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Artists Maurice Prendergast
Maurice Prendergast Photo

Maurice Prendergast

American Painter

Movements and Styles: Fauvism, Impressionism, Pointillism, Post-Impressionism, Realism

Born: October 10, 1858 - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Died: February 1, 1924 - New York City, New York

Maurice Prendergast Timeline

Quotes

"I was much influenced by Pissarro but with the watercolors it was nature pure and simple. Some effects I would see would really drive me frantic."
Maurice Prendergast
"I am working. My mind is virtually set to compose, to which everything else is secondary, that is, which interferes with my work."
Maurice Prendergast
"Italy is the place for ideas to dance a high step on the paint box."
Maurice Prendergast
"If the circumstances of a man's life admitted the acquisitions of only one set of ideas his works would be thin...."
Maurice Prendergast
"The Signs of Genius is the power of recognizing and assimilating that which is necessary to the development of oneself.... We come into the world with nothing in our own right except the capacity for the acquisition of ideas. We cannot invent ideas, we can only gather some of those in circulation since the beginning of the world. We endow them with the color and form of our own time and if that color and form be of a supreme quality the work is preserved as a representation of a period in the history of civilization.... Genius is the power of assimilation. Only fools think the[y] invent."
Maurice Prendergast

"The best painting isn't done by boys. It's the work of mature men."

Synopsis

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.

Key Ideas

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

Maurice Prendergast Photo

Childhood

Maurice Prendergast was born to an American mother and Canadian father at the family's sub-Arctic trading post in St John's, Newfoundland.

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Maurice Prendergast Biography Continues

Important Art by Maurice Prendergast

The below artworks are the most important by Maurice Prendergast - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Along the Seine (1892-94)

Along the Seine (1892-94)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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 Edouard Manet and the American, James McNeill Whistler.

Oil on canvas - Collection of Whitney Museum of America Art, New York, New York

The Stony Beach, Ogunquit (1896-97)

The Stony Beach, Ogunquit (1896-97)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Watercolor and pencil on paper - Private Collection

Lighthouse at St. Malo (1907)

Lighthouse at St. Malo (1907)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Oil on canvas - Collection of The William Benton, Museum of Art, The University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

More Maurice Prendergast Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Maurice Prendergast
Interactive chart with Maurice Prendergast's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Nicolas PoussinNicolas Poussin

Personal Contacts

Albert Barnes
Charles DanielCharles Daniel
Duncan Phillips
Charles Prendergast
John Quinn

Movements

Der Blaue ReiterDer Blaue Reiter
The Eight
FauvismFauvism
Folk ArtFolk Art
ImpressionismImpressionism

Influences on Artist
Maurice Prendergast
Maurice Prendergast
Years Worked: 1891 - 1923
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Arthur Davies
William GlackensWilliam Glackens
Robert HenriRobert Henri
Walt Kuhn
Charles Prendergast

Personal Contacts

Albert Barnes
Charles DanielCharles Daniel
Duncan Phillips
John Quinn

Movements

FauvismFauvism
PointillismPointillism
Post-ImpressionismPost-Impressionism
The Eight

Useful Resources on Maurice Prendergast

Books

Websites

Articles

Videos

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Maurice Prendergast Recomended resource

By Richard J. Wattenmaker

artworks

Maurice Prendergast Recomended resource

By Nancy Mowll Mathews

Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea

By Joachim Homann

More Interesting Books about Maurice Prendergast
In the Sun-Dappled World of Maurice Prendergast Recomended resource

Roberta Smith
The New York Times
June 15, 1990

The Beach Scenes of William Glackens and Maurice Prendergast Recomended resource

This 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 Paintings Recomended resource

In 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)

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kate Stephenson

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kate Stephenson
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