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Maurice Brazil Prendergast

 (1858 - 1924)
Maurice Brazil Prendergast was active/lived in Massachusetts, New York / France.  Maurice Prendergast is known for modernist genre-crowds, landscape and still life painting.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast

    PREN-der-gast  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Maurice Brazil Prendergast
Much influenced by the Post-Impressionists* and Fauves* in Paris, Maurice Prendergast became a leading name in modernist American art and is known for his depictions of urban leisure-class people enjoying themselves in idyll landscapes and beach scenes.

His style was based on a carefully adjusted combination of colors, which were applied to the canvas in dots, patches, and layers. His compositions were typically laid out in horizontal zones that flattened forms and emphasized the richness of the surface texture. He stylized his figures, which were mostly female, into monumental goddesses, sometimes nude and sometimes clothed, who assume the stately poses of the antique but keep their humanity by playing with a dog or sporting a fashionable hat.

Early in his career, he painted with watercolor but switched to oil in 1900.

Prendergast was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, and at age ten moved to Boston with his family. In the mid-1870s, he was an apprentice to a painter of show cards, and from this job, he began working with watercolor, his principal medium until 1900 when he turned to oil painting. Later he worked as a letterer, sign painter, and poster designer and during the late 1880s, worked in beach resorts in the Boston area.

In 1891, he went to Paris where he attended the Atelier Colarossi* and the Academie Julian*. Through his friendship with James Wilson Morrice, be became familiar with leading-edge art especially Symbolism*, Art Nouveau*, and Nabis* painting that combined abstraction and naive art. He also painted in Normandy.

In 1894, he returned to the Boston area, settling permanently in Winchester, Massachusetts and began exhibiting there and in New York as well as at the Chicago Art Institute and the Cincinnati Art Museum. A trip to Paris, in 1907, opened his eyes to Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, leading Fauve artists whose style and use of color he spent the rest of his life exploring.

In 1908, he exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery* in New York with The Eight,* a group of painters led by Robert Henri who shocked many viewers because of their emphasis on familiar, often unpleasant subjects such as derelicts in back alleys.

When Prendergast was in his late fifties and early sixties, he painted a number of large canvases such as Sunset and Sea Fog, in the Phillips Collection of Washington DC, on the theme of the seaside park, which he felt evoked an idyllic world where opposites were reconciled: nature and civilization, past and present, movement and rest.

The scene, based on Prendergast's many sketches of actual seaside parks along the Massachusetts coastline, is transformed into a fairy tale by the setting sun and a mysterious red-haired equestrienne. At this point in Prendergast's career, he was searching for artistic statements that were more monumental and lasting than the small scale, naturalistic works of his early years. He was also at pains to create a style that was uniquely his own, one that would take advantage of the liberation of color and form that came with modernism but would not slavishly follow the succession of "isms" such as Futurism*, Cubism*, and Synchromism*, to which he saw other modernist artists falling prey.

In 1913, he had been an organizer of the Armory Show,* the forward-looking exhibition of contemporary European and American art, but he said with a chuckle that there was "too much-0 my God!-art there."

Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary


Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Born in 1858 in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Maurice Prendergast grew up in Boston, where he completed high school at age fourteen and went to work for Loring and Waterhouse, a dry goods firm. He later worked lettering posters. Prendergast did not receive formal art schooling until he was in his early thirties, when he went to Paris and enrolled in the académies Julian and Colarossi. During his three years abroad, Prendergast's emerging style was influenced by Japanese prints, Art Nouveau, and the art of James McNeill Whistler and the Nabis artists Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis. He was also influenced by the circle of Anglo-American artists that congregated at the "Chat Blanc" cafe.

By 1896 Prendergast was exhibiting regularly in Boston and other cities and his art was selling well. In 1898 he made an extensive tour of Italy, visiting Venice, Siena, Florence, Orvieto, Padua, Rome, Naples and Capri. At this time, his work became more complex and spatially integrated. Prendergast returned to Boston amidst increasing recognition and acclaim. In 1900 he was given a one-man show at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. This success was followed by a bronze medal in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and successful exhibitions at the Detroit and Cincinnati art museums.

