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Maurice Brazil Prendergast

Born: 1858, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Died: 1924, New York, New York, United States of America

The Luxembourg Garden, Paris
between 1890 and 1894

Oil on canvas
Image: 12 7/8 x 9 5/8 in. (32.7 x 24.4 cm)
Frame: 18 3/8 x 15 3/16 in. (46.7 x 40.2 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.68
Signed: Lower left: Prendergast/Paris
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

A glimpse into an urban park, Maurice Prendergast's The Luxembourg Garden, Paris focuses on a bench on which three women sit holding babies dressed in light-colored frilly caps and voluminous garments. Viewed from one end, the bench corresponds with the receding path along which it is placed under a shade tree. In the distance, the path terminates in a flight of steps up a low rise bounded by formal stone fencing, with more trees, planted in neat rows, in the distance. This setting has been identified as the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, a large public park surrounding the Palais du Luxembourg, meeting place of the French Senate; the view looks south along the broad path running along the east side of the Palais. The rich verdure and sunlight in the distance suggest the benign warmth of summer, but the season's end is heralded by golden fallen leaves scattered in the foreground.

Along with Lady on the Boulevard (TF 1992.64), this work is one of many small-scale paintings of Paris that Prendergast made during his four-year stay in 1891–94. There he studied in formal academies, where the pedagogical program emphasized careful drawing of the human form, but he also joined the many French and foreign artists who sought subjects in the everyday life of the city around them. Well-populated parks and gardens especially appealed to Prendergast, remaining important sources of inspiration for much of his career. This work's flattened, tipped-up perspective and vertical compression recall the Japanese ukiyo-e prints that prompted many late nineteenth-century European and American artists to rethink Western conventions of composition and representation. Prendergast's decorative arrangements of discrete spots of muted color suggest also his awareness of the group of young French painters known as Les Nabis ("the prophets"), whose tapestry-like paintings were on exhibit in Paris in the early 1890s.

Like the two women conversing at upper-right, the trio on the bench in the foreground of The Luxembourg Garden, Paris are thought to be bonnes, or hired nursemaids, commonly employed to care for the children of middle- and upper-class families at the turn of the twentieth century. Several artists pictured these women with their charges in public spaces as familiar figures in the modern urban landscape. But whereas Mary Cassatt in her In the Omnibus (TF 1999.27) focused on the tensions of social hierarchy at play in the relationships between mother, child, and hired domestic, Prendergast incorporated bonnes into an image in which formal concerns are as central as the evocation of genteel urban leisure. Following his return from Paris to his hometown of Boston in 1894, Prendergast further explored the theme of women supervising playing children in such works as the oil painting Franklin Park, Boston (TF 1999.112). Yet he only rarely depicted women caring for infants, as in the monotype Marine Park (TF 1999.116).

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Provenance

The artist
Giovanni Castano, Boston, Massachusetts, 1950
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1956
Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, New York, 1980
Sotheby's New York, New York, May 12, 1980
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1980
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

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Exhibition History

Selections from the Permanent Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Evanston, Illinois, July 19–September 14, 1985.

A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, April 21–June 21, 1987. [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: Americans at Home and Abroad, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 6–29, 1987.

American Painters in France, 1830–1930, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 14–September 3, 1989. [exh. cat.]

The Work of Charles and Maurice Prendergast, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 16–April 21, 1991.

Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915 (Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 1–November 1, 1992; April 1–October 30, 1994; April 1–October 31, 1995. [exh. cat.]

Regard sur Maurice Brazil Prendergast (Maurice Brazil Prendergast at a Glance), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 1993.

American Artists and the Paris Experience, 1880–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 22, 1997–March 8, 1998.

Giverny: une impression américaine (Giverny, An American Impression), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 1, 1998.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 15, 1999; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 10, 1999–May 7, 2000 (in modified form). [exh. cat.]

American Artists in France, 1860–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–June 3, 2001.

D'une colonie à une collection: le Musée d'Art Américain Giverny fête ses dix ans (From a Colony to a Collection: Celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, March 30–June 16, 2002.

A Place on the Avenue: Terra Museum of American Art Celebrates 15 Years in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 16, 2002–February 16, 2003 (on exhibit extended run: November 2, 2002–March 2, 2003).

