Maurice Brazil Prendergast (aka Maurice Prendergast)
A Dock Scene
North America, American, New York
15 in. x 22 in. (38.1 cm x 55.88 cm)
Medium and Support:
Watercolor on paper
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, The Blount Collection
This watercolor, prominently featuring two barges, represents an atypical subject in Prendergast’s oeuvre. He could have painted the work in New York or Boston, since his watercolor activity centered in these two cities between 1900 and 1905.
The port depicted in the composition’s upper band is a bustling commercial environment, filled with longshoremen, dray horses and carts, and booms for loading and unloading cargo. However, the two barges, Lew Ostrander, Phoenix and Cecil Rodgers, Champlaign, are transporting not commodities, but people, most notably the women and children that stroll or sit on deck. The quay forms a dramatic diagonal from the lower left to the upper right, implying recession in the otherwise flat pictorial space. Compositions such as this one—a geometric arrangement of flat patterned forms in bands across the surface—demonstrate Prendergast’s appreciation of contemporary innovations in French Modernism.