Charles Prendergast (the artist's brother), 1924
Mrs. Charles Prendergast (his wife), 1948
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1969
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1969
Maurice Prendergast first became familiar with the works of the Post-Impressionists during a pivotal trip to Paris in 1907. Besides greatly affecting the development of his own decorative style and modernist direction, this exposure also helped transmit new European artistic notions to America through the paintings he contributed to the landmark 1908 exhibition of "The Eight" held at Macbeth Galleries. Between 1909 and the outbreak of World War I, Prendergast made three more trips back to Europe and by the time of the 1913 Armory Show, he had developed a unique pictorial idiom, making him one of the most modern of American artists working in this period. Drawing on a multitude of art historical sources, Prendergast frequently borrowed motifs from ancient, non-Western and children's art. However, "despite his extensive borrowings, unusual in a self-taught artist, Prendergast never borrowed mannerisms, he used only what he needed, and transformed what he borrowed into his own image" (Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1990, p.22).
Painted circa 1915-18, Peaches Point dates from the last decade of Prendergast's career, when he continued to refine his highly individual artistic vision and moved steadily toward abstraction. Following his final visit to Paris in 1914, Prendergast limited his work to large-scale canvases, emphasizing the flatness of the pictorial plane with frieze-like arrangements of figures in idyllic holiday settings at the seashore or in the park. The familiar procession of brightly clad figures strolling along the shore and dotting the surf recalls earlier compositions, and reflects the many years Prendergast spent observing the leisure class on holiday in New England and Europe. The picturesque Massachusetts town of Marblehead, and its Peaches Point beach, was a favorite locale for the artist, as he wrote in a letter during September of 1915 to the American collector John Quinn, "...As a painter I like the surroundings of Boston the best. Cohasset, Marblehead and Salem especially appeal to me..." (Richard J. Wattenmaker, Maurice Prendergast, New York 1994, p. 127).
Wattenmaker writes, "The fully realized majestic oils of Prendergast's last decade 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" (Maurice Prendergast, pp. 143, 145).
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