The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940 (Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains 1840–1940), Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 15–May 25, 2003; Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, June 8–August 17, 2003. [exh. cat.]

Copley to Cassatt: Masterworks from the Terra Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, and Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venues: New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, September 5–December 7, 2003.

En plein air: personnages dans un paysage (En Plein Air: Figures in a Landscape), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004.

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2005. [exh. brochure]

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, April 1–October 29, 2006. [exh. brochure]

Americans in Paris 1860–1900. National Gallery, London, England and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York (organizers). Venues: National Gallery, London, England, February 22–May 21, 2006; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, June 25–September 24, 2006; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, October 16, 2006–January 28, 2007. [exh. cat]

Portrait of a Lady : peintures et photographies américaines en France, 1870–1915 (Portrait of a Lady: American Paintings and Photographs in France, 1870–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France (organizers). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Giverny, France, April 1–July 14, 2008; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, September 25, 2008–January 5, 2009. [exh. cat.]

Vanessa Lecomte, editor. Portrait of a Lady : peinture et photographies américains (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny and Musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2008.

Impressionist Gardens, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland and Museo Thyssen-Bormemisza, Madrid, Spain (organizers). Venues: National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, July 31–October 17, 2010; Museo Thyssen-Bormemisza and Fundación Caja Madrid, Madrid, Spain, November 23–February 27, 2011. [exh. cat.]

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Published References

The Magazine Antiques 117:5 (May 1980): 936. Ill. p. 936 (color).

Sotheby's New York, New York (Sale 4375, May 12, 1980): lot 23.

Langdale, Cecily. Monotypes by Maurice Prendergast in the Terra Museum of American Art. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Museum of American Art, 1984. Text pp. 12, 15, 41; fig. 1, p. 10 (black & white as The Tuileries Gardens, Paris).

Atkinson, D. Scott et al. A Proud Heritage: Two Centuries of American Art. Edited by Terry A. Neff. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1987. Pl. T-106, p. 215 (color as The Tuileries Gardens, Paris).

Clark, Carol, Nancy Mowll Mathews and Gwendolyn Owens. Maurice Brazil Prendergast; Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné. Munich, Germany and Williamstown, Massachusetts: Prestel-Verlag and The President and Trustees of Williams College, 1990. No. 9, p. 212; ill. no. 9, p. 212 (black & white as The Tuileries Gardens, Paris).

Clark, Carol. American Drawings and Watercolors in the Robert Lehman Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 1992. Text p. 81; fig. 4.6, p. 81.

Gerdts, William H. et al. Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 91, 264; pl. 82, p. 265 (color as The Tuileries Gardens, Paris).

Gerdts, William H. et al. Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1992. Text pp. 91, 264; pl. 82, p. 265 (color as The Tuileries Gardens, Paris).

Reymond, Nathalie. Un regard américain sur Paris. (An American Glance at Paris). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Text p. 86; ill. p. 85 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 10; fig. 2, p. 11 (black & white).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 10; fig. 2, p. 11 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. The People Work: American Perspectives, 1840–1940. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text pp. 22, 29 (checklist); fig. 10, p. 22 (black & white).

Bourguignon, Katherine M. and Elizabeth Kennedy. Le Travail à l'oeuvre: les artistes américains, 1840–1940. (exh. cat., Terra Museum of American Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2003. Text pp. 22, 29 (checklist); fig. 10, p. 22 (black & white).

Adler, Kathleen et al. Americans in Paris, 1860–1900. (exh. cat. National Gallery of Art) London, England: National Gallery Company Limited, 2006. Text pp. 14, 93, 253; ill. cat. 2, p. 15 (color), p. 253 (color).

Lecomte, Vanessa, editor. Portrait of a Lady : peintures de photographies américaines (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américaine Giverny and Musée des beaux-arts de Bordeaux). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2008. Text (checklist) p. 94.

Willsdon, Clare A.P. Impressionist Gardens. (exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland). Edinburgh, Scotland: National Galleries of Scotland, 2010. Text, cat. no. 53, pp. 82, 158; ill. p. 82 (color).

Willsdon, Clare A. P. Jardines Impressionistas. (exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and Fundación Madrid). Madrid, Spain: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2010 (Spanish version). Text, cat. no. 106, p. 193; ill. p. 266 (color).

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