The cleanest critical response to “Maurice Prendergast: By the Sea” at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art — the loveliest, most languid art show of this New England summer — is probably: See it. Drink it in. Then go find a beach, try to re-create some of the show’s simple joys.
But of course criticism hates to be clean and simple. And Maurice Brazil Prendergast, a phenomenon as anomalous and unlikely as his name, invites his share of chewy critical reflection. The Bowdoin show, although it hinges on a single theme — the seaside — functions as a Prendergast retrospective (the first in over two decades) largely because the artist focused so intently, so nearly exclusively, on that theme. And like all good retrospectives, it poses questions. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.
Sebastian Smee can be reached at email@example.com.