45

MAURICE PRENDERGAST

American, 1858-1924

"Picnic"

watercolor and pastel on paper
signed lower left "Prendergast"
15 3/8 x 22 1/4 inches (sight)

  • Provenance: The artist; Charles Prendergast (the artist's brother), 1924; Mrs. Charles Prendergast (his wife), 1948; Kraushaar Galleries, New York, New York; Mrs. S. R. Field, 1955; Private Collection; Christie's, New York, New York, December 1, 1989, lot 214; Private Collection, New York.
  • Exhibited: Owen Gallery, New York, New York, "American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture," April 25 - June 21, 2003.
  • Literature: Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews, Gwendolyn Owens, "Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné," Williamstown, Massachusetts: Williams College Museum of Art, 1990, p. 810, no. 1342a, illus. (formerly cat. 1861).
  • Notes: A copy of the original receipt from Owen Gallery accompanies the lot.

    Framed dimensions: 23 1/2 x 29 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches

    Prendergast's work in both watercolor and oil bridges the styles of the 19th and 20th centuries. He pushed through a late American Impressionism and an Ashcan-influenced urbanism to a highly modern view. His late work incorporated elements of the fantastical, but the heart of his career, from the early 1900s to the teens, was marked by his unique surface patterning of patches of brilliant color.

    Although he exhibited among The Eight in 1908, Prendergast was distinctly more cosmopolitan than his cohort, advancing a modernist aesthetic that would wash aside the gritty urbanism exhibited at the Armory Show. Along with his brother, Charles, Maurice also made a significant contribution to the world of fine art framing, becoming highly esteemed in their day. Prendergast was highly sought after by major collectors of the first half of the 20th century, and his work formed part of the core collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

    Prendergast's representations of daily life are bold and modern interpretations of themes that have attracted artists for generations. His work is characterized by elaborately choreographed, multi-figured panoramas developed throughout his career. Embracing these elements in a careful balance of light and shadow, bright and dark colors, pastel and watercolor, Picnic, is a tour-de-force of Prendergast's creativity and spirit.

    The surface of Picnic is vivid and active, a hallmark of Prendergast's work. Juxtaposing bold spots of color with more fluid and rhythmic curving lines, the artist overlaps watercolor, pencil and pastel. The final composition is a splendid example of Prendergast's inspired ingenuity.

    In addition, Picnic reveals the influence of modern European masters such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse on Prendergast's style. Prendergast traveled extensively throughout Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and adapted the innovations of these artists to develop his characteristic and unique style.

    Of his works from the same decade, Prendergast scholar Richard J. Wattenmaker notes "are the culmination of more than thirty years of patient and determined exploration, trial and error, wholly personal variations on subjects that have captivated the most subtle and sophisticated minds of the Western tradition since the dawn of the Renaissance. Prendergast's comprehensive experiments within this humanistic tradition bring to bear his unique adaptations of ideas from both East and West. If modern painting is primarily about extending the boundaries of color and color relations, Maurice Prendergast has a stature that guarantees him an important place in the pantheon with the masters he so admired and whose ideas he so richly repaid."[1]

    [1] Maurice Prendergast, (New York, New York: Abrams, 1994), p. 143-5.




    Tags: listed artist, works on paper, 19th century, 20th century
  • Condition: in very good condition overall with vibrant colors; four pinholes along the top edge; a 1/4-inch repaired tear lower left, below the signature; a tiny tear, lower center; not examined out of the frame; in a Lowy frame

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