Major Parrish exhibit tours country

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(Host) Painter, Maxfield Parrish, was one of the most prominent members of the Cornish Arts Colony of New Hampshire and Vermont. Now a major retrospective of Parrish’s work is touring the country.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the exhibit includes some paintings destined for a new museum in Windsor.

(Zind) Parrish was among the most popular American artists of the early twentieth century. His paintings were owned by Hearsts, Rockefellers, DuPonts and Vanderbilts.

Parrish’s style is immediately recognizable. Idyllic scenes with colors ranging from deep tones to soft, luminescent pastels. Alma Gilbert-Smith has studied and written about Parrish and his work. Gilbert-Smith says she was captivated from the first moment she saw a Parrish painting as a child.

(Gilbert-Smith) “It was his treatment of light, the opening of the imagination and the possibilities and that sense of luminescence that his beautiful paintings are imbued with.”

(Zind) Gilbert-Smith is curator of the Parrish exhibit that is travelling to six cities. The exhibit showcases more than fifty of Parrish’s works, including the largest collection of Parrish murals ever displayed. One, known as the “DuPont Mural,” is being seen for the first time since it was restored by a team of fifty international experts. It’s taken four years to restore the twenty-two foot long painting.

Another of the paintings on display was stolen from Gilbert-Smith twenty years ago and recovered just last year. When the exhibit opens this week in Nevada, she’ll see it for the first time in two decades.

Another Parrish painting, titled ‘Jack Sprat,” will be on display for the very first time. The painting was found in the donation bin of the Good Samaritan Hospital Auxiliary in Chicago. When the hospital auxiliary called Gilbert-Smith to see if it had any value, she asked them to tell her what it said on the back of the painting.

(Gilbert-Smith) “And on the back it says: ‘Maxfield Parrish, Windsor, Vermont’. Bingo!”

(Zind) It turned out to be an original Parrish painting valued in the six figures.

The Cornish Arts Colony which thrived from the 1880s to the 1930s, was located in Plainfield and Cornish, New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont. Gilbert-Smith says Windsor was central to the lives of the artists.

(Gilbert-Smith) “That was the hub of commerce. There was no commerce in Plainfield or Cornish. They had the post office, they had the banks, they had the shopping, they had the groceries. It all took place in Windsor, Vermont.”

(Zind) The Cornish Colony Museum, which closed last year in Cornish, will reopen next month in Windsor. Next year, a number of the Parrish paintings, including the DuPont Mural and the paintings owned by Alma Gilbert-Smith will become part of the permanent collection at the museum.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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