Although he was already painting in oils during the first decade of his career, Prendergast's chief experimentation in the 1890s was in drawing, watercolor and monotype, and his circus and marine views apprear almost exclusively in the latter media. During a time of great enthusiasm in color printmaking, Prendergast appears to have devised his own response to Japanese prints in his color monotypes which evoke Ukiyo-e woodblock prints both formally and technically. The artist wrote to his student and friend, Esther Williams, in 1905 describing his technique. He painted on copper in oils, wiping parts until they were white. When the composition suited him, he placed a sheet of Japanese paper on the plate to make the print. When he wanted to achieve a sharp line, he used the back of a brush or some other pointed object to wipe paint away from the surface of the plate as he does here to create detail and texture in the performer's dress.
Prendergast's brother Charles recalled that in his studio on Huntington Avenue, he neither had the space nor the funds to permit him a conventional printing press; he therefore made his monotypes on the floor, using the back of a large spoon to rub the reverse side of the paper against the plate and thus transfer the paint from the plate to the paper. As he worked, his curiousity to see the results of his efforts often got the better of him, and he would lift up the corners of the sheet to glimpse what effect the print was making.
The soft edges and muted colors of Circus Rider and his other monotypes of this period were deliberately chosen and have been thought to be reminiscent of Whistler's manner of painting. By 1892, he had developed a monogram that combined the calligraphic design of the Japanese woodcutters' ideogram and the decorative elegance of Whistler's famous butterfly monogram. In this way, one can see the artist merging two of the primary influences upon his work to create a highly individual and stylish signature. Although his palate is quite subdued in this composition, one can still detect evidence of the years the artist spent during the early 1890s in Paris, looking closely at Impressionist painting. The circus performer, in her pink tutu is curiously evocative of Degas' ballerinas.