Maurice B. Prendergast (1861-1924)

Maurice B. Prendergast (1861-1924)

Born in St. John’s, New Foundland, Maurice Prendergast came to Boston with his family in 1861 after their business had failed. He attended the Rice Grammer School in Boston for eight years and started full-time work at the age of 14. He spent time working at Doll and Richards Gallery doing odd jobs, and eventually learned graphic design.  He was thirty- two by the time he went to Paris, where he enrolled at the Academie Julian with Jean Paul Laurens, Benjamin Constant and Joseph Blanc from 1887 until 1889. He returned to Paris in 1891 and continued his studies at the Academie Colarossi with Gustave Coutois from 1891 until 1895.  When he returned from Paris he settled in Winchester, Massachusetts, and supplemented his income designing posters, book covers and book illustrations for Boston publishing companies. He traveled throughout Europe, visiting France, Italy, England and Paris several times.  

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In May of 1907 Prendergast returned to France with the intention of spending the summer painting at Le Havre, but unfavorable weather conditions forced him to remain in Paris.  That summer in Paris Prendergast saw for the first time an exhibition of watercolors by Cezanne.  He was immediately taken by the new styles put forth by the French and made a practice of visiting galleries where he sketched works by Matisse and Cezanne.  He brought these sketches back to the United States and was the first to introduce these new ideals to an American audience. Prendergast is best known for his brightly colored beach and park scenes, painted both in America and abroad.

On a summer sketching trip to St. Malo, Prendergast produced a series of watercolors that possess the same bold brushstrokes and intense color exhibited in Fauvist paintings, which were predominant in Paris galleries at the time. In 1908 he exhibited many of his St. Malo watercolors in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., venues throughout the mid-west, and as far west as Portland, Oregon. 

References: See Who Was Who in America Art (1999).; Nancy Mowll Mathews, Maurice Prendergast (Williams College Museum of Art: Prestel, 1990).  

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