Glimpse of the Harbor, Gloucester

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1859-1934)

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• In this painting, Prendergast handled watercolor with his characteristic freedom, wielding thin washes in loosely knit strokes and allowing the white paper to become part of the composition. Contemporary critics noted that Prendergast’s loose style fit his leisurely subjects.   • The artist often painted scenes of people enjoying New England’s waterfronts, piers, and promenades. Prendergast’s focus may have been influenced by his earlier studies in France, where he was exposed to French Impressionist visions of modern leisure.    • Gloucester Bay, a historic seaside village and important fishing and shipping center, attracted many painters, including Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam.
Urban Realism

Maurice Prendergast was born in Newfoundland, Canada. When his father’s business failed, the family came to Boston where he was apprenticed to a commercial artist. He studied in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian. Prendergast became a member of the group of American painters known as The Eight, who included Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, John Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, and William Glackens. Prendergast was considered a post-impressionist because of his use of simplified forms, flat areas of boldly contrasted colors and rhythmically, decorative patterning. His complex arrangements have been described as tapestry-like or resembling mosaics. Unlike the Ashcan School members of The Eight, Prendergast favored people involved in leisure activities rather than gritty, urban scenes. Prendergast earned considerable attention (but meager sales) for his watercolors and oils depicting bustling crowds. He is remembered today as one of the first Americans to adopt the ideas of Cézanne and turn them into his personal interpretation of Post-Impressionism. Prendergast’s brother Charles was an important frame maker whose frames can often be seen on his brother’s work.

In Glimpse of the Harbor, Gloucester, Prendergast handles this watercolor view of the Massachusetts harbor with typical freedom, wielding thin washes in loosely knit strokes and allowing broad areas of the white paper to figure in the composition. Patterns contrast between rigid geometry and curvilinear forms. The people are characteristically blended into the scene so they do not disturb the rhythm of the composition.


Richard J. Wattenmaker. Maurice Prendergast, New York: Harry N Abrams, 1994. ISBN-13: 978-0810937260

Object Information

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1859-1934)
creation date
about 1916-1919
watercolor over pencil on paper
13-1/4 x 10 in.
24 x 29-3/4 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of the Gamboliers
Public Domain
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

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