MAURICE BRAZIL PRENDERGAST (1859–1924)
St. Mark’s, Venice, 1898
Watercolor on paper, 14 7/8 x 11 3/4 in.
Signed, dated, and inscribed (at lower left): St. Mark’s Venice / ･･Prendergast･･ / ･･1898･･
RECORDED: (possibly) Boston Evening Transcript, “The Fine Arts: Exhibition of Mr. Prendergast’s Watercolors,” April 27,1899, p. 8 // (possibly) , Charles Peabody, “The Arts: Mr. Prendergast’s Exhibition,” Time and the Hour, April 29, 1899, p. 11 as “St. Marks” // (possibly) Mr. Prendergast’s Water Colors and Monotypes at the Macbeth Gallery,” New York Evening Sun, March 13, 1900, p. 4 as “St. Mark’s” // Royal Cortissoz, “The Original Art of Maurice Prendergast,” The New York Herald Tribune, February 25, 1934, section v. p. 10 // Hedley Howell Rhys, “Maurice Prendergast: The Sources and Development of his Style,” Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, Cambridge, 1952, pp. 70, 80, 174 no. 12 illus., 772 // Hedley Howell Rhys, Maurice Prendergast, exhib. cat. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1960), p. 84 // Ellen Glaven, S.N.D. and Eleanor Green, “Chronology,” in Maurice Prendergast: Art of Impulse and Color, exhib. cat. (College Park: University of Maryland Art Gallery), 1976, p. 40 as “After a Shower on the Piazza, Venice” // Carol Clark, Nancy Mowll Mathews, and Gwendolyn Owens, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné (Williamstown, Massachusetts: Prestel Publishers for Williams College, 1990), p. 373 no. 675 illus.
EXHIBITED: (possibly) Chase Gallery, Boston, April–May 1899, as “St. Mark’s” // (possibly) Boston Water Color Club at the Boston Art Club, Boston, March 2–15, 1899, Water Color Club: Twelfth Annual Exhibition, no. 108 as “St. Mark’s” // (possibly) Boston Water Color Club, Boston, February 9–24, 1900, Water Color Club: Thirteenth Annual Exhibition, no. 93 as “After the Shower on the Piazza” // (possibly) Macbeth Gallery, New York, March 9–24, 1900, Exhibition of Watercolors and Monotypes in Color by Maurice B. Prendergast, no. 14 as “St. Mark’s” or no. 21 as “After a Shower on the Piazza, Venice” // The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, March 7–April 10, 1928, Fifth Exhibition of Watercolors and Pastels, no. 27 // Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Maurice Prendergast Memorial Exhibition, February 21–March 22, 1934, no. 98 // Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, September 24–November 6, 1938, The Prendergasts: Retrospective Exhibition of the Works of Maurice and Charles Prendergast, no. 17 // Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1977, A Gallery Collects, no. 50 illus. in color
EX COLL.: George Tappan Francis, Boston; to his son, Henry S. Francis; to [Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 1977]; to private collection, Ohio, 1979 until the present
Maurice Prendergast traveled to Venice with his brother Charles on a trip sponsored by a generous Boston patron, Sarah Choate Spears. In the late-nineteenth century, Venice, “La Serenissima,” the most serene and most sublime city, was a veritable mecca for American artists. Prendergast made good use of his time. He stayed on after his brother returned home, and wrote to Charles, “It has been the visit of my life. I have been here almost a year and have seen so many beautiful things it almost makes me ashamed of my profession today." One hundred and twenty-five years later, St. Mark’s, Venice testifies to Prendergast’s euphoric experience. There is no mystery as to the artist’s choice of subject. The façade of St. Mark’s, a wildly eclectic aggregate reflecting over eight hundred years of Venetian history, along with its facing piazza, was and remains the instantly recognizable symbol of the island city. The scene recalled for Prendergast the kind of celebratory public milieus he had already sought out in Boston. The opportunity to paint the Piazza after a rainfall offered the painter a unique opportunity to play with reflections in a wet pavement while a happy crowd of passersby enjoyed parading in fine weather.
Prendergast painted three quite similar views of St. Mark’s. During the trip of 1898–89, watercolor and monotype were Prendergast’s preferred media. The present watercolor has long been held in private collections. Another, the same size and showing wet pavement, was listed in the collection of New York philanthropist Alice M. Kaplan as of the publication of the Prendergast catalogue raisonné in 1990 (no. 674, pp. 372–73). A third, also the same size, but with a dry pavement, is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., a gift of Eugenie Prendergast, Charles’ widow. Each of these three has a descriptive title, making it impossible, particularly in the case of the two with wet pavement, to distinguish which picture Prendergast included in contemporary exhibitions.