Maxfield Parrish Vignettes
(Four book library)

by Michael J. Goldberg

Published by Collectors Press

1998, 4 volumes, 64 pages in each volume


Maxfield Parrish Identification and Price Guide: Third Edition

by Erwin Flacks

Published by Collectors Press

1998, 272 pages









Parrish the Thought

Reviewed by David Middleton

Even though I am a great admirer of Maxfield Parrish's work, I sometimes have to admit that, over the years, I've just seen enough. Viewing the same works time and time again has made his art lose some of its spontaneity. Everyone and his atelier has seen it so much that it has become part of the cultural wallpaper; the equivalent of the art world's background noise.

But I have again discovered what beautiful noise it is.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Maxfield Parrish was one of the premier illustrators. His painstaking technique and dramatic subject matter were, in my opinion, unparalleled and much of his vision still holds up against current illustrators and their methods.

Maxfield Parrish Vignettes brings back the impact he had on me the first time I saw his work. The lush clarity of his art is reproduced here in four small volumes and encased as a boxed set. You would think it would have been easier and more economical to produce one large volume with all the same prints, but somehow this is much more fun and whimsical. Vignettes satisfies in me all the things I love about good books: beautifully produced and designed and containing some works I have never seen before -- which is an unexpected bonus. It's a joy to pick up something a little different.

Each volume represents a different category of his work -- book illustrations, art prints, magazine covers and advertisements -- emphasizing the enormous range Parrish had as an artist. Each book covers a short history of its subject eloquently and concisely, revealing the great impact and influence Parrish still has on the world of art and illustration.

Measuring approximately 4 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches, each postcard-sized book is set so that text is on the left page and an illustration is on the right. Which, if you are so inclined, would make each and every picture suitable for framing. Though I would hate to suggest that such a lovely set be cut up.

There are more complete books on Parrish with more in-depth history, but none seems quite so special. As this set also happens to be a deluxe limited edition of 7500 it would make a perfect gift for that true-blue Maxfield Parrish fan. Even if that fan is yourself.

By contrast The Maxfield Parrish Identification and Price Guide, also from Collectors Press, is in no way a pretty book. But then it's not really supposed to be. It is a comprehensive guide to all that is Parrish. From original paintings and posters to Jell-O packets and cigar boxes designed by the man himself. Each piece is illustrated in thumbnail-sized black and white. You won't have to chase down the crew of the Antiques Road Show to find out how much that 1920s Max Parrish-illustrated tobacco tin is worth: just look it up in the book.

The Maxfield Parrish Identification and Price Guide also includes information on fraud awareness, reproduction identification and damage and restoration, making this book an excellent reference work. Make sure you bring this book along next time you visit your local art auction, flea market or yard sale. An invaluable resource. | December 1998


David Middleton is art director of January Magazine.