Woodmere Art Museum

Philadelphia, PA



Stephen Parrish: Rediscovered American Etcher

Market Day - St. Augustine, 1884, SP #102, Etching, 9 x 6 5/8 inches, from the collection of Rona Schneider

Woodmere Art Museum exhibits "Stephen Parrish: Rediscovered American Etcher," from April 11 to June 27, 1999. Stephen Parrish (1846-1938), a painter and the father of Maxfield Parrish, was one of the most highly praised American etchers in the 1880s and, a century later, has been rediscovered.

Parrish's etchings reflect his close observations of nature as he traveled in America and Europe. Curated by print scholar Rona Schneider of Brooklyn, New York, the exhibition will include 40 of his finest etchings along with a copper etching plate and several preparatory drawings.

According to Michael W. Schantz, Ph.D., Woodmere Director and CEO, the exhibition is mounted in conjunction with a major exhibition of the art of Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) organized by The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia and opening there on June 19, 1399.

Special exhibition public tours are scheduled at 10 a.m. on Tues., April 30, and 1 p.m. on Sun., May 16.


Excerpt from the Introduction to Stephen Parrish: Rediscovered American Etcher , catalog to the exhibition , by Rona Schneider:

"Stephen Parrish was born in 1846 into a devout Philadelphia Quaker family that tolerated his childhood love of art and did not object when he made a brief trip to Europe in 1867, mainly to spend time at the Paris Exposition and the museums of Paris and London. Back in Philadelphia, he ran a coal business and then a stationery shop for several years, married in 1869, and his only child, Frederick Maxfield, was born in 1870.

In 1877 he decided, in spite of his lack of formal training, to become an artist. This was a daring move, since he sold only six paintings by 1879, and he had a wife and a nine-year-old son to support. Luckily, the 'Etching Revival' was just starting in America, and in November 1879 he took his first etching lesson from the already successful Philadelphia artist, Peter Moran. As he wrote so many years later, he really did take to it like a duck to water.

Parrish quickly found his best subject matter in the landscape of Eastern North America, particularly the harbors and villages of New England and Canada. As a leading critic wrote in 1883: 'Mr. Stephen Parrish, whom I should put...in the very first rank of our ...etchers, and who is the most popular of them all...is especially associated with seaboard scenes. Our ragged fisher-villages, with their rocky foundations and primitive vessels, have found in him a first and most clear-voiced interpreter.'

Parish's timing was excellent, since he discovered he loved a medium for which he had a natural aptitude just when the market was cresting. He spent the next 11 years making etchings in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Because Parrish frequently returned to earlier sketches and drawings, etchings of places he had traveled to generally appear throughout his etching career rather than just at the time of his visits."

© 1999 by the Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118 and Rona Schneider, Brooklyn Heights, New York.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

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