Maxfield Parrish a genius with colors

Maxfield Parrish's work was introduced to me many moons ago. While I am not a particular fan of some of his subject matter, accept his landscapes which are fantastic and I love his trees too, I adore his palette.

He was truly a master of understanding the power of opposing colors and of toning down color in just such a perfect way that made his paintings and illustration glow. 

I just came across one of my Smithsonian magazines with a great article about Parrish, and that made me want to take another look at his work. I scanned the cover and made a gray-scale version of one of his paintings. That is where it is clear to see how values play a great part in his success. Why his images have this wonderful glow as I call it.

His subject matter sits on top of the background and that is clear in this gray-scale image. When you look at the color version, it is not as clear. but his skills in knowing how to achieve depths and contrast in subtle but clear ways, is pretty much obvious.

His palette is actually pretty limited, so it's all values. He also divides his warm/cool palette into thirds. Here I see two thirds warm and one third cool.

In other paintings is opposite. The 2/1 principle makes it all work. Just a great artist in my opinion. What do you think? Let me know and I would really like to her from others who are much more informed then I am.

Maxfield Parrish and his genius with colors

 Here are some links to other sides that inform you about Maxfield Parrish and also about Color Theory

Biography of Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish galleries

Here are some words by Parrish himself about how he painted: 
"I used to begin a painting with a monochrome of raw umber, for some reason: possibly read that the ancient ones often began that way. But now the start is made with a monochrome of blue, right from the tube, not mixed with white or anything. Ultramarine or the Monastral blues, or cobalt for distance and skies. This seems to make a good foundation for shadows and it does take considerable planning ahead, and looks for all the world like a blue dinner plate. The rest is a build-up of glazes until the end. The only time opaque color is used is painting trees. The method of early Corots and Rousseau is a good one, suggested by nature herself, where a tree is first painted as a dark silhouette and when dry the outside or illuminated foliage is painted over it. This opaque may be a yellow or orange as a base to glaze over with green, as the problem may demand.

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Ginette Callaway
Ginette Callaway


I am an independent, self supporting artist and Renaissance woman, working full time on my art. I absolutely love what I do. Creating art consumes me. I paint original art with oil paints, watercolors, also ink and pastel. My original paintings are on My art prints are on and over 1000 pieces or art prints, that includes some of my earlier work and many abstract pieces.

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