From 1895 to 1897, Maurice Prendergast filled the pages of a folio album with drawings in watercolor, pencil, and pen and ink, sketched on-site in the Boston Public Garden. His radiant images captured the carefree recreation of cossetted children and their adoring families in beguiling snapshots. Several of the sketches originated ideas for advertisements, while others laid out subjects for monotype printmaking. The album, later called the Large Boston Public Garden Sketchbook, very likely served as a presentation piece for publishers and other clients.
Born in Newfoundland, Canada, Prendergast (1858–1924) spent much of his life in Boston, where the picturesque landscapes and seascapes in and around the vibrant city provided the perfect setting for his now-familiar repertoire of leisured subjects at play. Armed with portable watercolors, Prendergast could slip in and out of a beachfront crowd or a promenading family in the park unnoticed.
In 1961, Robert Lehman bought the Large Boston Public Garden Sketchbook from the widow of Prendergast's brother, Charles. When the binding was examined, there was evidence of deterioration from mold, and it was then decided to dismantle the album to ensure the preservation of its drawings. This exhibition displays all of the watercolors and several drawings, a fitting tribute to an American artist whose colorful imagery chronicled charming pastimes in and around his beloved city.