St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
New York City, New York
Summary of Maurice Prendergast
Through his trips to Europe, Prendergast encountered and absorbed many new ideas relating to the practices and production of art. He took these with him back to the USA where he incorporated them into his own work to create a unique and personal style which helped to introduce and popularize Modernism in America. Prendergast continued to develop his art throughout his life, trialing new mediums and experimenting widely with notions of color and form. Fascinated by people and busy scenes, his work is reflective of contemporary ideas pertaining to health, leisure, and the benefits of the outdoors and he often presented a utopian take on the sights he painted.
All of his work contained a sense of energy and motion. In addition, his paintings became increasingly abstract as his career progressed.
- Prendergast drew inspiration from the work of European Post Impressionists and he was a leading figure in introducing these new concepts and styles to American audiences. He was particularly interested in color and his use of bold pigments make a vibrant statement throughout his work, highlighting emotional and pictorial elements.
- Although working in a range of mediums including oils and monotypes (a print taken from a design created in oil paint or printing ink on glass or metal), he often painted with watercolors and is known for his expertise with these, particularly his flowing technique and unusual use of strong colors.
- The majority of Prendergast's work depicts scenes of contemporary life, focusing on groups of people in outdoor locations - the street, beach and park. He was particularly interested in painting women and captured fashionable clothing and accessories with a keen eye for detail. The themes of his work inspired later generations of artists to record leisure activities in a similar manner.
- Prendergast created a large number of monotypes and the dissemination of these helped to promote the idea of fine art color prints to the wider public.
Biography of Maurice Prendergast
Maurice Prendergast was born to an American mother and Canadian father at the family's sub-Arctic trading post in St John's, Newfoundland.
Important Art by Maurice Prendergast
Along the Seine was created during Prendergast's first trip to Paris where he was exposed to a wide range of new artistic styles. The majority of his work at this period was painted in watercolors and this image is an important early example of his use of oils.
When not attending art classes he spent a great deal of his time absorbing scenes of Parisian life which he turned into subjects for his paintings, setting a precedent for his later work. The fashionably dressed woman strolling along the river provides an early example of Prendergast's focus on leisure activities and portrayals of clothing. The colors are muted apart from the yellow leaves on the tree and ground and this hints at an early exploration of the impact of color within a composition.
The impact of French Impressionism is present in the image in terms of both style and subject matter and this can be attributed to the influence of painters such as Édouard Manet and the American, James McNeill Whistler.
This work provides a fine example of the crowd scenes that Prendergast often painted, in this instance a sunny afternoon on a Massachusetts beach. Prendergast painted extensively in New England depicting the social spaces of beaches and parks. Working in watercolor, he demonstrates his mastery over the medium, combining detail with a freedom of brushwork. More experimental in style than some of his earlier work, this image is a sensitive response to Post Impressionism.
The complex arrangement exhibits a charming sense of innocence combined with a formal sophistication. The figures are arranged in a flowing line throughout the picture and this rhythm is emphasized by the distribution of vibrant blocks of color - parasols and bright dresses stand out against the other white figures and the rocky shoreline. The red elements of the image draw the eye upwards to the top left of the painting and the flowing lines of the white dresses are reflected in the sails of the yachts. The jewel colors, flattened perspective and decorative style suggests comparisons with tapestry work or mosaics.
This is one of a number of works Prendergast created based on sights he saw during a trip to St Malo, France in 1907. The same sinuous shapes seen in earlier works continue to be visible but the influence of Pointillism and Fauvism can be noted in the vibrant blues and greens and loose brushstrokes. The group of figures in the foreground and the rocky headland in the background form a static framework to the curving quay which carries the observer's eye across the painting from left to right.
Prendergast selected paintings from the St Malo series to display in 'The Eight' exhibition of 1908.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Maurice Prendergast
- Maurice PrendergastOur PickBy Richard J. Wattenmaker
- Maurice PrendergastOur PickBy Nancy Mowll Mathews
- Maurice Prendergast: By the SeaBy Joachim Homann
- Maurice Prendergast: Paintings of AmericaBy Pamela Ivinski
- Prendergast in ItalyBy Nancy Mowll Matthews and Elizabeth Kennedy
- The Beach Scenes of William Glackens and Maurice PrendergastOur PickThis video provides a lecture by The Barnes Foundation Senior Instructor William Perthes discussing the beach paintings of artists Maurice Prendergast and William Glackens
- Video: Co-Curators of Prendergast Show Chat About the Artist's Seaside PaintingsOur PickIn this video clip, curators Nancy Mowll Mathews and Joachim Homann discuss the Bowdoin College Museum of Art's exhibition "Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea" (June 29 - October 13, 2013)