The generous (if selective and unfocused) array of pictures don’t quite compensate for a vague, sketchy accompanying narrative in this biography, the first about the influential painter aimed at young people.
Visuals dominate on the page. Harris adds to large photos and samples of Parrish’s adult work an elaborately detailed dragon he drew at age 7, a letter from his teens festooned with funny caricatures and a page of college chemistry notes tricked out with Palmer Cox–style brownies. Rather than include “Daybreak” (his most famous work) or any of Parrish’s characteristically androgynous figures, though, she tucks in semi-relevant but innocuous images from other artists of places Parrish visited and—just because in his prime he was grouped with them for the wide popularity of his reproduced art—a Van Gogh and a Cézanne. Along with steering a careful course in her account of Parrish’s private life (avoiding any reference to his lifelong mistress and frequent model Sue Lewin, for instance), the author makes only a few vague comments about the artist’s distinctive style and technique. In the same vein, she passes quickly over his influences, reduces all of his book-illustration work to one brief mention and closes with the laughable claim that he was the first artist in history who “created for more than a few.”Once a household name and worth knowing at least for that, Parrish deserves more than this cursory onceover. (Biography. 7-10)