Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Left photo: David Graham, Center photo: Nathan Benn

Philadelphia, PA

(215) 972-7600


Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966


The Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and The American Federation of Arts are organizing the first-ever critical retrospective of the work of Maxfield Parrish, one of the most popular artists of this century. Opening June 19, 1999 and running through September 25, 1999.

Ferry's Seeds: Jack and the Beanstalk, 1923, oil on board, 29 x 21 5/8 inches, Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis

"Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966" will survey the artist's long, prolific career in the context of American culture and different periods of artistic production and reception; examining both Parrish's historical importance and his influence upon contemporary art. Following the inaugural presentation at the Museum of American Art, the American Federation of Arts is organizing a three-venue national tour that will begin in winter 1999. Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.

Old King Cole (triptych), 1894, ink, watercolor, gouache on woven paper, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts


This retrospective, curated by Dr. Sylvia Yount, Curator of Collections at the Museum of American Art, will feature more than 100 works, including easel paintings, mural studies, drawings, prints, and ephemera, from public and private collections.

Sing a Song of Sixpence, 1910, lithograph on paper, 8 5/8 x 20 7/8 inches, Rare Book Department,The Free Library of Philadelphia


Unlike previous studies of the artist, this effort considers both Parrish's enormous popular appeal and his reputation among his artistic peers in the context of important social issues, such as the growth of new markets and the shaping of public taste.

Edison Mazda Lamps Calendar: Night is Fled (Dawn), 1918, lithograph on paper, 14 5/8 x 9 1/2 inches, Rare Book Department,The Free Library of Philadelphia


The exhibition will focus on Parrish's work of the late 1890s and early 1900s--the so-called Golden Age of Illustration when the artist developed his appreciation for popular art forms; the 1920s, a decade of artistic experimentation in which Parrish reached the pinnacle of fame and fortune with his fantastical images of"exotic" and erotic innocence; the 1930s and 1940s, when his exclusive interest in landscape revealed a broader nationalist spirit and obsession with "American" identity; and his posthumous revival during the decade of Pop Art and in the current postmodern period.

Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree, 1906, oil on paper, 20 1/8 x 16 1/8 inches, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan.


Maxfield Parrish had a close association with the Pennsylvania Academy throughout his life. He studied in the School from 1892 to 1894, sold his first work to the Museum, and gained early critical recognition through the honors he received at the Academy's annual exhibitions.

Jack Frost, 1936, oil on board, 25 x 19 inches, The Haggin Museum, Stockton, CA


Coming of age in an art world shaped by sophisticated technologies and a heightened commercial awareness, Parrish was deeply committed to the popularization and democratization of art. As a result, he became one of America's first truly "public" artists, producing work for a national rather than regional audience.

Little Sugar River at Noon, c. 1922-24, oil on panel, 15 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Gift of Langbourne M. Williams, Photo: Ron Jennings


To accompany the exhibition, the Museum of American Art, in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., will publish a fully illustrated catalogue. The publication will include an essay by Dr. Yount on Parrish' s artistic achievements; and another by the Museum's Chief Conservator, Mark Bockrath, on Parrish's complex working methods.

Read more about the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1998 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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