Object Image

Landscape with Figures

Landscape with Figures depicts a crowded scene of brightly dressed men, women, and children socializing in a park along a rocky shoreline. The flattened figures outlined in black and described by colorful, textured brushwork are arranged in a rhythmic, frieze-like composition across a shallow foreground. The horizontal band of the park and people, like the registers of water and sky above, is punctuated by the verticals of the trees. The view is further animated by the overall patterning accented by repeating circles of heads, bodies, hats, parasols, and the setting sun visible through a break in the tree canopy. The painting exemplifies Maurice Prendergast’s works from the final decade of his life, when he almost exclusively created large-scale, highly stylized views of figures at leisure in generalized Boston waterfront park settings. Despite its joyful, decorative, almost mosaic-like appearance, scholars believe that Landscape with Figures and Prendergast’s other late works are not without deeper meaning. These paintings serve as elegies for a lost era of leisure activities and travel that was increasingly eclipsed by the rise of industrialization, technology, and war in early 20th-century America.

Throughout his career, the prolific Prendergast created vividly colored, idyllic scenes of people enjoying urban parks and seaside resorts, both in the United States and Europe. He rendered these at first in watercolor and monotype and then, beginning in 1902, also in oil. Incorporating lessons learned from his study of modern French painters such as Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906), Edouard Vuillard (French, 1868 - 1940), and Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867 - 1947) the artist developed a highly personal style that reached full maturity in such works as Landscape with Figures.

Credit: Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, William A. Clark Fund)

Oil on canvas
82.6 x 108.0cm
Image and text © National Gallery of Art, 2020

Where you'll find this

National Gallery of Art
Permanent collection