Artists in the Collection
Maurice Prendergast (1858–1924) is often considered the first American modernist. He is renowned for watercolors and oil paintings that frequently depict men and women at leisure in seaside and park settings. With their brightly colored and freely applied paint, his works often lean toward abstraction and served as vital models for following generations of American abstract painters.
Prendergast was born in Newfoundland and grew up in Boston. He worked as a clerk in a department store and as a commercial artist, making souvenir cards and shop signs. His brother Charles also became an accomplished artist and craftsman. Like many other artists at the time, Maurice was drawn to Paris, where he studied at the independent schools of the Atelier Colarossi and Académie Julian from 1891 to 1894. His exposure during this time to the work of James McNeill Whistler and the decorative patterns of the Nabis would have a lasting influence.
Upon his return from Paris he gained acclaim in Boston as a watercolorist. After a two-year stay in Italy he spent more time in New York, where he exhibited widely and became associated with the avant-garde circle known as The Eight. Prendergast became increasingly experimental with watercolor as well as oil painting, particularly after a 1907 trip to France, where he came under the spell of Paul Cézanne’s work. In 1913, Prendergast served on the selection committees for both American and foreign art for the Armory Show; a number of his works were included in this exhibition, which proved to be a major landmark in the history of modern art in the United States.