Prendergast Retrospective Exhibition At Bowdoin College Museum of Art: June 29 to October 13, 2013

Maurice Prendergast, South Boston Pier, Watercolor

Maurice Prendergast, South Boston Pier, Watercolor

Artist’s First Retrospective in Over Two Decades Features Over 90 Oil Paintings, Watercolors, and Sketchbooks

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea, Brunswick Maine

All Inspired by the Seaside Opening on Saturday, June 29, an exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (Brunswick, Maine) explores for the first time Maurice Prendergast’s lifelong fascination with the seaside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first retrospective of Prendergast’s work in over two decades, Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea is on view from June 29 through October 13, 2013 and showcases a selection of more than 90 works in a variety of media, all of which were inspired by popular summer enjoyment of the seashore.

Maurice Prendergast, St. Malo, No. 2, watercolor, ca. 1907

Maurice Prendergast, St. Malo, No. 2, watercolor, ca. 1907

Tracing the artist’s deepening interpretations of his favorite subject, the retrospective exhibition features works from more than thirty public and private collections and foregrounds Prendergast’s experimental style and leading role in the development of early American modernism.

The installation spans five galleries, each painted differently to support the artist’s famous jewel-like colors, allowing visitors to dive into Prendergast’s fantastical world.

On Saturday, June 29, Nancy Mowll Mathews, co-curator of Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea and former Eugenie Prendergast Senior Curator of 19th and 20th Century Art, Williams College Museum of Art, delivered the exhibition opening’s keynote address. “Sea Change: Prendergast, Maine, and the Coastlines of Modern Art.”

No artist captured the holiday atmosphere of the New England coast better than Maurice Prendergast,” explains the exhibition’s co-curator Nancy Mowll Mathews, co-author of the Prendergast catalogue raisonne.

“Through the scope and complexity of the works that we are bringing together, Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea will illustrate how Prendergast transformed the visible reality of seaside resorts and coastal villages into an imagined, Arcadian vision all his own,” adds co-curator Joachim Homann, Curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Maurice Prendergast, Harbor Village, watercolor, ca. 1916-19

Maurice Prendergast, Harbor Village, watercolor, ca. 1916-19

The focus on the theme of seaside leisure allowed Prendergast to create works of modern and experimental character shunning anecdotal subject matter in favor of formal innovation. The exhibition sheds light on the artist’s creative process by including a selection of Prendergast’s rarely seen sketchbooks and oil studies.

The sketchbooks provide visitors with an uncommon perspective on Prendergast’s extensive preparation of his compositions, highlighting his spontaneity and playfulness. In his oil sketches Prendergast heightened the sensual experience of beaches by liberating color.

Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea is the first exhibition to open under the leadership of the Museum’s new co-directors, Frank H. Goodyear III and Anne Collins Goodyear, who joined Bowdoin College on June 1.

“It is an honor to begin our time at the BCMA with this important retrospective of Maurice Prendergast, whose visionary and trailblazing work drew inspiration from this very region,” noted Frank Goodyear.

“Like Edward Hopper’s Maine (2011) and William Wegman: Hello Nature (2012), which explored the pleasures of summer through the eyes of insightful and rigorous artists, Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea continues to advance a fundamental part of the Museum’s mission to organize ambitious and accessible exhibitions that generate new scholarship and appeal to audiences both regionally and nationally,” said Anne Goodyear.

Maurice Prendergast (1858-1924) was one of the hordes of visitors who frequented New England beaches and resort towns between the 1890s and the 1920s. Prendergast was fascinated with modern life when it was most at ease, and his brilliant watercolors, animated oil sketches, and richly colored paintings provide insight into this age of leisure travel. Through his work, Prendergast articulated the promises of a society in “pursuit of happiness,” painting the public beaches of New England as the ideal venue for young and prosperous American society to celebrate its democratic values in communion with nature.

Maurice Prendergast, The Balloon, watercolor, 1901

Maurice Prendergast, The Balloon, watercolor, 1901

Among the highlights of the exhibition is a 1901 watercolor The Balloon, which is in a private collection and has not been included in earlier Prendergast retrospectives. The Balloon depicts a busy crowd watching a hot air balloon take-off and epitomizes Prendergast’s fascination with the new leisure activities that dominated the nation’s seashores. Another highlight is St. Malo, a vibrant watercolor created by Prendergast during his 1907 trip to France. On loan from the Williams College Museum of Art, St. Malo and its companion pieces were heralded as one of the first American introductions of the bold coloristic styles of the European Post-Impressionist avant-garde.

