Urban Realism and the American Scene

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858–1924)

Salem Willows, 1904

Oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 34 1/4 in. (66.7 x 87.0 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.120

An early modernist, Maurice Brazil Prendergast was known for his vibrant depictions of busy cities, urban parks, and beaches. In the first decade of the century, he captured scenes of contemporary life by dissolving his images in dense tapestries of color. Salem Willows is one of several works he devoted to the seaside municipal park of the same name on Massachusetts’ northern coast that opened in 1858. A crowd of brightly dressed women and children stroll or rest against a backdrop of open water dotted with ships and boats; two tall trees frame the view. Prendergast used layered pigment to achieve a complex textural effect. The careful arrangement of dark and light colors animates and energizes the picture.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.