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Maxfield Parris: painter of Magical Make-Believe

Lois v. Harris

The eyes of a 7 year old are often like the windows of the world as they look through the clear glass of a window and see straight ahead at the beauty of the landscapes, the greenery and all that is within the panoramic picture captured by the artistry of the world.

Frederick Parrish from the age of seven looked at the world, the colors, the landscapes through the eyes of an artist with the help and encouragement of his mentor, his father. Attending school in Paris, France he spent most of his time at this easel. His father, his muse you might say, encouraged him to pursue his talents, took him to the Louvre and together they viewed the masters while others perfected their craft copying the paintings of these great artists hoping to sell their work to the rich and wealthy.

Imagine the sights, the education, the cities and cathedrals that he visited and his hope to study architecture as his vocation. As you learn about the life of this great artist the author presents to the reader a special gallery showing of his work on each page. Not only can we learn more about his art but also we can see it first hand, learn about each piece as the paintings come alive, the colors vibrate and the subjects vary. On the page opposite his picture the author shares a well -known illustration painted by Parrish of the nursery rhyme Old King Cole. Imagine as a student exhibiting his landscape and earning his first commission. Frederick Parrish was a visionary. Taught by his father who was known for his etchings. Frederick soon became Maxfield taking on his grandmother’s family name and used the initials MP or Maxfield Parrish. At the age of 25 he was commissioned to paint his first magazine cover for Harper’s Bazaar. Married to Lydia Austin, an art teacher, revisiting the Louvre and copying the old masters. The awe of being in the presences of these great artists and watching other more experienced artists copy and study their work. His art was bold, designing ads, magazines using his imagination, which was limitless.

Author Lois V. Harris does more than must share his life and story with the reader. She takes us on a private guided tour of his work. Each picture either captures a scene, a place, a story he wanted to impart, a magazine cover, snapshot or photograph of the artist himself. Large murals with vibrant reds, browns and pictures so lifelike they capture the emotions and feelings of the figures within the painted canvas.

Nursery rhymes with real life figures, pictures of candy boxes, calendars and cards were just some of the artwork that was sold by this author. A New York gallery showcased his work and the author shares that with the reader. As I looked at each picture I noticed a few commonalities in each one. The vibrant reddish browns, the dark browns, yellows and the ever-present blue sky in the background sets off many of his paintings. The beiges, the deep shades of blue and the landscapes seem to be like his trademark. Although art critics at times complained about his work looking too much like a photograph, he continued on and did not falter under pressure or criticism sticking to his own unique style. Take a trip back in time and visit the world of Maxfield Parrish, the painter, the artist and illustrator. The magical world of make believe or in this case the magical window of the world as seen by this great painter and shared by this outstanding author.

Children can learn a lot from reading about his life. They can even try and copy some of his paintings, study more about him and even find more of his work. This is one great book for children of all ages and for art teachers to use to introduce an amazing and talented artist.

Fran Lewis: Reviewer

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