Noted for his colorful, decorative scenes of outdoor leisure life in Europe and North America, Maurice Prendergast was a Bostonian watercolorist and oil painter. Prendergast’s work was championed by Phillips for its pretty, aesthetic qualities.
Fantasy, painted circa 1917, is an oil painting that displays Prendergast’s “daring musical genius” with color which Phillips greatly admired. It depicts a theme that preoccupied Prendergast during the last decade of his career: a crowd of people at leisure placed within an imaginary, densely forested landscape set against a bay; extending into the water is a promontory containing a house, more people, or trees. Other Predergast painting in The Phillips Collection depict similar themes of leisure. Fantasy is rendered as an open vista with an uninterrupted recession into space, giving the painting a sense of depth. Prendergast painted with measured brushstrokes and rich, though not bold, hues. This painting was seen by Phillips as a synthesis of the decorative and the representative, through Prendergast’s use of simplified and colorful pictorial patterns.