With The Promenade, ca. 1913 a modernist masterpiece from the Whitney Museum of Art, Prendergast responded to the paintings by Cezanne, Matisse, and others who reinterpreted the tradition of Arcadian landscapes in daring compositions. His seven contributions to the International Exhibition of Modern Art of 1913, the so-called Armory Show that brought together cutting-edge art from both sides of the Atlantic, appeared very European and experimental in color and paint surface.


Maurice Prendergast, The Promenade,

Maurice Prendergast, The Promenade, oil, 1913, Whitney Museum


Maurice Prendergast in 1913About The Artist

Maurice Prendergast (American, 1858-1924) was born in Newfoundland and grew up in Boston. He worked mainly in watercolor and monotypes, as well as in oil. His Post-Impressionist style—bright colors, flat patterning and rhythmic compositions—was influenced by an early apprenticeship to a commercial artist, studies in Paris and an extended journey through Italy.

Prendergast traveled widely on both sides of the Atlantic. He was among the American painters who embraced Europe and promoted European art and artists in America.

He studied in Paris in the late 1800s, and particularly admired the work of Paul Cezanne for his use of color. Later, he traveled to Italy and made paintings of Venice that remain some of his most popular works today.

Prendergast became popular around the turn of the century with major shows in Chicago and York. His inclusion in the so-called Armory Show of 1913 — he had a half-dozen paintings in the show — signaled the extent of his popularity and acceptance.

The Armory Show was the first large exhibition of modern art in America, and is still considered one of the most important and influential exhibitions in U.S. history a century later.

Prendergast’s work was successful with early collectors of modern art in America and continues to be highly sought after today. Prendergast’s watercolors and paintings are represented in most major collections of American 20th-century art. Exhibitions of his art have been popular with American audiences ever since the 1890s.

Museums Loaning Works To The Exhibition

Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea features a number of works from the BCMA’s own collection in addition to loans from over thirty American private and museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Phillips Collection, and the Addison Gallery, among others. The Williams College Museum of Art, home of the Prendergast Archive and Study Center, is the principal lender.

Maurice Prendergast By The SeaMaurice Prendergast: By the Sea

Joachim Homann, with contributions by Trevor J. Fairbrother, Joachim Homann, Nancy Mowll Mathews, Joseph J. Rishel, and Richard J.Wattenmaker.

This selection of works in a variety of media focuses on Maurice Prendergast’s creative process as he imaginatively and innovatively captured the look and feel of coastlines from New England to France and Italy.

The seaside watercolors, paintings, monotypes, and sketches of Maurice Prendergast invite viewers into a world of sunlight and sailboats, leisure and amusement. Accompanying the first retrospective of Prendergast’s work in more than two decades, this book traces the artist’s experiments with different media and highlights innovative techniques that established his reputation as early modernist. Filled with exquisite reproductions of Prendergast’s luminous work—well-known masterpieces and rarely seen, equally compelling examples—this volume also features contributions by an impressive roster of distinguished scholars whose essays provide fresh ways of thinking about a quintessentially American artist. Sumptuously illustrated with more than 100 color illustrations, this appealing volume celebrates one of the nation’s most popular and canonical painters.

The book accompanies the exhibition, Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea, on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art from June 29 through October 13, 2013.

Hardcover, 176 pages, 100 color illustrations, 5 b/w illustrations.

More About The Contributors To The Catalogue:

A fully illustrated and beautifully designed catalogue, published by DelMonico Books-Prestel, accompanies MauricePrendergast: By the Sea. The book presents new scholarship by some of the leading Prendergast scholars, such as Dr. Nancy Mowll Mathews, the recently retired Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator at the Williams College Museum of Art and co-author of the Prendergast catalogue raisonné, and Dr. Richard J. Wattenmaker, former director of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. It will also offer insights by leading curators who discuss Prendergast’s work from unusual perspectives; additional authors are Dr. Trevor Fairbrother, nationally recognized independent scholar and curator; Dr. Joseph J. Rishel, Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900 and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Dr.Joachim Homann, curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Twenty years after the last retrospective exhibition, this exhibition and catalogue introduces a new generation of readers to Prendergast’s experimental and innovative art by focusing on his seaside work.



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