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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection


signed and dated 'Copyright 1926/Maxfield Parrish' (lower left)
oil on panel
35 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (91 x 56.5 cm.)
Painted in 1926
Private collection, Massachusetts; Estate sale, Christie’s, New York, 2 December 1988, lot 178.
American Illustrators Gallery, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1997.
Reinthal and Newman, The House of Art print, published circa 1926-1927.
Thomas D. Murphy Company calendar, published 1942.
C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, pp. 138-139, 144-145 and 215, no. 722 (illustrated, p. 139, fig. 91).
A. Gilbert, Maxfield Parrish: The Masterworks, Berkeley, 1992, pp. 154 and 157 (illustrated in color, fig. 7.7).
L.S. Cutler, J. Goffman and American Illustrators Gallery, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1993, pp. 2, 4 and 8 (illustrated in color on the frontispiece, p. 2).
L.S. Cutler and J.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, San Francisco, 1995, p. 127 (illustrated in color).
A.M. Gilbert, Parrish and Photography, Plainfield, 1998, p. 29.
L.S. Cutler and Judy A.G. Cutler, Maxfield Parrish, San Diego, 2001, pp. 118-119 (illustrated in color, p. 118).
L.S. Cutler, J.G. Cutler and the National Museum of American Illustration, Maxfield Parrish and the American Imagists, Edison, 2004, p. 262 (illustrated in color).
A.G. Smith, Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 93.
Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art; Osaka, The Museum of Art, Kintetsu; Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art and Stockbridge, Norman Rockwell Museum, Maxfield Parrish: A Retrospective, April-December 1995, pp. 50, 125, 166-167 and 180, no. 72 (illustrated in color, p. 125).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

No other early twentieth-century American artist so firmly captured the public imagination as Maxfield Parrish. By 1925, one in four households in the country owned a print of his masterwork Daybreak (Private Collection), which outsold all reproductions but those of Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. Following his runaway success with this work, Parrish sought to create a fresh but equally compelling image “to be a rich gold tone, and needless to say, as beautiful as possible, with a great landscape behind the figures…” (quoted in C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, p. 143). The result was the present work Hilltop, reproduced as a print in three sizes by The House of Art from 1926-1927. Opening our eyes to an idyllic world of wonder and delight, Hilltop mesmerizes viewers of today just as it did when first published almost a century ago.
While Parrish began his career as an illustrator, he wanted compositions like Hilltop to speak for themselves. For example, when asked to write a paragraph to accompany Daybreak, he declined, explaining, “To my mind if a picture does not tell its own story, it’s better to have the story without the picture…the picture tells all there is, there is nothing more” (quoted in ibid., p. 143). Hilltop accordingly provides a fully immersive experience, transporting the viewer to ponder the captivating beauty of nature alongside Parrish’s muses. Despite his earlier statement, Parrish wrote while in progress on the present work, “It will be of two girls under a big tree at the top of a hill, with a great distance beyond, late afternoon all flooded with golden light, and needless to say, depending upon the message carried by the figures—their joy or quiet contemplation of the environment” (quoted in ibid., p. 142).
Parrish prized honesty and innocence in his subjects, choosing to pose his family and friends in lieu of professional models. For Hilltop, his models were the daughters of his friend, the notable U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand. Working in his studio with paper cut-outs, photography and props, he carefully designed his composition using the principles of ancient Roman and Greek formulas to create harmonic proportions. He then employed a time-consuming glazing technique inspired by Old Master painters. Beginning with a white ground, he applied paint directly from the tube, layering pure pigment and varnish over and over to achieve a heightened vibrancy and a smooth, richly luminous surface. The enamel-like saturation, coupled with the variegated light coming through the foliage, is a trademark of Parrish’s work and adds to the mystical environment.
Yet, while artfully imbued with an otherworldly atmosphere, the setting of Hilltop is grounded in Parrish’s close study of the natural environment surrounding his home “The Oaks,” located near the Connecticut River that forms the border of New Hampshire and Vermont. The property appealed to Parrish for its extraordinary view, as he poetically described, “through old oak trunks and branches…a sense of great space and glorious things in store for you…hills and woodlands, high pastures, and beyond them, more and bluer hills, from New Hampshire on one side and Vermont on the other, come tumbling down into the broad valley of the Connecticut, with one grand mountain over it all” (quoted in ibid., p. 17).
In Hilltop the artist focuses on the detailed contours of these natural wonders, elevating them to Edenic idealism while anticipating the pure landscape paintings which would dominate his career in subsequent years. A portal into a fantastical realm, Hilltop glows with an otherworldly magic, drawing the viewer into the tapestry of Parrish’s imagination.

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