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Maurice Prendergast

Maurice Prendergast
Prendergast in 1913, photo by Gertrude Käsebier
Born Maurice Brazil Prendergast
(1858-10-10)October 10, 1858
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
Died February 1, 1924(1924-02-01) (aged 65)
Nationality American
Education Académie Colarossi, Académie Julian Paris
Known for Post-Impressionism, Painting

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (October 10, 1858 – February 1, 1924) was an American Post-Impressionist artist who worked in oil, watercolor, and monotype. He exhibited as a member of The Eight, though the delicacy of his compositions and mosaic-like beauty of his style differed from the artistic intentions and philosophy of the group.


  • Biography 1
  • "The Eight" 2
  • Work 3
  • Gallery 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Maurice Prendergast and his twin sister, Lucy, were born at their family's subarctic trading post in the city of St. John's, in Newfoundland, then a colony in British North America. After the trading post failed, the family moved to Boston. He grew up in the South End and was apprenticed as a youth to a commercial artist.[1] This conditioned him from the start to the brightly colored, flat patterning effects that characterized his mature work.[2] He was also inspired by the example of Boston Impressionist Childe Hassam.[3] A shy individual who experienced increasing deafness in his later years, Prendergast remained a bachelor throughout his life. He became closely attached to his younger brother Charles, who was also a post-impressionist painter.

Prendergast studied in Paul Cézanne and to understand and utilize his expressive use of form and color.[4]

Prendergast returned to Boston in 1895 and worked mainly in watercolor and Everett Shinn, and Arthur B. Davies, a group collectively known after the show as The Eight. Glackens in particular became a lifelong friend.[8]

Despite poor health that hindered his work, Prendergast continued to show in major exhibitions throughout the remainder of his life. Important collectors like Albert Barnes and Ferdinand Howald became his patrons after his shows at the Carroll Gallery and the Daniel Gallery.[9] His seven works at the landmark Armory Show of 1913 presented examples of his stylistic maturity.[10] Seen in company with the most adventurous examples of Post-Impressionism and Fauvism, "his critical reception grew more favorable in [the] immediate aftermath [of that exhibition.]"[11] In 1916, he participated in the "Fifty at Montross" show at the Montross Gallery, which also included works by Cézanne, Matisse, Seurat, and Van Gogh. His work was the subject of a retrospective at Joseph Brummer Gallery in 1921, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art declined to host a Prendergast memorial retrospective after his death in 1924; at that time, his art was still seen as too demanding and advanced for the Metropolitan's trustees. His first New York memorial exhibition was held ten years later at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[12]

"The Eight"

Prendergast exhibited at the Macbeth Galleries in 1908 with the short-lived association of artists known as "The Eight" because he supported their protest against the academic bias and restrictive exhibition policies of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. He believed in a "no jury, no prizes" openness that would allow independent or unconventional artists greater opportunities to find a wider, appreciative audience for their work. Ironically, this controversial exhibition, which acquired legendary status in American art history, is seen as a seminal moment in the public response to Ashcan realism, as that form of gritty urban representational art was the style practiced by five of the participants (Henri, Sloan, Luks, Shinn, and Glackens), but Prendergast has nothing in common, in style or content, with that school of painting. Prendergast was far more a Modernist than any of the other seven members of the The Eight. His ties to The Eight did not necessarily help his reputation in the long run: "Prendergast's irrevocable association with The Eight left him stylistically isolated in genealogies of modern art."[13] A true independent, he fits into no particular category of modern American art.


Sunny Day at the Beach

Prendergast's work was strongly associated from the beginning with leisurely scenes set on beaches and in parks. His early work was mostly in watercolor or monotype, and he produced over two hundred monotypes between 1895 and 1902.[14] He also experimented with oil painting in the 1890s, but did not focus on that medium until the early 1900s.[15]

He developed early in his career and continued throughout his life to elaborate a highly personal style, with boldly contrasting, jewel-like colors, and flattened, pattern-like forms rhythmically arranged on a canvas. Forms were radically simplified and presented in flat areas of bright, unmodulated color. His paintings have been aptly described as tapestry-like or resembling mosaics.



  1. ^ Biographical information for this entry is taken from Mathews and Roberts.
  2. ^ Roberts, p. 54.
  3. ^ Mathews, p. 12.
  4. ^ Mathews, pp. 12-20, 23-24.
  5. ^ Mathews, pp. 17-18.
  6. ^ Kennedy, p. 110.
  7. ^ Kennedy, p. 111.
  8. ^ Roberts, p. 54.
  9. ^ Roberts, p. 54.
  10. ^ Mathews, pp. 23-30.
  11. ^ Kennedy, p. 115.
  12. ^ Kennedy, p. 116.
  13. ^ Kennedy, p. 116.
  14. ^ Mathews, pp. 141-143.
  15. ^ Roberts, p. 54.


  • Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Maurice B. Prendergast: The Modern Spirit" (pp. 109–119) in Elizabeth Kennedy (ed.), The Eight and American Modernisms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).
  • Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Maurice Prendergast. New York: Prestel/Williams College Museum of Art, 1990.
  • Roberts, Norma J. (ed.). The American Collections. Columbus, OH: Columbus Museum of Art, 1988.

Further reading

  • Adelson, Warren; Seldin, Donna (1987). The Remembered Image: Prendergast Watercolors 1896-1906. New York: Universe Books. ISBN 0-87663-509-5.

External links

  • Biography at the National Gallery of Art
  • Maurice Brazil Prendergast Virtual Gallery
  • Prendergast Archive & Study Center, Williams College Museum of Art
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