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Prendergast works on display at Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted on January 25th, 2011

Prendergast Works Loaned to Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee, Wis. – A selection of important objects by artist Charles Prendergast (1863–1948) will be on display starting Thursday, January 27.

To frame historians, the name Charles Prendergast is a hallowed one. To art historians, he is a fascinating but elusive early American modern artist. To many, he is simply painter Maurice Prendergast’s younger brother. Through the generosity of the Terra Foundation for American Art, three important works by Charles Prendergast temporarily join the Maurice Prendergast paintings in the Museum’s Collection.

Charles Prendergast, already an established Arts and Crafts frame maker, embarked on an ambitious second career as a painter and sculptor in his fifties. He continued in this profession for thirty-six years, producing works such as the painted panel Four Figures and Donkey and the carved Chest.

“Prendergast blurred the boundaries of decorative design and high art even more than his Arts and Crafts contemporaries. Prendergast abandoned an object’s utilitarian form and morphed it into a fragile, aesthetic artwork,” said Brady Roberts, chief curator for the Milwaukee Art Museum. “He developed his unusual art-making technique from centuries-old frame-making methods and produced delicate gilded and painted surfaces that he intentionally left unsealed and exposed.”

The uncommon qualities of Prendergast’s work—his inventive methods, his esoteric use of symbols and meaning, his archaic and primitive compositions—all speak to the exploratory spirit of early Modernists, beginning with Paul Gauguin. Yet, these same characteristics describe an art so rare that Charles Prendergast remains almost without peer and dwells on the periphery of art history.

With a grant from the Terra Foundation, the Museum will provide several opportunities to investigate this fascinating artist and his elusive creations, including gallery talks, an opening night lecture, and a symposium.

The extended loan of this artwork is made possible with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

THURS, JAN 27, 5:30 PM | LECTURE: 6:15 PM
With Nancy Mowll Mathews, curator at Williams College Museum of Art

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s far-reaching holdings include more than 20,000 works spanning antiquity to the present day. With a history dating back to 1888, the Museum houses a collection with strengths in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary art, American decorative arts, and folk and self-taught art. The Museum includes the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion, named by Time magazine as “Best Design of 2001.” For more information, please visit www.mam.org.