A painter’s dazzling mosaic of energy and color in 1901 Madison Square

Painter Maurice Prendergast has been described as a “post-Impressionist.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but he has a unique, early 1900s style that turns city spaces into dazzling mosaics and perfectly captures the kaleidoscopic vitality of New York’s streets and parks.

The painting above, “Madison Square,” is from 1901 and is part of the collection at the Whitney Museum.

I can’t make out the words in the sign below “Buffalo NY,” but I can feel the women and girls and drivers and strollers, all out for a day in a park that was much more elite a generation earlier but has been ceded to the masses. Judging by all the umbrellas shielding female faces, the sun must be quite warm.

Prendergast seemed to like scenes of leisure and play, like these—also in New York City parks.

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13 Responses to “A painter’s dazzling mosaic of energy and color in 1901 Madison Square”

  1. beth Says:

    how beautiful, the city is all aswirl!

  2. Sandra Wapner Says:

    1901 was the year of the PanAm Expo in Buffalo

  3. barbara Says:

    Prendergast was a fantastic painter. Also glad to see some mid week content.

  4. Kevin Foley Says:

    It really captures the energy of the city. The sign hanging over on he street was probably an advertisement promoting the Buffalo World’s Fair. President McKinney was assassinated while attending that September.

  5. murrayjamesc Says:

    It’s likely an advertisement for the 1901 Pan American Exposition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-American_Exposition

  6. evemoser Says:

    Wonderful, interesting stuff you send.  Thanks SO much!~Eve Moser______________________________________________________

  7. Ed Says:

    I wonder whether this isn’t a painting of a scene in Buffalo, rather than New York City. From May 1 to November 1, 1901, Buffalo hosted a type of World’s Fair called the Pan-American Exposition. An online version of the official guidebook is here:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=Sg0aAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    This looks like it could be an entrance to the exhibition. Or, perhaps, the Buffalo Exposition was being promoted in Manhattan?

    Here is a map of the Exposition:

    https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:4m90f227c

    The Exposition was where President William McKinley was assassinated that September.

    According to notes of a 1980 Prendergast exhibition at the Whitney, the artist received “his first official recognition” at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition: a “Bronze Medal for watercolors.”

    See: https://archive.org/stream/mauriceb00whit/mauriceb00whit_djvu.txt

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks for the links, especially about Prendergast receiving his first recognition at the Pan Am Expo. I thought it might be in Buffalo as well, but the title of the painting, Madison Square, and the look of the park seemed like the Madison Square Park we still know today.

  8. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks all for the info about the Pan Am Expo in Buffalo!

  9. Alex Says:

    The text probably has to do with the 1901Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. It’s logo is visible above.

  10. chas1133 Says:

    Well, MetLife wasn’t built yet so that’s not it in the background…very well may not be the park

  11. Nigel Says:

    Hello

    Thanks for such an entertaining blog! I came across this ‘factoid’ and wondered whether any element of the story might be true and would merit inclusion on your blog. It was claimed without any supporting evidence that somewhere on Manhattan there’s a memorial of some kind to the entirely fictitious sinking of the Staten Island Ferry by a giant octopus. With minimal Googling I‘ve now discovered that this is a well known hoax perpetuated by one Joseph Reginella. Which in turn made me wonder whether there are other NY hoaxes which persist to this day…

    Over to you!

    Best

    Nigel Algar

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