Lot 58
  • 58


400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Maurice Brazil Prendergast
  • Early Beach
  • signed Prendergast (lower left)
  • watercolor and pencil on paper
  • 14 1/8 by 12 1/2 inches
  • (35.9 by 31.8 cm)
  • Executed circa 1896-97.


The artist
Estate of the above
Charles Prendergast, 1924 (his brother, by descent)
Mrs. Charles Prendergast, 1948 (by descent)
Leonid Kipness, Westport, Connecticut, 1956 (acquired from the above)
[With]Milch Galleries, New York
Frederick Woolworth, New York
[With]M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1963
Arthur Altschul, New York, 1964 (acquired from the above)
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston, Massachusetts (acquired from the above; sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, March 19, 1969, lot 9)
Kraushaar Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Parker Cushman, 1972 (acquired from the above)
Private collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, December 4, 1980, lot 51)
Private collection (acquired at the above sale)
Steven Juvelis, Lynn, Massachusetts, 1980
Spanierman Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1993


Virgilia Pancoast, "Prendergast Forgery Exposed," Art Research News, vol. 1, Winter 1980-81, pp. 1-2
Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews and Gwendolyn Owens, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1990, no. 655, p. 367, illustrated


The sheet is lined with japan paper and is hinged at four places along the reverse top edge. The sheet appears to be slightly toned overall and may be slightly faded. There appears to be a possible repaired tear along the lower edge near the right corner and along the top edge right of center. Original artist's pinholes are visible in the extreme corners.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Early Beach is an important example of Maurice Brazil Prendergast’s fully realized and mature watercolor style, which reached a peak in its richness of color and complexity of design in the late 1890s. Showcasing the artist’s characteristic lightness of touch and expansive concentration of figures within a highly organized space, the present work typifies the ambitious compositions that he executed before the turn of the century. Here, Prendergast’s daring use of an elevated horizon line, which narrowly avoids the top edge of the paper, reinforces the dynamic upward sweep of the intricately layered vertical arrangement of figures, boats, and parasols. The magical sparkle of bright color is further heightened by Prendergast’s decision to allow areas of raw paper to show through, which also serves to unify the pattern of color washes across the picture’s lively surface. Fluid, transparent strokes of color extend beyond the borders of the well-defined pencil under-drawings and create a feeling of immediacy and a sense of spontaneity characteristic of Prendergast’s most fully developed watercolors.

Beginning in 1895, Prendergast started to explore the expressive power of color through his watercolors and monotypes. Expanding upon his Parisian single-figure motifs, he initiated a series of multi-figure compositions, reminiscent of Eugène Boudin’s densely populated beach scenes, which were dedicated to the mixing of social classes at popular seaside locales outside of Boston, Massachusetts. During the summers, he began to frequent resorts on the north and south shores of the city, such as Cohasset, Nahant, Marblehead, Salem, and Cape Ann. Prendergast thoroughly enjoyed the populist vitality of his visits to the seashore, choosing to erase any obvious signs of class identification from his subjects. Describing the critical success of these beach scenes from the mid-1890s, the art historian Richard J. Wattenmaker writes: “Prendergast was buoyed by the flood of approbation that his colorful pattern and line organizations elicited from the critics. His watercolors charmed and seduced writers, inspiring them to flights of fanciful rhetoric surprising for reserved Boston. Thus celebrated, enjoying a succès d'estime, the forty-year-old artist found these heady days. His decision eight years earlier to forsake the drudgery of commercial art to study in Paris had been clear-sighted, and he had worked hard to make the most of what he had learned there” (Richard J. Wattenmaker, Maurice Prendergast, New York, 1994, p. 41).

As demonstrated by Early Beach, Prendergast was one of the first American artists to successfully synthesize European developments into his own practice. Of his relationship to Paul Cézanne, the artist and critic Walter Pach wrote: “A casual observation may not reveal what he [Cézanne] has meant to Mr. Prendergast. And that is a healthy sign, for it indicates a genuine absorption by the American painter of the great Frenchman’s principles, instead of that copying of externals…[He was] Probably the first American to realize the importance of the master of the modern school, able to do justice to the broad scope of Cézanne’s qualities, Mr. Prendergast did not make over his own art completely. Instead he deepened it along its own lines, with the logic he recognized in the older painter” (“Maurice Prendergast," Shadowland, vol. 6, April 1922, p. 74).

The widely recognized Prendergast scholar Nancy Mowll Mathews further describes the uniquely American quality of the artist's watercolors from the 1890s, such as Early Beach: “They were considered to be as ‘modern’ as some of the popular European seascapes, yet they were identifiably American. As one critic wrote, ‘Modern art…has found one of its distinctive expressions in pure and bright and positive color. This example is extraordinary. It is a splendid bouquet of flowers, or a cluster of radiant jewels. It glows, it flashes’” (The Art of Leisure: Maurice Prendergast in the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 22).