The Old Mill by Maxfield Parrish

  • This enchanting landscape is the work of American illustrator Maxfield Parrish
  • Parrish is a unique figure in American art, with a photorealistic yet whimsical style
  • Landscapes were Parrish's favorite subject, and this example demonstrates his talent for the genre
  • The extraordinary scene displays Parrish's renowned photorealism and luminous color
  • Get complete item description here
Price Upon Request Item No. 31-6015

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Maxfield Parrish
1870 - 1966 | American

The Old Mill

Signed and dated "Maxfield Parrish 1942" (lower left); Titled, signed and dated "The Old Mill / Maxfield Parrish / 1942" (en verso)
Oil on Masonite

Maxfield Parrish is remembered today as one of the greatest American illustrators of the 20th century, and his oeuvre is as widespread and diverse as his audience. As an artist, Parrish is a unique figure in American art, with a photorealist, neoclassical-inspired and whimsical style that was entirely his own and completely distinctive from the other great American illustrators of his era. His works ranged from book illustrations to advertisements to murals, but his favorite subject and true forte was landscape painting. This composition, entitled The Old Mill, epitomizes the grandeur and luminosity of his work within this genre.

The artwork was composed after an important shift in Parrish's career. In the late 1920s, he made the decision to move away from the narrative book illustrations that had dominated his early career and focus instead on his love of landscape painting. Parrish's skill and vivid imagination are on full display in this example, which depicts a mill at the base of a mountain in a lush, saturated color palette. Masterfully rendered, the enchanting scene affirms his revolutionary understanding of color, luminosity and compositional design. While displaying the photographic illusionism so prevalent in the work of his fellow illustrators, Parrish's work also succeeds in maintaining an element of whimsy in his magical worlds.

Parrish achieved such incredible luminosity in his works in part through his unique use of color and application of paint. He favored an early oil painting technique dating from the Northern Renaissance in which he took pure, unmixed oil paints diluted with linseed oil and formed a glaze. The artist then applied alternating bright layers of translucent glaze separated by varnish over his base compositions, a process that required weeks of work. He never mixed white paint with his colors, which could result in a duller, chalky color. Parrish would instead slowly blend out his pigments across his painting surface, creating a soft fading effect and utilizing the white of the board itself to peek through and lighten the colors without weakening them.

The Old Mill was painted for publishing company Brown and Bigalow’s line of calendars and appeared under the title Thy Rocks and Rills. A frequent illustrator for mass-market periodicals around the country, Parrish possessed a unique ability to appeal to the masses without compromising his creative ideals and artistic intuition. In the mid-1920s, it is estimated that Parrish's illustrations were displayed in one out of every four American homes.

Born in 1870, Maxfield Parrish began his painting career at the age of 25 after studying art and architecture in Europe. Parrish's career was launched by a commission to illustrate L. Frank Baum's Mother Goose in Prose in 1897, after which he earned numerous commissions illustrating other texts as well as for popular magazines such as Harper's, Hearst's, Collier's and Life. The beautifully detailed, fantastical scenes he conceived truly made his paintings come alive, and the impact of these works has endured for generations. Today, he is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C.) and the National Museum of American Illustration (Newport, RI). The Old Mill translates onto canvas the sense of awe and wonder the natural landscape offers, and it exhibits all of the hallmarks in subject and technique that are found in Parrish's very best works.

Dated 1942

Board: 22 7/8" high x 18 5/8" wide
Frame: 30 7/8" high x 26 5/8" wide

Tokyo, Japan, Isetan Museum of Art; Osaka, Japan, Museum of Art, Kintetsu; Yamanashi, Japan, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art; Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell Museum, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, April 20-December 31, 1995.

C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, pp. 180, no. 1944, (illustrated and titled Thy Rocks and Rills).
M.S. Sweeney, Maxfield Parrish Prints: A Collector's Guide, Dublin, New Hampshire, 1974, p. 10 (illustrated and titled Thy Rocks and Rills).
W. Holland, D. Congdon-Martin, The Collectible Maxfield Parrish, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1993, p. 136.
L.S. Cutler, J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, San Francisco, California, 1995, p. 146, (illustrated and titled as Old Mill (Thy Rocks and Rills)).

The artist
Private collection, by descent
Private collection, Massachusetts
Estate of the above. Christie’s, New York, 2 December 1988, lot 177, sold by the above
Private collection, New York.
American Illustrators Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Santa Barbara, California.
Island Weiss Gallery, New York
Private collection, Wyoming.
M.S. Rau, New Orleans.
The Old Mill by Maxfield Parrish
Maker: Parrish, Maxfield
Period: 1919-Present
Origin: America
Type: Paintings
Width: 26.63 Inches
Height: 30.88 Inches
Style: Illustration
Canvas Width: 18.625 Inches
Canvas Height: 22.875 Inches
The Old Mill by Maxfield Parrish
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