Maurice Prendergast (American, 1858–1924)
Sunday in the Park
Signed 'Prendergast' bottom right, oil on panel
11 1/2 x 16 1/4 in. (29.2 x 41.3cm)
Executed circa 1910-1913.
Charles Prendergast, the Artist's brother, by 1924.
Eugenie Prendergast, the Artist's sister-in-law, by 1948.
Private Collection, by 1950.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. George and Janice Wasserman Goldsten, Washington, D.C.
Private Collection, California.
Carol Clark, Gwendolyn Owens, and Nancy Mowll Mathews, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, 1990, p. 266, no. 273 (illustrated).
Maurice Prendergast's early work with commercial painting rapidly introduced him to bright colors and flat patterning effects, which would become a hallmark of his later oeuvre. In 1887, the artist moved to Paris to follow a more rigorous artistic training, and would remain in France until 1871. It is there that he made pivotal acquaintances in the likes of English avant-garde artists Walter Sickert and Aubrey Beardsley, and Post-Impressionists Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard.
While in France, Prendergast also studied closely the style of Georges Seurat, as exemplified by Sunday in the Park, a striking composition likely set in Boston (where the artist had made his home) that can be described as an homage to Seurat's quintessential Un Dimanche Après-Midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte. The painting sparkles with bold, jewel-like colors woven together to produce an expressive and vibrant mosaic-like composition. Like the impressionists before him, Prendergast chose to depict a park, and to focus on a strolling crowd of upper and middle class Bostonians, each figure anonymous yet an integral part of the whole composition. Anchoring the scene are three women with alluring pink, blue and yellow dresses sketched in a rhythmic pattern. Facing the viewer, the women draw our gaze into the crowded park, pulling us into the depths of the leafy green shade. Dappled sunlight plays across the ground, figures, and branches, weaving the tapestry of Prendergast's vision, absorbing and reflecting summery colors. The bright sunlit background behind the tree trunks provides an otherwise unobtainable depth of field to Prendergasts's composition, while the swift strokes of dark green, light green, light brown, and burnt orange create the layered foliage of the park's canopy. This scene, simply a day in the park, becomes a jewel of a memory, a warming and comforting time capsule of a leisurely Sunday before the shadows lengthen and the crowd returns home.
Sold for $62,500 (buyer's premium included)