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Maurice Prendergast: Studies in Paris, 1891-94

In the late 1870s, Maurice Prendergast began working in graphic design, creating hand-painted “show card” advertisements for Boston design firms. After over ten years in the commercial field, Maurice saved enough money to travel to Paris, where he enrolled at the Académie Julian, a private art school for painting and sculpture, with the intention of becoming a fine artist.

While part of the Académie’s training involved copying plaster casts, Maurice preferred to work from life—in the mornings, he drew live models in the studio, and in the afternoons, he sat in cafés and sketched passersby in the boulevards and parks.

Maurice spent almost four years studying and experimenting with new styles in Paris. The influence of French Impressionism is evident in Maurice’s focus on themes of leisure and recreation as well as his playful application of paint and expressive use of color. Among the works dated to his earliest years in France are watercolors of shops and cottages with peasants in rural areas as well as boats and seaside markets along the Brittany coast. The artist’s signature motifs of seaside beaches and parks were established during these years and remained consistent subjects throughout his career. 

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