Artist Trivia: Maurice Prendergast

Maurice Predergast, St. Mark's Square, Venice
Maurice Predergast, St. Marks Square, Venice, 1989-1899, Watercolor on paper, Museum purchase, 1944.316


This artist had a twin and was born in the mid 19th century in a current province of modern day Canada. Later, the family moved to this hub of commerce in New England. In this artist’s youth, they were apprenticed to a commercial artist and as they matured were inspired by Childe Hassam. They were later known for their watercolor paintings and monotypes. Traveling to Venice, and being inspired by artists there led them to experiment with complex compositions and color. Major exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and Macbeth Galleries in New York earned critical acclaim and this artist was known among peers as being among ‘The Eight.’  This artist remained unmarried and as they aged had increased deafness and health issues that hindered their work. 


Born on October 10, 1858, Maurice Prendergast and his twin sister, Lucy, were born at their family’s subarctic trading post in the city of St. John’s, in Newfoundland, then a colony of British North America. After the trading post failed, the family moved to Boston. He grew up in the South End and was apprenticed as a youth to a commercial artist. This conditioned him from the start to the brightly colored, flat patterning effects that characterized his mature work. He was also inspired by the example of Boston Impressionist painter, Childe Hassam. 

After studying in Paris from 1891 to 1895, Prendergast returned to Boston in 1895 and worked mainly in watercolor and monotyping. A trip to Venice in 1898 exposed him to the genre scenes of Vittore Carpaccio (1465 – 1525/1526) and encouraged him to experiment with even more complex and rhythmic arrangements. His inventive watercolors of Venice are among his most appreciated works today. 

In 1900, he had major exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Macbeth Galleries in New York, which earned him critical acclaim. He showed in a National Arts Club exhibition in 1904, and again in 1908 at Macbeth Galleries, along with George Luks, Everett Shinn, and Arthur B. Davies, a group collectively known after the show as ‘The Eight.’  Glackens in particular became a lifelong friend.

Despite poor health and increasing deafness  that hindered his work, Prendergast continued to show in major exhibitions throughout the remainder of his life  A shy individual, Prendergast remained a bachelor.

Maurice Predergast, St. Marks Square, Venice, 1989-1899, Watercolor on paper, Museum purchase, 1944.316.

Featured in “Maine and American Art: Farnsworth Art Museum” with thanks to the Henry Luce Foundation and Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

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