Library Digitizes Maxfield Parrish Letters
May 20, 2019
In the summer of 1884, fourteen-year-old Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) arrived in London. The young illustrator would spend two years abroad with his parents traveling to various cities and recording his experiences in a series of letters to his friend and cousin, Henry Bancroft. Parrish’s letters reveal unique details of continental travel, popular culture, and societal values at the end of the 19th century from a distinctly American perspective.
In 1951 the Delaware Art Museum was given 34 letters and postcards written and illustrated by Parrish to his cousin between 1883 and 1909, including 18 from his travels in Europe. These letters have all been recently digitized and transcribed, and are available to view as part of the Digital Collections of the Helen Farr Sloan Library & Archives.
An online exhibition showcases many of Parrish’s European letters. The accompanying illustrations provide visual endorsement to the written text, further emphasizing the opinions, attitudes, and beliefs expressed. The letters reveal an innate—even impulsive—desire to describe, which manifests itself simultaneously in text and image. These early attempts to convey a place or event to the reader foreshadow the sophisticated renderings that gained Parrish such a broad audience later in life as the leading commercial artist of the early 20th century.