Charles Prendergast: In Search of “Innocence” is an exhibition that views the artwork of Charles Prendergast in the light of the medieval, Indian, folk, and “primitive” art that inspired his career.
Charles Prendergast (1863–1948), brother of the American painter Maurice Prendergast (1853–1924), was steeped in the Arts and Crafts culture of Boston as a young man, producing highly prized hand-carved frames for the greatest artists of his day such as John Singer Sargent. He turned to pictorial fine art in 1912, bringing non-Western and pre-Renaissance styles into his carved panels. By 1940, he turned to American folk art and subjects. His search for innocence—the aesthetics of pure forms and child-like vision—was the product both of his time and of his unique personality.
This exhibition explores Charles Prendergast’s lifelong aesthetic search by juxtaposing works by the artist with objects drawn from the museum’s collection. Prendergast studied art primarily through the museums and libraries near him in Boston and New York, and, no doubt, imagined his own objects side by side with those of the past. “A terrific piece,” states Cate McQuaid from the Boston Globe, “‘Circus’ (1940) hangs near an early 19th century Indian painting, ‘Lakshmi with attendant winged elephants rising from the ocean.’ ‘Circus’ represents Prendergast at the height of his powers; deftly composed, it captures a crowd and two elephants, each waving its trunk in the air, exactly like Lakshmi’s attendants.”
On view through November 28, 2010, this exhibition features seldom seen works of art from the museum’s collection that span diverse cultures and periods, in addition to special archival materials from WCMA’s Prendergast Archive and Study Center, including Charles Prendergast’s sketchbooks and wood carving materials.