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Illustration Art

Updated on May 18, 2013

The Most Popular Art Print of the 20th Century

Daybreak | Source

A Unique American Art Form

Illustration art can be defined as art that is created to illustrate magazines and other publications, as opposed to art that is created as a goal itself. Howard Pyle 1853-1911) of Wilmington, Delaware is considered its founder. The Pyle’s school of art is commonly called the Brandywine School, named after Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania where Pyle led an artist colony.

Illustration art was not critically acclaimed by the art establishment during its heyday in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Critics turned up their noses at an art form that was designed to adorn the covers of popular magazines. But beauty is beauty, whether it's on the cover of a magazine or adorning the wall of a museum.

The National Museum of American Illustration

Vernon Court
Vernon Court | Source
A markernational museum of american illustration -
National Museum of American Illustration, 492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840, USA
get directions

The National Museum of American Illustration

The National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island is the leading institution in the country devoted to illustration art. It was founded in 1998 by Judy A. G. Cutler and Lawrence Cutler. It is a private institution administered by the American Civilization Foundation. Located among the Gilded Age mansions on beautiful Bellevue Avenue, it is housed in Vernon Court, a Beaux Arts mansion built in 1898. You have to plan your visit carefully. It is only open to the public on Fridays. At other times it is open by special appointment only. The fee is $15, which you will consider a bargain after your visit. It’s website is

It's worth planning a tour of the mansionsto go with your visit to the National Museum of American Illustration. The mansions are maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County.

A Maxfield Parrish retrospective is on display through 2013.

Dinky Bird
Dinky Bird | Source
Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree
Princess Parizade Bringing Home the Singing Tree | Source

Maxfield Parrish

The works of Maxfield Parrish are among the most famous and ubiquitous paintings in the world. Born in 1870, he died in 1966 at the age of 95. Some of his most famous works were fantasy scenes in pastoral settings populated by nudes. His mistress, Susan Lewin, was his favorite model, posing for both male and female scenes. In 1931 Parrish decided to concentrate on painting landscapes. He famously said to a reporter, "I'm done with girls on rocks."

Parrish's works are famous for his striking use of light. His technique involved glazing, using alternating layers of oil paint and varnish. The result is a romantic explosion of imagined worlds, scenes that dazzle the eye.

It's difficult to put the works of Parrish into a simple category, because Parrish became a category unto himself. His greatest work, Daybreak, sold at auction in 2006 for $7.6 million.

His influence reached beyond his passing. His art has adorned the covers of music albums of artists such as Elton John's Caribou and The Moody Blues album The Present. The largest collection of Parrish's works is at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island. His largest painting, A Florentine Fete, painted in 1916, is included in the NMAI collection. It is made up of 18 murals, each 10.5 feet tall. As you stand in front of A Florentine Fete, you are taken in by the expressive faces, many of which are of his favorite model, Susan Lewin.

Rockwell's First Cover


Gramps at the Plate


Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell is synonymous with the word Americana. His illustrations adorned the covers of Saturday Evening Post magazine for over 40 years. Rockwell had a way of evoking emotion with his illustrations that was never surpassed. A large number of his most famous works are in a collection at the National Museum of American Illustration.

Rockwell was never taken seriously by the art community. Critics considered his work overly sentimental. But the public loved it, and still does.

Rockwell was a prolific artist with over 4,000 paintings. He would contributed a painting to the Boy Scouts calendars every year from 1925 to 1976. Rockwell died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1978 at the age of 84.

Everyone has a list of places they want to visit. The National Museum of American Illustration should be on yours.

Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran


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    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Ruth.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Ken. The Museum of Illustration is well worth the visit.


    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks for visiting. Yes, I love

      Rockwell's stuff too.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I was so thrilled to discover you included Norman Rockwell. SO many can relate to the feel-good small town atmospheres captured in so many of his paintings. He truly encompassed the feel of baseball and apple pie of American culture, particularly capturing the war years as well.

      Great article.

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Lesa and I love Parrish; so nice to see his work once again. Did not know his painting had sold for so much, and surely did not know about the RI Museum of Illustration. Have to get there one day, maybe this summer or fall. Fine hub -- and nicely illustrated! Ken

    • ruthieonart profile image

      ruthieonart 4 years ago from Plano, Texas

      I always loved the artist and their work.

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Thanks Bill. The SEP was like an old friend

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Great hub. I love Maxfield Parrish's work. It's interesting to remember that in the 1920's to 1940's, a lot of middle class homes had Parrish prints hanging on the walls. Rockwell, Parrish, and Wyeth were definitely household names during their careers. Thanks for sharing!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great examples here, Russ! I used to love the Saturday Evening Post...who wouldn't, right? Americana at its best my friend.