Making its debut and only West Coast stop at the Crocker Art Museum
from May 8 – July 19, Fantasies and Fairy-Tales: Maxfield Parrish and the Art of the Print offers a rare look at 95 of the popular commercial prints and illustrations for which the artist became known. One of the most important illustrators of the 20th century, Parrish was a major figure in the Golden Age of Illustration and continued to pursue his enduring vision for nearly a century.
This exhibition is unique for examining the artist's printed works, whereas previous retrospectives focused primarily on oil paintings. Divided into five sections—advertisements, book illustrations, calendars, magazine covers and proof sets—the exhibition shows his mastery of four-color lithography, his humorous use of literature and children's stories, and the development of his unique, lush landscapes and figurative works.
"In the 1920s and 1930s Parrish was the most reproduced artist in the United States," said William Breazeale, Curator, Crocker Art Museum. "Most homes had a Parrish reproduction on the wall, and his works, especially his prints, continue to be very popular today.
As something of a child prodigy, Parrish's attention to detail and unique sense of composition were evident early in his work. He began his career illustrating covers for Scribner's Magazine, and the humor that he brought to these commissions ensured his popularity with the public. From Mary, Quite Contrary in a gardening advertisement to visions of Wynken, Blinken and Nod and their journey, each of his meticulously crafted four-color lithographs created a world of fantasy and lush beauty. Parrish was also a technical innovator who used photography as an aid in creating figures or drapery. Even the majestic mountains in his backgrounds were based on a collection of small, craggy rocks and sand, which he arranged on his desk to suit the composition.
Parrish's works have inspired generations of artists, including Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, who also took elements of commercial and fine art to create a new art form. Today these images, part of the nation's collective consciousness, are being discovered by a new generation.