Life and Works of Maxfield Parrish

Categories: Wizard Of Oz

Maxfield Parrish was born on July 25th, 1870, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His birth name is Frederick however, he ended up taking Maxfield- his grandmother’s maiden name- as his professional name. As a child, Parrish drew and was encouraged by both of his parents. His father, Stephen, was also a painter and was said to be Parrish’s biggest influence due to his teachings. In addition to this, the American Renaissance influenced Parrish’s creativity and imaginative capabilities. It is said that his visits to Europe (both as a child and an adult) inspired his work as he viewed paintings by the old masters and incredible architecture.

Before studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, he went to Haverford College to study architecture. During this time, his love of nature continued to blossom and allowed this to become a subject for his future work. At the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Parrish was taught by influential artists such as Howard Pyle, Robert Vonnoh, and Thomas Anshutz.

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During the time Parrish was married to his wife Lydia Austin, he also had a mistress named Susan Lewin. Lewin made a few appearances in Parrish’s work and is said to be the reason he stopped painting at the age of 90, when she married someone else.

Parrish and his first wife, Lydia, moved to New Hampshire to start their life together at their home that was called The Oaks. The house was built completely by Parrish and he was able to paint the majority of his work from his home, and the landscape that surrounded him helped to influence his work.

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After Parrish got sick with tuberculosis in 1900, he made a switch in art medium (illustration to oil painting). With this switch, he began a process which caused his colors to appear brighter and more luminous. In order to create this effect, Parrish would apply alternating layers of oil and varnish. Still sick with tuberculosis, Parrish went to New York, which marked the period when Parrish switched from black and white to color.

He continued traveling while sick and received commission along the way. After settling back into his home, Parrish and Lydia had their first of four children, which coincided with Parrish signing a contract with Collier magazine as well as his choice to illustrate Eugene Field’s Poems of Childhood, which were the first illustrations of his to be reproduced in full color. One of his popular illustrations from this series of poems is titled The Dinkey Bird. The poem is incredibly imaginative and describes a beautiful fantasy world, a place that Parrish perfectly portrays in his art piece that shows a youthful, joyous boy swinging in the foreground, with a fantastical castle in the background.

Parrish’s most famous work, Daybreak, is also the first painting Parrish created that was intentionally used as an art print. This was enjoyed and prized by many Americans when it was released. It was so popular that, by 1925, one out of every four Americans had a copy of this work of art in their homes. Parrish used such a brilliant blue (from lapis lazuli) in all of his works, that it soon came to be known as “Parrish blue” due to the overwhelming usage of it. This helped contribute to his popularity because, at this time, blue was a color that was treasured by most Americans. Subject matter also greatly impacted his incredible popularity- he focused on imagery that could be described as idyllic, beautiful, and perfect.

He created landscapes that still centered around this description, which made his work the perfect decoration in creating an inviting home. In addition to creating paintings for the public, Parrish also created art for book/magazine covers (his first magazine cover was for Harper’s Bazar in 1895), mural decorations, and advertisements. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Parrish focused mainly on creating calendar landscapes. He ended up signing a twenty-seven year contract with a calendar and greeting card company by the name of Brown and Bigelow where he created one to two landscape paintings per year. At this point in his life, his work was still appreciated, however, many critics commented on the fact that he lost his imagination which resulted in his work feeling less emotional.

Parrish had a huge influence on society in the beginning of the twentieth century due to his magical imagery and brilliant blue. F. Scott Fitzergerald once described a reflection in a restaurant window as the “color of Maxfield Parrish moonlight” in his writings. Parrish had passed away on March 30th, 1966, and at this point in time he was not as highly revered as he once was. However, once the Pop Art movement emerged, artists were influenced by his work and had grown to appreciate it once again- even Andy Warhol had collected multiple Parrish art pieces during this time. More recently, artists such as Joan Nelson and Virgil Marti have made references to Parrish’s work in their own. Famous American painter, Norman Rockwell, has called Parrish his “idol.”

Music artists such as Enya, Dalis Car, The Moody Blues, and Elton John all have album covers that reference Parrish’s work as well as a music video from Michael Jackson that at one point, alludes to Parrish’s Daybreak. Personally, I think his art pieces are incredibly beautiful and I can definitely see why they were admired across America. He creates wonderful fantasies that take us away from the challenges of day-to-day life while also providing lovely landscapes that pull us back to reality- making the viewer more thankful for what is truly real. However, the more I read about him, the more I questioned his character, which then made me question his intentions when it came to certain works of art. The fact that he denied work from professionals (and used underage models instead) because they lacked the “innocence” his work needed seems a bit shady. So, when I found this out, along with some other information, his work became less appealing.

