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This vibrant scene is among a handful of paintings produced by Maxfield Parrish for his own pleasure. Although the beauty of nature inspired him throughout his long life, the artist’s noncommissioned landscapes were few, especially during the 1920s when his commercial imagery was garnering extraordinary success. The specificity of the painting’s title, Little Sugar River, as well as the naturalistic treatment of an identifiable New England setting at an essential moment, differentiates it from Parrish’s other landscapes, particularly those he later produced for calendar and greeting card company Brown and Bigelow. Having famously sworn off figurative work for landscapes in 1932, Parrish spent the next quarter of a century painting nearlyone hundred idyllic representations of sunny New England days and wintry nights on commission. Imbued with cheerful sentiment, these images were eagerly consumed by the World War II generation in their longing for domestic stability and serenity. While Little Sugar River also resonates with themes of “Americanness” in its sense of place (New Hampshire as Yankee heart-land), it conveys a greater sense of realism in its plein-air exactness. One contemporary wrote of this remarkable verisimilitude, which Parrish achieved through a painstaking technique of drawing and glazing, “The overall impression when you view a Parrish picture is that you’re looking into and through the painting, not just at it.”
Signed lower left: "Maxfield Parrish"
Gift of Langbourne M. Williams
"Maxfield Parrish, 1870-1966," The American Federation of Arts: Currier Gallery of American Art (4 November, 1999 - 15 January, 2000); Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester (18 February - 20 April, 2000); Brooklyn Museum of Art (26 May - 6 August, 2000).
"Images of Reality," F & M Gallery, Richmond (February - March, 1975).
"Maxfield Parrish," Brandywine River Museum, Chadd's Ford, PA (May - September 1974).
O’Leary, Elizabeth L., Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 114, p. 339-341).
Sylvia Yount, Maxfield Parrish 1870-1966 (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1999) p. 153, color ill. p. 126.
The American Federation of Arts Exhibition Program 1998 to illustrate proposed exhibition, "Maxfield Parrish 1870-1966," color ill. p. 21.
Maxfield Parrish A Retrospective exhibition catalogue (Tokyo: Isetan Museum of Art, 1995) p. 126, ill. no. 71, credit p. 166.
Coy L. Ludwig, “Maxfield Parrish: Sharp-Focus Vistionary,” American Art Review, Mar-Apr 1976. pp. 86, 88- 89, color ill. p.87.