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Property from a Private American Collection 
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)

Sheltering Oaks

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Sheltering Oaks
signed and dated 'Maxfield Parrish/1956' (lower left)--signed and dated again and numbered '56-3' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
oil on board
23 x 18½ in. (58.4 x 47 cm.)
American Illustrators Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1995.
C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, pp. 185, 214, no. 841, illustrated.
L.S. Cutler and J. Goffman, Maxfield Parrish, London, 1993, p. 77, illustrated (as Sheltering Oaks (A Nice Place to Be)).
L.S. Cutler and J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, San Francisco, California, 1995, p. 155, illustrated (as Sheltering Oaks (A Nice Place to Be)).
L.S. Cutler and J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo, Japan, 1995, pp. 147, 168, no. 95, illustrated (as Sheltering Oaks (A Nice Place to Be)).
L.S. Cutler and J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish and the American Imagists, Edison, New Jersey, 2004, p. 294, illustrated (as Sheltering Oaks (A Nice Place to Be)).
E. Flacks, Identification and Price Guide of Maxfield Parrish, Portland, Oregon, 2007, p. 129.
Newbury, Vermont, Cracker Barrel, Art Exhibition, n.d.
Tokyo, Japan, Isetan Museum of Art, and elsewhere, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, April 20-May 16, 1995, no. 95 (as Sheltering Oaks (A Nice Place to Be)).

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Lot Essay

At the age of sixty one, with considerable fame and praise, Maxfield Parrish turned to landscape painting, beginning a new phase of his career with the enthusiasm and energy of a young artist. Although he had experimented with landscape painting throughout the preceding years, by 1930 he turned exclusively to the subject. The present painting, Sheltering Oaks, is a wonderful example of the artist's landscapes demonstrating Parrish's distinctive style.

Parrish began experimenting with landscape painting in the 1890s, painting and sketching around Cape Ann, Massachusetts and introducing landscape elements into his magazine and book illustrations. The turn of the century brought two consecutive commissions from Century Magazine which had a profound effect on his landscape painting. During the winters of 1901 to 1902 and 1902 to 1903, Parrish traveled to and around Arizona to produce a series of paintings for Ray Stannard Baker's article "The Great Southwest." The artist was immediately fascinated by the area's dramatic light and brilliant range of color, both of which created impressive effects against the unusual terrain. As Coy Ludwig notes, "The dramatic effects of the southwestern sunrises and sunsets, with their reflections of brilliant orange hues and shadows of purple and blue, and the craggy terrain of the canyons became forever a part of Parrish's artistic vocabulary." (Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, p. 171) The artist's experience in the Southwest was followed by another influential excursion, this time to Italy where he spent three months gathering material to illustrate Edith Wharton's Italian Villas and Their Gardens, which includes lot 113, The Reservoir at Villa Falconieri, Frascati, as an illustration. The subtle light and coloring Parrish found in Italy served as a balance to the dramatic topography and atmosphere of the Southwest.

In 1898 before heading out on either of these journeys, Parrish had built a house and studio in the thriving artists' colony of Cornish, New Hampshire. Established in 1885 by the prominent American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the Cornish colony grew into a lively and productive world of artists, authors, playwrights and architects. Parrish lived and worked in this southwestern region of New Hampshire until his death, and naturally his immediate surroundings became the basis for his landscapes. However, as suggested by Mr. Ludwig, the artist's experiences in Italy and the Southwest remained vivid in his imagination.

In 1931, Parrish was quoted in a newspaper article declaring, "I'm done with girls on rocks. I have painted them for thirteen years and I could paint them and sell them for thirteen more. That's the peril of the commercial art game. It tempts a man to repeat himself. It's an awful thing to get to be a rubber stamp. I'm quitting my rut now while I'm still able. There are always pretty girls on every city street, but a man can't step out of the subway and watch the clouds playing with the top of Mt. Ascutney. It's the unattainable that appeals. Next best thing to seeing the ocean or the hills or the woods is enjoying a painting of them." (as quoted in L.S. Cutler and J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, San Francisco, California, 1995, p. 12) In 1935, Parrish began painting landscapes for calendars with Brown & Bigelow Publishing Company. Sheltering Oaks, which demonstrates his talent to produce paintings with extraordinary color and detail, is included in the group, published for a 1960 calendar for The Mutual Insurance Company of Frederick County, Maryland.

Parrish's landscapes were often constructed from photographs, juxtaposing various images of New England. Many, including the present painting, have the great oak trees of his property commanding the composition. In Sheltering Oaks, Parrish rendered the large trees as respite for the home from the elements and reflected them in the pristine water to emphasize their imposing presence. The artist's talent for color is also demonstrated in Sheltering Oaks, presenting an idyllic landscape with rich autumnal colors for the trees and shore against the cool, vibrant blues of the water and sky. The large trees and rocks that are featured prominently are painted in a manner unique to Parrish, using both cut-out silhouettes and photography and can be said to be the single most common element of his landscapes. "Parrish often said '"Only God can make a tree." True enough but I'd like to see him paint one.' The statement reflects the kind of painting skill and knowledge of nature that Parrish knew was required for painting trees as he painted them--with subtle variations of color and gradations of light and shadow, accurately depicting light filtering through the layers of precisely detailed foliage." (Maxfield Parrish, p. 177)

Parrish explains his approach to landscape painting, which comes to fruition in Sheltering Oaks, "You mention 'realism': that I think, is a term which has to be defined: realism should never be the end in view. My theory is that you should use all the objects in nature, trees, hills, skies, rivers and all, just as stage properties on which to hang your idea, the end in view, the elusive qualities of the day, in fact all the qualities that give a body the delights of out of doors. You can not sit down and paint such things; they are not there, or do not last but for a moment. 'Realism' of impression, the mood of the moment, yes, but not the realism of things. The colored photograph can do that much better. That's the trouble with so much art today, it is factual, and stop right there." (Maxfield Parrish, p. 185)

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