The Park, Salem

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1859-1934)

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The artist translated the activities of everyday life into a loosely knit tapestry of flat, bold areas of color.

Prendergast preferred the medium of watercolor.

The site for this watercolor is probably a nature park near Salem, Massachusetts.

Urban Realism

Maurice Prendergast was born in Newfoundland, Canada. When his father’s business failed, the family moved to Boston where he was apprenticed to a commercial artist. He studied in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian. Whether in Paris, Venice, or Boston, Prendergast was attracted to the vivid parade of everyday life. He 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. Until 1904 he worked almost exclusively in watercolor. Prendergast earned considerable attention (but meager sales) for his watercolors and later oils depicting bustling crowds. Prendergast is one of the first Americans to adopt the ideas of Cézanne and turn them into his personal interpretation of Post-Impressionism. His brother Charles was an important frame maker whose frames can often be seen on his brother’s work.

Prendergast translated the bustling activity of busy park scenes or passing crowds into flat, bold areas of percolating color arranged like a loosely knit tapestry of contrasting shapes and forms. While his technique became progressively decorative, Prendergast’s themes remained consistent. The site for Park Salem is believed to be a marine park near Salem, Massachusetts.

Reference

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

Object Information

artist
Maurice Brazil Prendergast (American, 1859-1934)
creation date
about 1913-1915
materials
watercolor over pencil on paper
dimensions
13-1/2 x 19-1/2 in.
24 x 29-3/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
signed in watercolor L.L.: Prendergast
accession number
34.16
credit line
Gift of the Gamboliers
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

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