Frederick Parrish was born in Philadelphia in 1870; he would later take his grandmother’s maiden name and become famous as Maxfield Parrish.
His father Stephen encouraged his son’s early explorations of art; Stephen had been discouraged from pursuing an art career by his strict Quaker parents, but later became a teacher of etching. He began to take his son on weekend painting excursions around the northeast, and later to Europe.
Maxfield thrived on the stimulation of museum and symphony trips, and when the family returned to Philadelphia, he attended Haverford College and then the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
On artist Howard Pyle’s recommendation, he began to provide illustrations for periodicals in 1895. By the 1920s, he was one of the highest-paid artists in America and his work among the most widely recognized; it was readily available in prints, calendars, and advertising. With the advent of the Second World War, Parrish’s idyllic, escapist paintings were especially welcome.
In 1936, Time magazine declared him one of the three most popular artists in the world-- the other two being van Gogh and Cézanne—but as the century went on and the art world turned more to abstraction, Parrish’s reputation for romantic scenes, almost-photographic realism and polished finishes made him passé. He died in 1966 at the age of 96, and thirty years later his work enjoyed a resurgence of fame.