Olimpia Zagnoli was born on February 29th, 1984, in Reggio Emilia, Italy. She was born to parents who were already involved in the art world, which helped her express her creative side as she began to develop an interest in art at a young age. As a child, she attended Reggio Emilia Kindergarten. This program inspired Zagnoli and helped define her career as an artist at a young age. In an interview for Inkygoodness, an online magazine, Zagnoli explains how this program really lets kids get in touch with their creative side (teaching them how to paint, cook, et cetera). She also shares about a time where she was taught how to make tomato soup through this program. At age six, she ended up moving to Milan, where she still resides. In 2006, Zagnoli obtained a degree in illustration and animation from the Istituto Europeo di Design. As she tried to get her art put out into the world, she sent emails to different agents across the globe. She eventually received an offer from someone in the United States, who is still her agent now (Marlena Agency) and she also is represented by a French Agency by the name of Illustrissimo. She lived in New York for a short amount of time after she graduated, and soon began to publish work in newspapers (in both Italy and the United States).

When it comes to her process, she first begins by sketching ideas in a sketchbook or on her iPhone. She also does a lot of note taking before she begins her digital renderings. She transfers any of her ideas to her tablet/computer and continues working digitally until she is satisfied. Despite doing a ton of digital work, she loves spending time collaging and painting. Some famous people who have influenced her include Rudi Gernreich (Austrian-born American designer), David Bowie, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Carmen Miranda (Portuguese-born Brazilian singer, dancer, and actress), Paul Rand, and Sonia Delaunay (Ukrainian-born French artist). She also has said that she is influenced by Kermit the Frog.

An artistic movement that she is heavily influenced by is Futurism, which originated in Milan and is characterized by being avant-garde. Along with this, she is also influenced by the modernist movement. The NY Times, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Fendi, Prada, Google, Sephora, and Clinique are just some of the many companies she has created work for. One of Zagnoli’s current projects (running since 2016) is titled Clodomiro and is a line of different objects for a home- pillows, shirts, underwear, plates- that have an erotic theme. The line is named after her father, who is her partner on this project.

One of her big projects that has been exhibited in the HVW8 gallery (located in Los Angeles), titled Cuore di Panna (which translates to heart of whipped cream), is a series of illustrations, installations, and videos. In the illustrations, she creates vivid, colorful still lifes that are inspired by her childhood during the late eighties/early nineties in Italy. She uses bright colors to illustrate different pieces of her childhood- brands such as Cinzano, Sprite, Crodino, Fanta, Orangino, and Tassoni are all sprinkled into her work. The incorporation of certain brands reflected the Americanization of Italy during this time, and the HVW8 gallery describes this time as “the years when Barbie Totally Hair was replacing Sophia Loren.” In an interview with online magazine It’s Nice That, she explains her fascination as a child with commercials that would play on the television- specifically the ones that included candy since she wasn’t allowed to eat it as a child. These pieces seemed to perfectly illustrate what she imagined when she closed her eyes and thought back on what she specifically experienced during her childhood, making it such a personal series.

Other projects Zagnoli has worked on include illustrating three different children’s books titled The World Belongs to You, Mister Horizontal and Miss Vertical, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The colors that make up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are emerald, gold, black, and white and the illustrations are characterized by simple line and shape combinations that beautifully portray the story. She has also worked with Prada for their Spring/Summer 2018 collection. In these illustrations, she continues to use color and shape to create vivid, refreshing illustrations. Each shirt design is currently being sold for four hundred and forty dollars. One illustration is clearly influenced by A.M. Cassandre’s L’Atlantique, which shows a large ship in the water. Other specific examples of Zagnoli’s work that I found intriguing were for a Korean skincare and makeup company Innisfree (creating illustrations for the cover of makeup palettes) and Fiat (creating illustrations for the Fiat500 campaign). Although these companies have little to no similarities, she was able to use her bold and colorful illustrative style for both campaigns in a way that appealed to each end user.

Zagnoli’s brilliant illustrations have been featured in galleries all over the world and as previously mentioned, she has worked with a plentiful amount of famous companies. This all started in her mid-twenties, allowing her to begin influencing people early on in her career. Due to her success in New York, she was able to go back to Milan and continue using her bright, fun designs to inspire others. I personally love her work- I have always enjoyed using flat colors and have been inspired by artists who incorporate this into their design style. I think it’s difficult to create works using flat color that seem as full as ones that incorporate texture or shading and I think it’s impressive how she seems to do it so effortlessly. In addition, her use of bright colors drew me to her work immediately because it’s also something I like to incorporate into my own work. All in all, I think she’s a super talented illustrator with so much potential.

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Life and Works of Maxfield Parrish. (2021, Dec 03). Retrieved from

Life and Works of Maxfield Parrish

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