National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Salem Cove Maurice Brazil Prendergast (artist)
American, 1858 - 1924
Salem Cove, 1916
oil on canvas
overall: 61.4 x 76.5 cm (24 3/16 x 30 1/8 in.) framed: 85.1 x 99.7 x 6.7 cm (33 1/2 x 39 1/4 x 2 5/8 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
1985.64.33
On View
From the Tour: American Impressionists of the Late 1800s and Early 1900s
Object 5 of 7

Maurice Prendergast's optimistic temperament lends Salem Cove a fairy-tale quality that belies its location at an industrial port near Boston. The work environment is avoided except for two distant schooners ferrying passengers and goods along the coast. Instead of shipyards, Prendergast concentrated on summer parasols and a park bench, children's games, and adult pleasure-seekers in a green rowboat.

Prendergast's avant-garde style, with its colorful patches of paint outlined in darker shades, has been compared to Byzantine mosaics and Gothic tapestries. These emphatic decorative patterns owe as much, or more, to the Art Nouveau posters and book illustrations he designed in his youth as a graphic artist. Although Prendergast has been called a naive or untutored artist, his background included six extended trips to Europe, where he studied in Paris and sketched at museums and landmarks throughout France, Britain, and Italy. Moreover, he was conversant about the most radical trends, from the "art for art's sake" theories of James McNeill Whistler to the postimpressionism of Paul Cézanne.

Born in Newfoundland, Canada, Maurice Prendergast had moved as a child to Boston. This shy artist, especially acclaimed for his technical experiments with monotype prints, worked in the studio of his younger brother, Charles Prendergast, a successful picture framer.

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