Land of Make Believe

Maxfield Parrish 1870 1966 Land of Make Believe 20th Century Paintings Christie s

Land of Make Believe – Maxfield Parrish, 1905. Oil, 40×33″. This image is from the Christies website, from their 2004 sale. The painting sold for $3.5 million USD.

The painting Land of Make Believe was a landmark painting for Maxfield Parrish. It marks the first time that Susan Lewin posed for him (twice, here). This is also the first example of what would come to be known as the “girls on rocks” paintings: young women, classically dressed, enjoying solitude in some magnificent setting. It took Parrish seven years to find a buyer for the image, but as always, his marketing sense was unerring. The public responded in a big way. Thus Parrish shrewdly found a way to do more of the type of painting he loved most: landscape. In fact, he would often wait until a landscape was complete, and only then, using a skillfully cut-out paper figure, decide where to place the girl. After the painting was published, he would sometimes go back and paint out the girl.

Sue Lewin posing for LOMB

Susan Lewin posing for the first time.

In 1905, while she was still living with and working for Stephen Parrish and his cousin Anne, Susan created the above costume for herself, following MP’s instructions and sketches. She then posed for the first time for Parrish’s camera, standing in front of a large canvas or board. You can make out the preliminary line drawing for a new painting. The large format glass plates allowed Parrish to project the photographs onto canvas, to speed the preliminary drawing process.

The image of the painting from Christies, is about the best reproduction I’ve been able to find. Assuming the colors shown are pretty close (it was probably shot from the actual painting), you can get an idea of the state of four-color reproduction in magazines in 1912 by comparing the Christies image with the following from Scribners. Parrish struggled with printers to reproduce his work accurately.

LOMB Scribners 1912

“Land of Make Believe” in Scribner’s, 1912

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