Ninety-year-old Marian Parry celebrates publication of volume of watercolour illustrations.
In 1952, Marian Parry presented her editor Curt Valentin with The Paris Book, a series of illustrations depicting the French capital during the early 1950s. But the project fell by the wayside after the editor’s death the following year. Over 60 years passed before the book was resurrected thanks to an independent publisher, Un-Gyve.
After blowing out the candles on her 90th birthday cake, American illustrator Marian Parry has another reason to celebrate: The Paris Book, a volume consisting of 20 of her watercolour illustrations.
The adventure began in 1952, when Parry’s friend, the American painter Ben Shahn, encouraged her to create the book and present it to Curt Valentin, who was known for publishing limited editions of poets’ and novelists’ works illustrated by contemporary artists.
Long before her friend’s suggestion, Parry had come up with a story about a character fascinated by Europe and by the French capital in particular, brought to life through illustrations in her watercolour sketchbook. The character, which has the head of a bird and the body of a human, is seen strolling through 1950s Paris among artists in berets, ladies in fur coats and people enjoying the city’s famous cafés. The illustrator presented these images to the editor, who died a year later, leaving the project in limbo.
Marian Parry had a personal fondness for the project, having spent part of her childhood in Paris, where her family moved due to her father’s work. As an adult, she returned several times to the city, which continued to occupy a special place in her heart, as seen in her poetic renderings of Parisian life. And fortunately, the illustrations were not destined to remain in obscurity.