MAURICE BRAZIL PRENDERGAST (1859–1924)
Holiday, Headlands, about 1900–05
Watercolor on paper, 15 1/2 x 11 1/4 in.
Signed and inscribed (at lower right): Prendergast; (on the back): Sheltered Cove
RECORDED: Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews, and Gwendolyn Owens, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné (Williamstown, Massachusetts: Williams College Museum of Art, 1990), p. 425 no. 850 illus.
EXHIBITED: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, November 12–30, 1968, The American Impressionists, no. 70 illus. // Andrew Crispo Galleries, New York, May–June 1974, Ten Americans: Avery, Burchfield, Demuth, Dove, Homer, Hopper, Marin, Prendergast, Sargent, Wyeth, no. 125 illus. in color (as “Holiday Headlines” [sic]) // Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, October 23–December 6, 1986, The Remembered Images: Prendergast Watercolors, 1896–1906, p. 12 no. 36 illus. in color
EX COLL.: [Kraushaar Galleries, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Neumark; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 1968]; to Harry Spiro, New York, 1968; [Coe Kerr Gallery, New York]; private collection, 1977; [Adelson Galleries, New York]; [Andrew Crispo Galleries, New York]; [Meredith Long & Company, Houston, Texas]; to private collection, and by descent, until the present
His preoccupation with scenes of recreational activity in relation to the sea is apparent in Holiday, Headlands, which features a group of women and girls wearing billowing gowns and broad-brimmed hats, some of them holding parasols, ensconced in a rocky cove flanked by a high cliff on the right. In keeping with his approach, Prendergast divides the composition into clearly defined sections of land, water and sky. The exact location of the view is unknown, but as the title suggests, it may have been inspired by a visit to the Headlands, a rocky outcropping situated in the coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts, on the Cape Ann peninsula about thirty miles northeast of Boston. (In terms of its idyllic subject matter, cool palette, and the placement of the figures in a tightly cropped vertical space, Holiday, Headlands is closely related to Surf, Nantasket [c. 1900–05, Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts].)
Prendergast’s breezy shore scenes are filled with movement and animation and Holiday, Headlands is no exception. Applying his pigments in loose strokes (some translucent, others more opaque), Prendergast creates a high degree of decorative patterning and brings the composition to life, conveying that festive yet ethereal effect that made his work so distinctive. His palette, dominated by blue, greys, and black, is augmented by deftly applied accents of orange and gold, as well as by his bright yellow signature, which adds an unexpected color note to the image. Prendergast also makes use of the underlying reserve to create luminous highlights that contribute to the holiday atmosphere of the vignette, which attests to Prendergast’s facility with watercolor and functions, as well, as a highly subjective social statement.