TYLER, TX.- The Tyler Museum of Art
pulls back the curtain on the Master of Make-Believe for its new exhibition, Maxfield Parrish: The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals. The exhibition, organized by the TMA, is open to the public Sunday, May 3 through September 13 in the Bell Gallery. Admission is free.
One of the most celebrated painters and illustrators of the 20th century, Parrish (1870-1966) has maintained notoriety throughout the generations for his unique style, mastering effects of light and shade, employing a painstaking shading technique and luminous colors.
Though Parrish is perhaps best known for Daybreak (a painting that sold millions of copies as a print and has been used in various print and television advertisements), the four large murals forming the centerpiece of the TMA exhibition often are regarded by scholars as among his finest work. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the legendary benefactor of New York’s Whitney Museum and one of the premier art collectors of her time, commissioned Parrish to create the murals for the walls of the reception area of her studio in Old Westbury, N.Y. From 1914 to 1918 Parrish executed the paintings, which ultimately would include the famed North Wall mural, the longest single work completed by the artist.
The murals, on loan to the TMA from Torch Energy Advisors of Houston, depict a festive scene of young Renaissance women and men (including an image if the artist himself in one panel) in front of a Tuscan-style wall decorated with large urns – and would come to represent a milestone in American art through Parrish’s use of bold, rich tones which challenged the lithographic capabilities of the day and inspired numerous innovations in the way art could be reproduced. Reaping the benefits of the free reign afforded him by Whitney, Parrish later would be declared “the most reproduced artist in the history of art.”
Parrish originally delivered seven panels to complete the murals for the Whitney commission, but two of the paintings (which had comprised the studio’s West Wall) were stolen in July 2002 when burglars entered through the roof of a gallery in West Hollywood, Calif., and cut the massive works from their frames. The still-unsolved heist remains on the FBI’s list of Top Ten Art Crimes.
In addition to the murals, the TMA exhibition showcases the Parrish oil paintings Cascades/Quiet Solitude (c.1959) and The Theatre at Villa Gori (c.1904), as well as his gouache-and-pencil study for The Pastry Cooks (c. 1925). These additional works are on loan to the Museum from Graham Williford Foundation for American Art and a local private collection.