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Stephen Maxfield Parrish (1846-1938)

The following biography is based on information provided by Larry W Greenly of Albuquerque, New Mexico:

During the 1880s, Stephen Parrish was one of the leading etchers in America. Although his paintings were received with favor and were shown regularly in New York and at exhibitions throughout the country, he was more widely known for his etchings, especially those of New England coastal scenes.

In 1867, he was in Paris, but as a coal merchant, and not as an artist.  By 1869 in Philadelphia, he owned a stationery store, which he sold in 1877 and then committed himself to painting and etching.  Around 1890, after the peak of the Etching Revival, he returned to painting landscapes on Cape Cod and Cape Ann, and also traveled to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  He stopped painting in the mid 1920s due to a stroke.  He was the brother of Anne L. Parrish and father of illustrator Maxfield Parrish.

Stephen Parrish was a descendant of Edward Parrish of Yorkshire, England, captain of a trading vessel that traveled between England and Chesapeake Bay.  Upon settling in America Captain Parrish received three thousand acres of land where the city of Baltimore now stands and was appointed to the position of surveyor-general of Maryland.  Other ancestors were respected Quaker physicians who had been heroically active during the influenza epidemic that decimated Philadelphia in the early part of the eighteenth century.

Stephen Parrish encouraged his son's (Maxfield Parrish) talent from a very early age. For Maxfield's third birthday, Stephen gave him a large sketchbook with "Fred Parrish--Christmas--1873" embossed on the cover.  He traveled with his son through the capitals and major museums of Europe, painting and sketching, developing the close, warm relationship that lasted throughout their lives.

Stephen Parrish filled over fifty pages of the book with elaborate and humorous drawings of monkeys and other animals for the amusement and instruction of his son. This encouraging and cultured atmosphere was in striking contrast to that in which Stephen Parrish himself had been raised.  Coming from a devout Quaker family who believed painting to be sinful as a youth he is said to have found it necessary to retreat to the attic in order to draw and paint in secret.

He was determined that his son would have every opportunity to develop his talent. As far as he was able he instructed him in the techniques of drawing, and a number of the earliest extant works of Maxfield Parrish are childhood sketches made on the backs of advertisement fliers received in his father's shop.  More important, however, Stephen helped his son to develop a critical and analytical eye by teaching him how to observe objects in nature.

In 1884, Stephen, his wife, and Maxfield sailed on an extended trip to Europe.  They traveled for two throughout England, northern Italy, and France. Much of Stephen's time in Europe was spent at his easel.  The family enjoyed the museums, the concerts and the opera in Europe.  They returned in 1886.


Stephen not only instructed his son during his boyhood years, but the two men shared a seaside studio at Annisquam, Massachusetts, for two summers in 1892 and 1893.  Stephen Parrish spent only a few weeks at Annisquam in 1893, however, as he was busy overseeing the construction of his new home at Cornish, New Hampshire.

Historically, Cornish, New Hampshire has always been associated first and foremost with the artist who purportedly "discovered" it--the leading American sculptor of the late nineteenth century, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  In 1885, Saint-Gaudens was coaxed by Charles Cotesworth Beaman, Jr., a successful New York lawyer and patron who bought land in the relatively impoverished farm communities of Plainfield and Cornish in the 1880s--to rent a house on his property.  The sculptor and his family returned every summer thereafter, finally purchasing the house in 1891.

Saint-Gaudens' and Beman's partnership, with their respective celebrity and generosity, nurtured Cornish as a colony for artists;  George de Forest Brush and Thomas Wilmer Dewing were two of the first to establish summer residences there. Stephen Parrish was introduced to the colony, in 1891, through his friendship with fellow etcher and later architect and garden designer Charles A. Platt.


1. Falk Peter, ed. “Who Was Who in American Art.” Soundview Press:
Madison CT; 1985.
2. Gilbert Alma M. “Maxfield Parrish: The Masterworks.” Ten Speed
Press: Berkeley, CA; 1992.
3. Ludwig C. “Maxfield Parrish,” 3rd ed. Watson-Guptill
Publications: NY; 1975.
4. Yount S. “Maxfield Parrish: 1870 - 1966.” Harry N. Abrams,
Inc.: New York; 1999.