Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)

Dingleton Farm

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Dingleton Farm
signed and dated 'Maxfield Parrish 1956' (lower right)
oil on board
11½ x 15½ in. (29.2 x 39.3 cm.)
The artist.
Alma Gilbert, California and New Hampshire, 1973.
C. Ludwig, Maxfield Parrish, New York, 1973, no. 842.
A. Gilbert, Maxfield Parrish: The Masterworks, Berkeley, California, 1992, p. 213.
W. Holland and D. Cogden-Martin, The Collectible Maxfield Parrish, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1993, p. 147, illustrated.
E. Flacks, Maxfield Parrish: Identification and Price Guide, Portland, Oregon, 1998, p. 97, illustrated.
A.G. Smith, Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, exhibition catalogue, London, 2005, p. 103, 110, 134, no. 58, illustrated.
Cornish Colony Museum, Coming Home: A Retrospective Exhibit of Parrish, Manship, Faulkner and Zorach, exhibition catalogue, p. 9, illustrated.
Boston, Massachusetts, Vose Galleries, 1973.
San Mateo, California, La Galeria, 1974.
Cornish, New Hampshire, Cornish Colony Museum, 2003-04.
Palm Beach, Florida, The Society for the Four Arts, and elsewhere, Maxfield Parrish: Master of Make-Believe, January 21-February 20, 2005, no. 58.
Windsor, Vermont, Cornish Colony Museum, Coming Home: A Retrospective Exhibit of Parrish, Manship, Faulkner and Zorach, May-October 2006.


While celebrated for his illustrative works, Maxfield Parrish's true passion lies in his later landscapes. Parrish began to focus on landscape painting after he had achieved commercial success and financial security. The triumph of his "Magnum Opus," Daybreak (1926, private collection) was in large part responsible for this new found artistic freedom. In his landscapes, such as Dingleton Farm, Parrish uses the same technique and colors as in his previous works to capture peaceful, bucolic scenes. His masterful handling of paint and keen understanding of light and color are at their apex in the present work.

Two trips early in Parrish's career would have a lasting impact on his landscape painting. An excursion to the Southwest in the early 1900s introduced the young artist to the majestic mountains, which were the origin of the idealized terrains that became signature of his later works, including Dingleton Farm. His experience in the Southwest was followed by another influential tour, this time to Italy, where he found the subtle light and coloring that served as a balance to the dramatic topography and atmosphere of the Southwest and can be seen in the soft glow of dawn in Dingleton Farm. The lasting impression of these trips is evident in the way that he viewed and depicted the landscape that surrounded his home, The Oaks, in Plainfield, New Hampshire.

Parrish preferred to work in his studio rather than paint en plein air, seeking to imbue his pictures with an ethereal sense of wonder, rather than a purely factual recording of a place. His time-consuming glazing technique made painting from nature virtually impossible as light would shift before he could capture it. He often used clever methods of reproducing grand components in his studio, for mountainous landscapes such as the one in Dingleton Farm he used broken quartz rocks placed on a mirror. He created the effect of natural light and shadows through artificial methods, shining lamps on props. Once Parrish determined exactly how he wanted to lay out his painting he would outline the composition using either a photo projection or cut-outs applied to the surface. He usually completed the landscape first and then used a stencil of the silhouette to impose any architectural structures on top. This exacting method allowed Parrish to experiment with a variety of elements, establish a definitive layout for his composition and remove the chance of error and natural variance. This control let him to focus on color rather than composition when he began to paint.

The success of Dingleton Farm is, in large part, due to Parrish's time consuming glazing technique. Inspired by the Old Master painters, Parrish began with a white ground and subsequently layered pure pigment and varnish repeatedly to achieve the brilliant incandescence of a snow-covered landscape at dawn. The intense blue of the sky radiating out from behind the clouds and sparkling in the water was lauded and known as "Parrish Blue" amongst his colleagues. Parrish's glazing technique imbues Dingleton Farm not only with rich, bold colors, but also with soft variegated light and a sense of wonder. His seamless presentation masterfully captures both the gentle and dramatic effects of dawn's muted radiance on the house and landscape. Parrish's mastery of color and light is evident in the powerful purple mountains and subtle, warm golden rays of dawn.

Parrish's passionate attention to detail in the presentation of the majestic topography of Dingleton Farm manifests his life-long interest in the effect of light on nature. Dawn's hazy atmosphere cloaks the scene as the gentle rays of sun awaken the landscape. Parrish juxtaposes the sharp detail of the trees with the seamless blanket of snow giving the work a sense of weight and profundity as he contrasts the subtly illuminated architectural elements to the sharply detailed, craggy mountains, adding a complexity of illumination and texture. The vibrantly colored and shadow-dappled mountains imbue the work with a spectacular sense of depth and indicate the sun's movement as the landscape awakens from its slumber to greet the day.

In Dingleton Farm, Parrish exploits his technical mastery to imbue a common scene with a sense of wonder. His ability to create a romanticized panorama of mystical beauty from the everyday things around him is at its peak in the masterwork of visual escapism.