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.