Thursday, March 25, 2010

Maxfield Parrish..... Daybreak

Click on the above picture to enlarge it.

Daybreak, 1922
Painted in 1922, this breathtaking painting has become one of the most reproduced images in the canon of modern American art. At the time it was painted, Parrish had already established himself as a sought-after illustrator working for publications such as Life, Scribner’s, Harper’s Weekly, and Collier’s. In 1920, the art publishing firm, House of Art engaged Parrish to create a work intended specifically for reproduction as a print, rather than for a magazine, book, or advertisement. The result was Daybreak, a strikingly beautiful composition of brilliant luminosity that is widely recognized as Parrish’s greatest masterwork (estimate: $4-7 million). As an iconic image of romance and mysterious beauty, the luminous scene is so ingrained in contemporary popular culture that it has inspired scores of re-interpretations and homages in the form of album covers, movie posters, and even one scene in a Michael Jackson music video. The painting last sold at Christie’s in May 2006 for $7.6 million and remains the world auction record for a work by the artist.

The magic and spirit embodied in Daybreak is the result of Parrish’s unique and intricate approach to painting. He felt strongly about the purity of color and the resulting effect it made on the picture as a whole. Composing the scene required the introduction of paper cut-outs, photography, and an assortment of props and models that Parrish constructed in his workshop. He began the painting with a base layer of white to illuminate the image, and over this he built up layer upon layer of varnish, which heightened the vibrancy of the colors and created the painting’s smooth, enamel-like surface. This innovative technique allowed Parrish to convey surface textures and patterns with the intense detail and saturation of color that became a signature of his most celebrated paintings.