-known illustrator Howard Pyle, who was an important influence on his work. He trained as a painter and illustrator and became one of the East Coast's most prominent designers in the 1890s.

Parish's first magazine cover was an illustration for Harper's Bazaar in 1895. The following year, Parrish won first place in the Pope Bicycle Poster design competition, and from that point on he received numerous commercial commissions and poster design work. He illustrated many popular magazines including Life and Ladies' Home Journal and created advertising for companies like Colgate Soap and Adlake Camera. He also designed the covers of children's books and was occasionally commissioned for murals. The images he created were ingrained into popular culture at the time and have kept this place even in the modern era.

Parrish's artistic method involved using a number of layers of thin and transparent oil, alternated with varnish, over stretched paper. With this technique, he created a detailed yet incandescent look. There is a dreamlike quality to Parrish's work, although the images are precise. He was known for his use of color, particularly for a shade and tone of blue which is often referred to as 'Parrish Blue'. His designs commonly featured lush settings and female nudes. His wife Lydia Austin, and later his long-term lover Susan Lewin both served as his models.

In the 1920s, Parrish's focus on nudes became more prevalent. Between 1930 and 1960, he began to concentrate on calendar landscapes and greeting card designs. His calendar illustrations were widely distributed and exhibited. Parrish was a highly prolific worker who received a great deal of acclaim and recognition in his lifetime. He died in 1966.

While the images Parrish created are still familiar today, his particular style also influenced a modern revival of Art Nouveau poster design. Parrish's work has impacted the artistic styles of designers for generations, and will surely continue to do so in the future.

Movements associated with Maxfield Parrish:
American artists, Illustration


Art prints by Maxfield Parrish
Daybreak Ecstasy


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