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Maxfield Parrish Work Sells For $7.6 Million at Christies
Maxfield Parrish, Daybreak (detail), 1922. © Christie's Images Ltd.

NEW YORK.- Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak, 1922, sold for $7,632,000 at Christie’s Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture auction. The sale featured over 140 lots in an auction that realize $35.9 million. Led by Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak, an American icon and one of the most reproduced images in the nation’s history, the sale also included another important Parrish work a previously-unknown picture by Martin Johnson Heade, property from the Estate of Joan B. Kroc including a Frederick Carl Frieske masterpiece; and impressive works by Worthington Whittredge and John Singleton Copley.

Daybreak is Maxfield Parrish’s most celebrated masterwork. A blazing commercial success, the painting is a breathtaking panorama of mythical beauty. The most popular American illustrator after World War I, Parrish was commissioned to paint Daybreak by the art publishing firm, House of Art, in August 1920. The painting was his first work commissioned solely for the purpose of reproduction as a color lithographic print to be distributed to the American public – and it became one of the most reproduced paintings in American history. At the height of its popularity, it was estimated one of every four households had a copy, making it a national sensation and cultural phenomenon.

Daybreak seamlessly combines the diverse influences of Parrish’s early career with his fully developed technique and vision. The work blends Pre-Raphaelite sentiment, Old Master technique, a strict adherence to laws of proportion and commercial sensitivity into an iconic work of astounding beauty. The painting is a portal to an Arcadian fantasy that exudes innocence and mystical beauty. The dazzling landscape, bathed in dawn’s rising sun, is testimony to the artist’s mastery of light and color.

Another important Parrish offering in the sale was The Lantern Bearers, painted in 1908 (sold for $4,272,000). The fanciful subject matter is typical of Parrish’s work early in the 20th century and was originally created for a frontispiece for Collier’s Magazine’s December 10, 1910 issue. A tour de force of luminosity, The Lantern Bearers is a prime example of his work from this period.

A Re-Discovered Heade - An Orchid with an Amethyst Woodstar, dating from 1874, is a previously un-recorded example and is a re-discovered masterwork that serves as a testament to Heade’s significant and enduring contribution to American art (sold for $1,360,000).

Martin Johnson Heade became fascinated with tropical flora and fauna, especially orchids, after an 1863 trip to Brazil. He combined orchids with hummingbirds in his compositions for the first time in 1871 and the resultant works have been considered highpoints of his artistic career.

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