want to meet with the artist? You can request for a meeting to discuss a commision for view the available original paintings

Clip & save art notes
Arts & Activities, June, 2006


Maurice Prendergast usually spent his winters in Boston or New York where he painted city scenes crowded with people. During the warm summer months he went to the New England coast, where he painted scenes of people enjoying their holidays. This painting is one of his holiday paintings and it shows a harbor scene in New England with people grouped together in what looks like a village green.

Beyond the people are the cottages of the village and beyond that the harbor with boats in it. While we can see the harbor entrance and across the bay to the far shore, the picture looks very fiat. In real life, colors seem to fade with distance, but Prendergast makes his colors everywhere on the canvas, all about as bright as each other. This makes the painting more like a flat pattern than an actual scene showing depth or distance. He makes this pattern-like effect even more noticeable by painting with the same size brushstrokes all over the canvas.

None of the figures in the foreground is painted in detail, but it's easy to see that Prendergast enjoyed the colors and patterns found on the women's dresses. He also liked the shapes of the cottages, although he was more interested in the geometric pattern they made and the color mixtures of the walls and roofs than he was in showing the buildings realistically.

The harbor itself is barely visible, even though it is the subject of the picture. And yet, the harbor is important. Without the safety of the harbor and its narrow entrance provides, the village wouldn't be there and there would be no reason for holidaymakers and vacationers to visit. Originally it was likely to have been a fishing village. The boat under sail and the boats at anchor show that the life of the village continues to revolve around the harbor. However, at the time this painting was done, some of the boats would be for the pleasure of summer visitors.


Although Maurice was born in Newfoundland, Canada, he spent most of his life in the United States. The family moved to Boston when Maurice was quite young to be near his mother's family, and from then on he lived either in Boston or New York.

Like most boys at that time he left school at age 14--at the end of grade eight--and went to work at a printing company. He was good at art and, by the time he was 21, listed himself as a commercial artist (graphic designer) and was making signs and advertisements. Because of his interest in art, it's likely that he also mixed with local Boston artists.

Not much is known about him for the next few years until, at age 28, he made a trip to England and then to France four years later. During the four years he spent in France he made the decision to change careers and become a painter.

While in France he began to develop the dabbing, sketchy painting style for which he is best known. This came about in part from studying the modern art that was being made in Paris at the time. His style was truly his own, however, as no other artist worked just like he did. While there he also began a habit that remained with him for the rest of his life: visiting and painting summer scenes at seaside resorts.

On his return home he continued to paint colorful pictures of city and country scenes, almost always with numbers of people in them. He particularly enjoyed including the large hats and colorful long dresses worn by women at the time, although he rarely painted them in detail or showed much of their faces.

Prendergast exhibited his work regularly in Boston and New York and was quite successful, although he sometimes supplemented his income by designing posters, book jackets and book illustrations.

He continued to be attracted to Europe and in 1898 went to Italy. He traveled to the great cities of Italy but was most attracted by Venice. He painted numbers of pictures of this historic city, almost always including a parade of people going about their daily lives.

On his return home he continued his career as a successful painter and became a leader among the progressive artists of the time. By 1907 he felt the need for fresh inspiration and returned once more to France where he discovered the work of Paul Cezanne and the group of painters who called themselves "The Fauves." Over the following years he explored the colorfulness that appears in these French artists' paintings but in his own personal way--as can be seen in this reproduction.

Maurice Prendergast continued painting until the last years of life when bad health prevented him. He died in 1924.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Publishers' Development Corporation
COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group

Top of Page

Yong Chen  Web 

Connect with Us on FaceBook, Youtube, Twitter and mySpace YouTube MySpace FaceBook Twitter