Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) Study for Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies) 11 3/4 x 9 1/2in Painted circa 1956.
Lot 57
Maxfield Parrish
(1870-1966)
Study for Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies) 11 3/4 x 9 1/2in Painted circa 1956.
US$ 120,000 - 180,000
£90,000 - 130,000

Withdrawn

American Art

20 Nov 2017, 10:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Study for Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies)
oil on paper laid down on board
11 3/4 x 9 1/2in
Painted circa 1956.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Maxwell Galleries, San Francisco, California.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1980s.

    Literature
    C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, p. 185, 214, no. 840, final composition illustrated.

    Maxfield Parrish is a name synonymous with the Golden Age of Illustration in American Art. His body of work represents some of the most widely recognized images of the 20th century, including his public mural commissions and his familiar storybook illustrations. Though first an aspiring architect, his ambitions changed course when he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1892 at the age of twenty-two. What followed in 1842 was the artist's first major commission, the famous Old King Cole mural, destined for the Hotel Knickerbocker in New York, though eventually, after prohibition, it was reinstalled in the St. Regis hotel in New York in 1935. Though a prosperous career was unfolding for Parrish, he and his wife left Philadelphia, a city favorable for working artists, instead moving to Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1898, where he remained until his death in 1966. Steady demand for Parrish's work continued.

    After a successful term as an illustrator for General Electric Edison Mazda Lamps, the end of their calendar series in 1934 signaled new opportunity for Parrish to work for Brown and Bigelow, the calendar and greeting card company in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In the period that followed, the company reproduced the artist's paintings in their line of annual calendars for nearly thirty years. The present work is a preliminary oil study for a larger work, Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies), produced in 1956 and published in the 1959 Brown and Bigelow calendar. The artist himself assigned the work the title Janion's Maple, Under Summer Skies was the title assigned by Brown and Bigelow at the time of publication.

    By the time he began his engagement as a contributor to Brown and Bigelow, the artist was primarily focused on landscape painting. Determined to master the complexity of such divine scenery, he toiled over each landscape and its natural forms, trees were an object of particular obsession for Parrish. The artist often said, "'Only God can make a tree.' True enough, but I'd like to see him paint one." (as quoted in C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, p. 177) Further illuminated by his use of color, his ability to articulate light and shadow elevate his landscape subjects as the artist's most impressive body of work. Shortly after beginning his tenure as a Brown and Bigelow contributor, in 1939 he wrote to the company's artistic director exclaiming, "Give me a hundred years more and I really think I can paint a tree that satisfies me." (as quoted in ibid, p. 177)

    The artist used a similar visual format for his calendar illustrations. These compositions, typically framed with shadowed trees, reveal majestic images of nature, often cemented with idle ponds or winding streams. When viewing the present work, one can almost hear the trickling of water which escapes down the moss-covered rocks in foreground. Beyond the tree trunk which covers the right side of the composition is a still body of water, like mirrored glass the cloudlike trees in the distance appear in reflection along the horizon. Parrish would usually incorporate scattered houses and architectural structures protruding from the landscape, sometimes colored with leaves or dappled in sunlight. One such structure is seen here, peering from beneath puffy trees, a white cottage sits at water's edge. Absolved in pale hues, the house glows softly with the sun as it makes its descent into night.

    The artist used color to illustrate dramatic contrast in his landscapes. Fiery orange and yellow pigments can be seen paired with jewellike tones of blue and purple. The most prominent tree in Study for Janion's Maple (Under Summer Skies) radiates in orange sun. Deep fissures and surface textures of bark and moss are crafted in blue and shadows of deep purple. Each cluster of leaves suspended from protruding tree limbs is executed in feathered brush strokes of emerald green. With pinpoint precision, yellow highlights have been applied producing leaves which appear to be three dimensional. Areas of minute detail are seen in great contrast to the distant trees in background. Such an effect was due to the technique Parrish employed applying different layers of glazes (ibid, p. 175).

    At the end of the artist's life, during the 1960s, a major retrospective exhibition of the artist's work was organized by Bennington College, traveling to the Gallery of Modern Art in New York. When considering himself alongside the art of the period, he remarked at how "commonplace" he must seem to his peers, Pop Art giants such as Andy Warhol. (ibid, p. 23) Through these images we see quite the opposite. Parrish's masterful technique with light and color promoted his works as chief among his contemporaries handling similar subject matter in the early 20th century. He was a painter who existed outside of the canon, creating a singular style all his own, one which endures as quintessentially unique still today.

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