Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1859-1924)
Low Tide, Nantasket, ca. 1896-1897
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Williams College Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Charles Prendergast, 86.18.2
In Rocky Shore, Nantasket, and Low Tide, Nantasket, Maurice populated his landscape with freestanding and overlapping figures that strike a careful but dynamic balance. Like a snapshot photo, or a hurried glimpse, the compositions seem momentary and ephemeral, with scant attention given to individual faces. In these two watercolors, Prendergast arranges certain vibrant hues—the different notes of red on hats, parasols, and neckerchiefs; the whites of dresses and sails; and pools of blue sea water—to keep a viewer’s eye on the move. The artist’s handling of watercolor is loose, transparent, and unsaturated, capturing movement, gesture, and intricate spatial relationships in deftly applied paint strokes.
Considered one of the most popular seaside resorts of the Boston South Shore throughout the 19th century, Nantasket is a sandy peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean from the town of Cohasset toward Boston. By land, it was too far for a daytrip during Maurice’s time, but by sea, there were steamboats that connected Boston Harbor to Nantasket in less than an hour. Although not as elite as areas of the North Shore, it served a respectable summer crowd as well as the day-trippers from Boston.