Prendergast was initially an urban genre painter. His concentration on leisure activities of the middle-class in public spaces reflected the interests of his patrons, as well as the influence of French Impressionist artists Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. His signature theme was the crowd, and his figures are anonymous: Each individual is engaged in a specific activity within the context of the group. In contrast to the anecdotal viewpoints of his American contemporaries John Sloan and William Glackens, Prendergast's remote, disengaged viewpoint displays a closer affinity with the French Impressionists. Prendergast's colorful paintings have a mosaic- or tapestry-like quality related to the pointillist style developed by Georges Seurat. They present flat, bold areas of color combined with a compression of perspective and scale.

Prendergast's official affiliation with The Eight began when he exhibited his work in the group's inaugural exhibition in 1908. Consequently, he became involved in organizing the famous Armory Show of 1913, an event that played a major role in introducing modern art to American viewers and patrons and enhanced Prendergast's own stature as an artist. Following the Armory Show, he was persuaded by friends and colleagues to move to New York City. He was elected President of the American Association of Painters and Sculptors in 1914 and settled into a highly productive and lucrative period. Prendergast emerged as a significant figure in American modernism as his work shifted from Fauvism into increased formalism, culminating in a semiabstract style. The artist died in New York City on February 1, 1924.

Paintings and works on paper by Prendergast are represented in major public art collections throughout the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C.; Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; and Saint Louis Art Museum.

© Copyright 2007 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.
Biography photo for Maurice Brazil Prendergast
Prendergast, Maurice (American, 1858-1924)

Maurice Prendergast is known as neo-impressionist rather than an "Ash-Can" painter who was a member of the famous 1908 group "The Eight." He is known for his lively, playful scenes of parks and beaches that combine bold contoured forms with decorative surface patterning and bright, prismatic color. For most of his career he worked primarily in watercolor, but in the mid-teens began to paint more in oil and he made over 210 monotypes (1892-1905).

Prendergast was a painter, illustrator and graphic artist who was born in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1858. His family came to Boston in 1861, then to Winchester, MA and finally to New York City in 1914. Prendergast studied at the Academie Julian in Paris with Jean Paul Laurens (1887-1889); at the Academie Colaross, Rome with Blanc (1891-1895) and the Canadian J.W. Morrice in Paris. He traveled abroad six times.

By the time of his death in New York City in 1924, Prendergast had become one of the most famous American painters, well known for his views of the coastlines, beaches and parks in and around New England and Italy.

He was a member of the New York Water Color Club; Copley Society (1898); Boston Water Color Club; Guild of Boston Artists; American Painters and Sculptors; Society of Independent Artists and the New Society of Artists.

Prendergast is represented in almost all major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Boston's Museum of Fine Art; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; Williams College Museum (including archival material); Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum; Worcester Art Museum; Cincinnati Museum of Art; Carnegie Institute; Detroit Institute of Art; Fogg Museum; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute; Terra Museum of American Art; Lehigh University; Los Angeles County Museum and many more throughout the world.

P.J. Pierce

Biography from Owen Gallery
Maurice Prendergast was born in Newfoundland. However, at the age of ten, he relocated with his family to Boston, Massachusetts. Prendergast earliest artistic training appears to have been at the Academie Julian in Paris, circa 1891. The first known inclusion of Prendergast's work in an exhibition was at the Boston Arts Club in 1895.

Prendergast, more so than many other artists of his day, kept abreast of new developments in avant-garde European art. By means of frequent and extended travels abroad, the artist was quite familiar with the work of the European Post-Impressionists as is clearly reflected in the flattened forms and intricate patterns in many of his paintings.

It was not until 1914 that Maurice Prendergast (along with his brother, Charles--an artist in his own right) relocated to New York City. By this time, Prendergast had already enjoyed considerable exposure and success through inclusion in such New York shows as the 1908 Macbeth Gallery exhibition, the 1910 Exhibition of Independent Artists, and the 1913 Armory Show.

Prendergast died in New York City in 1924.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art
Maurice Prendergast was born in Newfoundland, in 1858. His family moved to Boston when he was a boy, where he was apprenticed to a sign painter. Prendergast studied formally in Paris at the Academies Julian and Colarossi and returned to Massachusetts in 1894.

His work caught the attention of patrons Mr. and Mrs. Sears, who helped him finance travels and exhibitions in Cincinnati and Chicago. While on a trip to Paris in 1907, Prendergast first saw the vibrant works of the Post-Impressionists who would strongly influence his work. His works are often bright and richly worked scenes of people at leisure.

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About  Maurice Brazil Prendergast

Born:  1858 - St. John's, Newfoundland
Died:   1924 - New York City
Known for:  modernist genre-crowds, landscape and still life painting