Autumn

Maurice Brazil Prendergast

Otoño

Prendergast, Maurice Brazil

Saint John's, 1859 - Nueva York, 1924

Autumn, c. 1918-1923

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed lower right: ''M. B. Prendergast’'
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

49 x 62 cm

CTB.1974.2

Artwork history

  • Mrs. Herbert L. May.

  • Kraushaar Gallery, New York, 1929.

  • Paul Lamb, 1930.

  • Mildred H. Lamb, Shaker Heights (OH).

  • Kraushaar Gallery, New York, 1951.

  • Mr. Weiss, 1953.

  • Sotheby Parke Bernet, lot 61, New York, December 13th-14th, 1973.

  • Andrew Crispo Gallery, New  York, 1974. Lot 61.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1974.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

1925

Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Watercolors by Maurice Prendergast, New York, C. W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, nº 3.

1934

Maurice Prendergast Memorial Exhibition, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, nº 131.

1974

20th Century American Painting, New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, nº 22.

1975

Moderne Kunst aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen, nº 69.

1979 - 1980

America & Europe. A Century of Modern Masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales; Wellington, New Zealand, National Art Gallery; Auckland, Auckland City Art Gallery; Christchurch, Robert McDougall Art Gallery; Dunedin, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, nº 27, pp. 48, 142.

1982 - 1984

20th Century Masters: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Washington (DC), National Gallery of Art; Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; Toledo (OH), Toledo Museum of Art; Seattle (WA), Seattle Art Museum; San Francisco (CA), San Francisco Museum of Art; New York (NY), The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Phoenix (AZ), Phoenix Art Museum, nº 9.

1996

De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 68, p. 182.

1997

Del vedutismo a las primeras vanguardias. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, nº 48, p. 162.

  • -America & Europe, a century of modern masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. [Exhib. Cat. Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia – Christchurch, Robert McDougall Art Gallery, 1979-80]. Sydney, Australian Gallery Directors Council, 1979, nº 27, pp. 48,142, illus. [ Sheet by Zafran].

  • -Lieberman, W. S.: 20th-Century Masters. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. [Exhib. Cat. Washington (DC), National Gallery of Art – New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982-1983]. Washington, International Exhibitions Foundations, 1982, nº 9, p. 18, illus. [Sheet by Lieberman].

  • -Baur, John I. H.: ”Le nouveau goût Thyssen’‘. In Connaissance des Arts. Paris, September, 1983, nº 379 , pp. 66-67, illus.

  • -Levin, Gail: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Twentieth-Century American Painting. London, Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, nº 8, p. 52, illus.

  • -Clark, Carol; Mathews, Nancy M. and Owens, Gwendolyn: Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné. Williamstown (MA), Williams College Museum of Art – Munich, Prestel, 1990 , nº 495, p. 325, illus.

  • De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza], 1996, n. 68, p. 182.

  • -Del vedutismo a las primeras vanguardias. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, [Exhib. Cat. Museo Bellas Artes de Bilbao], 1997, n. 48, p. 162.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 422, illus. p. 423 [ Sheet by Kenneth W. Maddox].

  • -Alarcó, P. and Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 222, illus.

Expert report

In Autumn only the russet tones in the foliage of the trees and the distant shore seen across the body of water indicate the season. Its compositional format, which was frequently used by Prendergast, shows a landscape laid out in broad horizontal bands against which is woven a rhythmic pattern of vertical accents. In the lower half of the painting an Arcadian frieze of standing female figures, anchored by two seated figures in the centre, spreads across the surface. The pronounced emphasis of the negative spaces between the trees, created by overpainting with lighter tones their dark leafy forms, unites with the light surface of the water, which itself was painted over a deeper hue. The colours of the figures’ dresses echo the colors of the autumnal leaves.

Prendergast’s numerous sketchbook drawings rarely relate precisely to specific paintings, but they offer insights into his creative process. Many of his compositional sketches are similar to Autumn and contain few or no figures, while other pages of his sketchbooks contain multiple drawings of figures, almost always female, both nude and clothed, with no indication of a physical environment. They suggest that the artist would create a landscape setting for his painting and then populate the composition with figures randomly chosen from his sketches. Often the drawings of clothed figures contain colour notations describing various aspects of their dress, less often were colours indicated in his landscape studies. As in his paintings, the features of his figures in his sketchbooks are generally anonymous. The dog-like figure in the lower left of Autumn is likely a hybrid of the various drawings which he made of donkeys pulling carts.

Autumn, c. 1918-1923, can be linked to a number of other landscapes by Prendergast, including Autumn Festival, c. 1914-1915, Washington (DC), The Phillips Collection, and Landscape with Figures, 1921, Washington (DC), The Corcoran Gallery of Art, whose dominant tonality is now green, but contains a similar dog-like form in the lower left of its composition. It has been suggested that a photograph of a Prendergast painting, preserved in an album of around 1918 in the Prendergast Archive, Williamstown (MA), Williams College Museum of Art, may be an earlier stage of Autumn. Prendergast often reworked his late compositions over a period of years, so that they became almost unrecognisable from their initial state. The photograph, however, relates far more closely to the Corcoran painting than to the composition in the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. 

Autumn is a reductive variation of the Phillips and Corcoran compositions, distilled to densely-rendered forms, while at the same time retaining the festive joie de vivrefound in the painter’s late work. There is in the artist’s paintings-as well as in the works of his brother, Charles-an innocent, child-like simplicity. “Prendergast sees the world,” a critic noted in 1915, “as a small boy might-an endless procession of men, women, and donkeys moving through the trees by the water’s edge.” The painting was previously dated c. 1910-1912 but has now been placed much later in the artist’s chronology in the catalogue raisonné of Prendergast’s works published in 1990.

Kenneth W. Maddox