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Maurice B. Prendergast

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Bathers, New England, c. 1916-1919

About the Artwork

Between approximately 1910 and 1920, Prendergast began to draw with pastel over the surface of some of his watercolors. Such is the case with Bathers, New England, one of his typical late compositions of bathers arranged along a shallow beach strewn with rocks. With their expressionless faces turned toward the viewer, self-conscious female bathers, interspersed by playing children, strike mannered attitudes as though they were posing for a photograph. Together they form a densely interwoven pattern of forms that occupy about three-quarters of the height of the sheet, behind which rise a stretch of water and a distant shore with houses. The carefully composed medley of bright reds, yellows, greens, and blues applied in broad, wet strokes and dabs of watercolor are as varied and selectively placed as the poses of the figures. Much of the composition's patterned effect derives from the dark outlines around the figures, which the artist reinforced with black pastel; other colors were deepened and solidified by the artist's free application of waxy pastel over the transparent watercolor. Innis Howe Shoemaker, from Adventures in Modern Art: The Charles K. Williams II Collection (2009), p. 233

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