Lot 23
  • 23

Maurice Brazil Prendergast 1858 - 1924

Estimate
600,000 - 800,000 USD
Sold
710,500 USD
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Description

  • Maurice Brazil Prendergast
  • Crépuscule

  • signed Prendergast, l.l.
  • oil on canvas

Provenance

John F. Kraushaar, New York, 1913
Antoinette Kraushaar, New York
Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above, 1990

Exhibited

(possibly) New York, Armory of the Sixty-Ninth Infantry; Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of International Exhibition of Modern Art, February-May 1913, no. 893 (New York) and no. 295 (Chicago)
New York, C.W. Kraushaar Galleries, Illustrated Catalogue of an Important Collection of Paintings, Marbles and Bronzes, January-February 1924, no. 11 or 12
Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, The Maurice Prendergast Memorial Exhibition, January-February 1926, no. 12
Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Sixteenth Annual Exhibition of American Art, April 1930, no. 25
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Maurice Prendergast Memorial Exhibition, February-March 1934, no. 133, p. 17
Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, Pictures for Peace: A Retrospective Exhibition Organized from the Armory Show of 1913, March-April 1944, no. 27
Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst College, The 1913 Armory Show in Retrospect, February-March 1958, no. 44, p. 28
Utica, New York, Munson-Williams Proctor Institute; New York, Armory of the Sixty-Ninth Regiment, 1913 Armory Show: 50th Anniversary Exhibition, February-April 1963, no. 893, p. 200, illustrated p. 122
College Park, Maryland, University of Maryland; Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center; Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts; Ithaca, New York, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Maurice Prendergast: Art of Impulse and Color, September 1976-April 1977, no. 73, pp. 65, 138-39, illustrated p. 143
Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Fine Art, The Shock of Modernism in America: The Eight and Artists of the Armory Show, April-July 1984, no. 42, p. 31, illustrated
Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Maurice Prendergast, February-April 1991

Literature

Hedley Howell Rhys, Maurice Prendergast: The Sources and Development of His Style (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University), 1952, p. 155
Milton Brown, The Story of the Armory Show, New York, 1963 (1988 reprint), no. 893, p. 303
Ian Dunlop, The Shock of the New: Seven Historic Exhibitions of Modern Art, New York, 1972, illustrated in color opposite p. 182
Cecily Langdale, Monotypes by Maurice Prendergast in the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, 1984, p. 17
Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews and Gwendolyn Owens, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1990, no. 504, p. 328, illustrated (as circa 1918-1923)

Catalogue Note

Largely self-taught, Maurice Prendergast developed his artistic voice outside the confines of any particular artistic style and against the conservative backdrop of turn-of-the-century Boston. By 1910, he was associated with the most progressive American artists. In relatively large scale oils, such as Crépuscule, Prendergast experimented with the application of fluid, short paint strokes to create a mosaic-like effect of jewel-toned color and decorative patterning. Referencing the modernist trends of European Post Impressionism, Prendergast flattened space and emphasized the canvas' rich surface texture, applying colors in dots, patches and layers, that led contemporary critics to compare his works to woven tapestries. While he was aware of contemporaneous pseudo-scientific color theories, his personal passion for color and decorative forms superseded these concerns.  After Prendergast's death in 1924, Duncan Phillips observed: "He was so much a purist in regard to the fusion or synthesis of the decorative and the representative functions of his art of painting that he persisted in reducing his observations of the visible world and his joyous emotions in the presence of nature, to a simple but beautifully organized pictorial pattern." 

Prendergast's restricted choice of subject matter allowed him to focus on the aesthetic questions that preoccupied him, as he repeatedly returned to the promenades, picnics and holiday subjects he had first chosen in the 1890s. These crowded settings provided the kind of rich tableau of lively color and decorative congestion that had been popular with the French Impressionists, and Prendergast did not hesitate to draw on a multitude of historical sources, including primitive ones, to develop a pictorial idiom that was both uniquely individual and strikingly modern. As Prendergast's career progressed, his work became increasingly abstract and lyrical, even as it registered the tradition of a lost Arcadian golden age.

Painted loosely but densely, Crépuscule exemplifies Prendergast's late landscapes. Seated and standing figures enjoy the end of their day beside the water, while purple overtones suggest the oncoming dusk. Prendergast's frieze-like procession of stylized figures, which are mostly female, resemble the goddesses of Arcadian imagery, but they maintain a connection to modernity by sporting fashionable hats and brightly colored dresses. Prendergast's complex multifigure composition overflows with activity, but it is the faceless figures, generalized forms, and lack of overt detail which deny specificity and set a scene of timeless serenity. 

Prendergast exhibited seven works, including one titled Crépuscule, at the landmark Armory Show of 1913, which introduced the art of Europe's avant-garde to the United States alongside contemporary works by American artists. Of the three works in Prendergast's oeuvre titled Crépuscule, this version is the one most frequently assumed to have been exhibited in 1913. The catalogue raisonné of the artist's work does not definitively associate any of these three works with the Armory Show and in fact, dates this version of Crépuscule between 1918 and 1923. However, the book's authors also note that Prendergast's paintings are notoriously difficult to date, especially because he continued to make changes to works that languished in his studio. He rarely dated his works, and since his style and subjects remained consistent over the last decade of his life, establishing a reliable chronology is unlikely. However, the provenance of the present work suggests that John Kraushaar, an art dealer and avid supporter of The Eight, purchased the work following the Armory Show for his personal collection. He, and later his daughter Antoinette, exhibited it quite frequently, including it in several retrospectives of the Armory Show.

The 1913 exhibition marked a shift in the course of modern art, but did not noticeably change Prendergast's artistic concerns or direction; however, his critical reception grew more favorable in its aftermath. Major art connoisseurs, such as Lillie Bliss, Duncan Philips, John Quinn, and Alfred C. Barnes, began to collect his works in earnest. Persuaded by his friends and colleagues, Prendergast finally moved from Boston to New York in 1914 to fully immerse himself in the burgeoning American art scene.

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