History And Context
Prendergast, who counted William Glackens and Ernest Lawson among his closest friends, was profoundly influenced by his 1907 trip to France and his exposure to a wide range of new ideas, including work by Cézanne, Matisse’s fauvist paintings, and the heavily patterned canvases of Edouard Vuillard. He was the first American painter to bring these new ideas back to the American art scene.
This painting, which pictures the popular rocky coastal resort town of Nahant north of Boston in Massachusetts Bay, shows Prendergast’s talent for depicting colorful, decorative scenes of leisure life. The artist’s assimilation of the avant-garde styles of Cézanne and Matisse is evident in his use of brushstrokes of vivid colors in intricate, decorative patterns that draw attention to the painting’s surface. Prendergast depicts a pleasant, holiday mood. Duncan Phillips admired Prendergast’s ability to combine the abstract with the intimate: “He was the soul of the true artist, delighting in life, seeing it in his own way, believing that an artist’s special agency is to communicate a life-enhancing pleasure by speaking to the senses and to the spirit in the same language.”