Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia, PA

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American Illustrations in the Time of Maxfield Parrish: From the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Collection

June 12 - September 25, 1999


One of the best loved of America's illustrators, Maxfield Parrish(1870-1966), is the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in downtown Philadelphia, on view from June 19 through September 25, 1999. Who has not been charmed by Parrish's knights and dragons, his princes and pirates and Mother Goose characters, or seen in reproduction the exotic fantasy landscapes of his later years?

In celebration of this retrospective, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents a selection of American illustrations contemporary with Parrish's seventy-year career, which began in Philadelphia, where he was born and received early art training.

Many of the artists represented in this exhibition knew Parrish. He was a classmate of William Glackens and John Sloan at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1892, and Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, and Henry McCarter were part of the same art circles in Philadelphia in the 1890s. Parrish may have studied briefly with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) before leaving Philadelphia for New Hampshire in 1898.

The art of illustration was an extraordinarily vivid part of the everyday life of millions of Americans in the first half of this century, and Parrish was an important figure in the popularization of this genre and in the bringing of printed images to large numbers of the public. The works by his contemporaries exhibited in this exhibition can provide only a brief impression of the wide range of American illustrators' work during this period.

Two examples of the artworks shown in American Illustrations in the Time of Maxfield Parrish: From the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Collection are Charles Demuth's The Boat Ride from Sorrento and William Glackens' Blind Beggar in Store.

Charles Demuth's watercolors can steam with an emotional intensity that belies the delicacy and fluidity of his painting technique. He had a special affinity for the writings of Henry James, and this work depicts a dramatic moment in James's short story "The Beast in the Jungle." Above, the youthful hero John Marcher confides the great secret of his life to May Bartram during a boat ride from Sorrento to Naples, Italy.

Glackens' Blind Beggar in Store is an illustration for the story "The Beggars' Club," by I. K. Friedman, Saturday Evening Post, (October 18, 1902)

Philadelphia-born William Glackens attended Central High School with John Sloan and Albert C. Barnes. Many years later, after 1910, he advised Barnes in forming his famous collection of modern art. In the early 1890s, during the heyday of newspaper - illustration art, Glackens was one of the ablest artist - reporters for various Philadelphia dailies. Moving to New York City in 1896, he eventually abandoned illustration for painting, becoming a member of the informal group of early modern artists known as "The Eight." In the first decade of the twentieth century, Glackens became a highly successful illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post and other American magazines.

Images from top to bottom: Charles Demuth,The Boat Ride from Sorrento, 1919, watercolor and graphite, Gift of Frank and Alice Osborn, 1966-68-7; William Glackens, Blind Beggar in Store, n.d., charcoal heightened with white gouache, 9 1/4 x 10 inches, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Seymour Adelman, 1946-73-2


Read more about the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Resource Library.

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

rev. 10/18/10

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