Artwork Information

  • Title:

    As Ships Go Sailing By

  • Artist:

    Prendergast, Maurice

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1858-1924

  • Date:

    about 1917

  • Medium:

    Oil on wood panel

  • Dimensions:

    15 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

In the early 1910s Maurice Prendergast painted several beach scenes depicting large crowds of promenading figures in their vibrant dresses, pastel swimming suits, and brightly colored riding togs. The title of As Ships Go Sailing By draws attention to the water traffic, yet the sail boats and two-mast ship, small in scale and relegated to the background, are subordinate to the figures on the beach. The narrative emphasizes their leisurely activities, which range from horse riding to sailing.

Within the generalized landscape setting, the unification of color and light to establish the forms constitutes Prendergast’s major impulse. Beginning with base tones, the artist successively layered brighter colors toward an eventual harmony. He subordinated line and emphasized the inherent energy of the mosaic-like daubs and scumbling. In fact, line only appears as traces of a base color peering through subsequent brighter layers of paint or as an insignificant outline on the fragmentary figures.

Prendergast typically reworked his images and painted on the reverse of his panels/canvases. On the reverse of As Ships Go Sailing By is a beach scene executed in thin transparent layers of oil paint. This untitled beach scene may be a sketch, which the artist failed to develop; it is also possible that it represents a finished statement executed in a deliberately sketchy style because Prendergast had been experimenting with the expressive potential of spontaneous and even crude-looking brushwork since the early 1890s.