A selection of important objects by artist Charles Prendergast (18631948) are on display as of today. 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 Prendergasts 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 Museums 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 objects 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 Prendergasts workhis inventive methods, his esoteric use of symbols and meaning, his archaic and primitive compositionsall 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 provides 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.