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Maxwell Parrish by Coy Ludiwick (book review)

August 5, 2020 | By | Reply More

The name ‘Maxwell Parrish’ kept popping up in The Book Palace’s ‘Illustrators’ magazine and even in one of TwoMorrows magazines recently and stuck in my head to investigate. One point that is always raised is that when Parrish approached Howard Pyle for art education, he told him there was nothing he could teach him. With this book, writer Coy Ludiwick gives a more complete history showing Frederick Maxwell Parrish came from a creative family. His father was an artist and his mother a writer and they travelled a lot, especially in Europe and its art museums so Parrish got a very rounded artistic background.

When it comes to his actual work, Parrish first worked on L. Frank Baum’s 1897 ‘Mother Goose’ books in black and white prior to his ‘Oz’ books. His first colour work was books by Eugene Field and Edward Bok in 1904. The dictates of books from 1970s was having a mixture of black and white and colour pages. When this book suddenly reveals Parrish’s work in colour and shows a fabulous use of oranges, yellows and blues is a reminder that Parrish plays with his colour palate.

The book is divided into different sections covering Parrish’s work and how he adapted to different requirements. He did two Easter covers for ‘Harper’s Bazar’ magazine on spec and had both accepted. Looking at them here, there is some simplicity building around the cover title yet there is some strength as well. Reading about the limitations of their press, I tend to look at it as Parrish doing his research which really is something all commercial artists should do when breaking into particular markets, not to mention understanding their printing limitations and played to that. These days, the printing process is more universal but varied a lot back then. Oh, he also had a ten year exclusive commission doing covers for Collier’s Magazine. Don’t underestimate Parrish as there were also a selection of fantasy covers in here as well.

I like the description of Parrish as being ‘a businessman with a brush’. Although no comparison is made to other artists and their business practices, from the descriptions here, Parrish was obviously learning as he went and not made the same mistakes twice. Unless the art was bought outright, he kept the originals. With posters of his work, like ‘Daybreak’, his royalties brought in really big money for the turn of the last century. He also wanted to move away from adverting art simply to have more freedom to paint landscapes.

One of the final chapters looks at Parrish’s art techniques. Bearing in mind this was early 19th century, all were pre-lightbox, digital and other techniques, it does show similar problems to be beaten which he did. I suspect if he lived nearly a century later, he would have taken modern techniques in their stride. For new artists who wonder how they can reproduce a good sketch but can’t repeat it for a more professional look.

Please bear in mind this book is more a biography of Maxwell Parrish with added art. There are other books out there more art-orientated if you just want that. Even so, what you see here will make you appreciate his technique and an insight into what early American fans used as poster art on their walls.

GF Willmetts

August 2020

(pub: Schiffer Publishing, 1973. Price: I pulled my copy for about £30.00 (UK). ISBN: 0-88740-527-4)

check out website: www.schifferbooks.com although obviously this is an old book and they do other artbooks

Category: Books, Illustration

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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