Graydon Parrish  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
new figurative art

Graydon Parrish (born 1970) is a realist painter living in Austin, Texas. He is a leading figure in the contemporary revival of classical painting. He is also prominent in what is referred to as the atelier movement, a worldwide reappraisal of art education.


Graydon Parrish was born in Phoenix, Arizona, but spent the majority of his childhood in East Texas. His parents, noted collectors of American and European nineteenth-century art, exposed him to painting at a young age. This exposure instilled a love for painting technique and figuration then out of fashion in the art world at large.

Parrish attended the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and graduated in 1988. Unable to find further classical art training, he learned of the newly formed New York Academy of Art in the summer of that year created by Andy Warhol and Stuart Pivar. There, Parrish joined other students who have become leading figures in the classical art revival, including Jacob Collins, founder of the Grand Central Academy of Art where Parrish is now an instructor. It is also at the New York Academy where Parrish met his mentor Michael Aviano, a student himself of illustrator and muralist Frank J. Reilly. Aviano’s dedication to rational concepts and scholarship gave bearing to Parrish’s own outlook. Since then he has remodeled color theories by Albert Munsell and Joseph Albers to fit traditional painting methods.

After graduating from the New York Academy with an MFA in painting, Parrish went on to study at Amherst College, earning an additional BA and majoring in independent studies. His large thesis painting, Remorse, Despondence and the Acceptance of an Early Death, an allegory of the early AIDS epidemic, helped earn Parrish summa cum laude honors and was purchased by the trustees for the Mead Art Museum. Parrish went on to show both at Hirschl and Adler Galleries in New York and Galerie Benamou in Paris, where he still exhibits. Then, his subjects were mainly allegories and nudes. In 2001, The Tyler Museum of Art purchased Victory, a nude inspired by the antique bronze An Athlete Crowning Himself in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Parrish's nudes are also informed by his research in French 19th century art. With Gerald M. Ackerman, a leading expert in the field, he has revised and annotated the Cours de Dessins by Jean Leon Gérôme and Charles Bargue.

In 2002, Douglas Hyland, the director of the New Britain Museum of Art, approached Parrish to create an allegorical tribute to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The completed painting, The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy, is over 18 feet long and is one of the largest realist paintings ever created in America. However, it has become somewhat controversial, both for its unabashedly academic style, inspired both by Jacques Louis David and William Bouguereau, and for its highly symbolic content, said to express the cycle of denial and tragedy. It has been compared and contrasted with Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa, both comments on catastrophes. Today it hangs in the Chase Wing of the New Britain Museum of Art next to figurative pieces by Julie Heffernan and Chuck Close. It has become a regular destination and subject of debate for New England residents. It is also scheduled to tour in early 2010.

From 1994 to 2008 Parrish maintained a studio in Amherst, Massachusetts, sharing a home with Amherst College Professor Donald S. Pitkin, anthropologist and author of The House that Giacomo Built / History of an Italian Family 1898-1978. Pitkin’s ideas of community and family influenced Parrish’s subsequent works, including his current Freedom Red project, a synthesis of art and activism which donates proceeds to HIV/AIDS charities. In 2008, he relocated to Austin, Texas to be near his family, teach, and contribute to the growing independent Austin art scene, including Austin Art House, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Austin Museum of Art.


Graydon Parrish’s style is a mix of classical realism and contemporary realism. He has shown with avant-garde favorites and reactionary classicists including Lisa Yuskavage and Walton Ford. His style might also be characterized by the moniker New Old Master (coined by Donald Kuspit). Parrish counts among his contemporary influences realist painters Odd Nerdrum, Jacob Collins, Steven Assael, Christopher Pugliese and Daniel Sprick, as well as the colorist Bridget Riley.

Parrish's collectors include Christopher Forbes, Michael Huffington, Diane Sawyer, Rita and David Traff, Vernon and Amy Faulkner, Therèse Garner, Lloyd and Renée Greif, and Paul and Melinda Sullivan. His public collections include the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, the Tyler Museum of Art in Tyler, TX, and the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Graydon Parrish" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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