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New-York Historical Society exhibits newly-acquired Maurice Prendergast sketchbook
Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858–1924), Sketchbook (pp. 2-3), 1922. Watercolor, graphite and crayon on lined paper, bound as a “Record” book. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Miriam Schapiro Grosof, in memory of a friendship, 2013.11
NEW YORK, NY.- The New-York Historical Society has acquired a sketchbook of drawings and watercolors by Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858–1924), the iconic American Post-Impressionist and member of The Eight. The proffered sketchbook dates from the last years of the artist’s life and features 152 lined and paginated leaves.

“We are thrilled to add this volume of sketches to the collection of the New-York Historical Society, which holds the oldest public drawings collection in the United States,” said Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings at New-York Historical. “This sketchbook offers keen insights into Prendergast’s creative output during his final years and the intense graphomania that he demonstrated throughout his career.”

In addition to numerous sketches in graphite with notes about color, the volume is punctuated by twelve jewel-like watercolors and four drawings in graphite and wax crayons, all spanning two-page spreads. The sketchbook features scenes involving seaside locales, parks, and towns in Massachusetts—such as Marblehead, Manchester, and Essex—populated by figures in endless variations. This Prendergast sketchbook has a distinguished provenance from the legendary, Lithuanian-born American art historian and multi-discipline critic Meyer Schapiro (1904–1996), who was also a painter in his own right. The donor of the sketchbook is Schapiro’s daughter, Miriam Schapiro Grosof.

The sketchbook is currently on-view in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture with the watercolors turned every three months. However, visitors can see its 152-page contents in their entirety on a nearby digital monitor in turn-the-page technology.

Having trained at the Académie Julian in Paris and traveled throughout Europe, Prendergast developed a sophisticated modern style inspired in large part by Post-Impressionists, particularly Bonnard and Vuillard. After returning to America to participate in the 1913 Armory Show, Prendergast spent the final years of his career between summers sketching in New England and winters painting in New York City.

The New-York Historical Society is also exhibiting Maurice Prendergast’s Landscape with Figures (ca. 1910-12) in The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution through February 24, 2013.

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