Born in 1870 as Frederick Parrish, Maxfield Parrish was one of the most successful American artists of the 20th century, producing almost 900 original pieces in a career that spanned more than six decades. Parrish’s work appeared on calendars, greeting cards, illustrated books, advertisements, and magazine covers.
His most famous print was “Daybreak,” 1923, which sold more copies than any other print at the time, and perhaps even in history. “Daybreak” featured many common elements of Parrish’s style between 1900 to 1934, sometimes known as his “Girls on Rocks” phase: distant mountains, classical stone architecture, beautiful female figures, a romantic landscape, and his signature “Parrish blue” hue. In 1996, the original oil-on-canvas painting of “Daybreak” sold for $4.3 million.
As a young man, Parrish went to Haverford College to study architecture but dropped out. Nevertheless, his training there influenced his style as an artist. Parrish created his first book illustrations in 1896 for children's book author L. Frank Baum’s “Mother Goose in Prose.”
The pieces from his “Girls on Rocks” phase were incredibly popular until the early 1930s, when Parrish tired of painting in the same style. Coincidentally, the public enthusiasm for the Utopian flavor of his work grew thin under the weight of the Depression. In 1935, Parrish switched to painting landscapes exclusively, and he completed more than 20 years of calendars for Brown & Bigelow in this style. These landscapes were generally of New England.
Other notable pieces by Parrish include “Dreaming,” “Stars,” and “New Moon.” Prints of these pieces—reproductions of original works—are prized by Parrish enthusiasts today.