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Charles Prendergast (1868-1948)
No sales tax is due on the purchase price of this … Read more Property from the Butler Institute of American Art Sold to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund*
Charles Prendergast (1868-1948)

The Offering

Details
Charles Prendergast (1868-1948)
The Offering
incised with artist's initials 'CP' (center left)
tempera and gold leaf on carved panel
20 x 25 in. (50.8 x 63.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1916-17.
Provenance
The artist.
Charles Daniel, New York.
Nelle E. Mullen, Merion, Pennsylvania.
[Sale] Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 5 November 1967, lot 43.
Dr. John J. McDonough.
Gift to the present owner from the above, 1972.
Literature
R. Wattenmaker, The Art of Charles Prendergast, exhibition catalogue, Boston, Massachusetts, 1968, pp. 26, 30, 47, no. 8, illustrated.
E.J. Bullard, A Panorama of American Painting: The John J. McDonough Collection, exhibition catalogue, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1975, pp. 44-45, 107, no. 40, pl. 49, illustrated.
The Butler Institute of American Art, Sixty Years of Collecting American Art: An Index to the Permanent Collection, Youngstown, Ohio, 1979, pp. 30, 73, illustrated.
I.S. Sweetkind, ed., The Butler Institute of American Art Index to the Permanent Collection, Youngstown, Ohio, 1997, p. 140, illustrated.
C. Clark, N.M. Mathews, G. Owens, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1990, p. 679, no. 2252, illustrated.
Exhibited
New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Art Gallery, and elsewhere, The Art of Charles Prendergast, October 2-November 3, 1968, no. 8.
New Orleans, Louisiana, New Orleans Museum of Art, and elsewhere, A Panorama of American Painting: The John J. McDonough Collection, April 18-June 8, 1975, no. 40.
Raleigh, North Carolina, The North Carolina Museum of Art, John J. McDonough Collection, April 25-June 6, 1976.
Special Notice

No sales tax is due on the purchase price of this lot if it is picked up or delivered in the State of New York.

Lot Essay

Decorated across the surface in a characteristically whimsical, highly imaginative style, The Offering is a magnificent example of Charles Prendergast's painted panels. Although his reputation was first established as one of America's greatest frame makers, Prendergast began a second career as a painter in his fifties which flourished into his early eighties. Although not as acclaimed for his painting as his brother Maurice, Charles did produce a small yet extraordinary group of panels, murals and watercolors which capture his most unique vision, often described as "primitive," "childlike" and "heavenly."

Prendergast's first painted works were produced around 1912, following what must have been a highly inspiring trip to Italy the year before. As Nancy Mathews points out, "Italy was a revelation to him; he loved the sensation of stepping into the past." (The Art of Charles Prendergast from the Collections of Williams College Museum of Art and Mrs. Charles Prendergast, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1993, p. 15) In addition to the wonderful frames and antique carved furniture he saw, Prendergast was struck by the brilliancy of the gold leaf shimmering on the surfaces of the quattrocento and cinquecento masterpieces. From this point forward, gilding not only embellished his frames but became a prominent element in his paintings.

In a characteristic manner, The Offering, executed circa 1916-17, portrays a landscape filled with flowers and animals as three women extend blossoms. By making the central figure smaller than the other two, Prendergast adeptly leads the viewer into his world presenting the figures and animals in the background, framed by the plants on either side of the composition. Prendergast's wit and spontaneity freed him from employing an expected symmetry and perfection in this carefree arrangement, "reflecting the Ruskinian preference for asymmetry, irregularity and roughness." (R. Anderson, "Charles Prendergast," Maurice Brazil Prendergast and Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1990, p. 90) These details may recall Prendergast's earlier interest in subjects suggesting fruitfulness, renewal, and rebirth. However, "it is probably unwise to look for precise iconographic meaning or deliberate intellectual content in his work...it is more likely that Charles chose these motifs primarily because they charmed him on a simple visual level and struck him as a happy antidote to contemporary realism." ("Charles Prendergast," Maurice Brazil Prendergast and Charles Prendergast: A Catalogue Raisonné, p. 90)

Throughout the entire panel, Prendergast's love of decorating a surface is expressed repeatedly. The Offering reveals Prendergast's paramount interest in filling a surface with rich color and pattern, likely stemming from his work in frame design. The flat, two-dimensional quality of The Offering lends the picture a simplicity and clarity, which lies at the heart of its charm. Prendergast's delight in creating the work is displayed across the surface where no one focal point presides. The artist's spontaneous hand is seen in the long, horizontal strokes of the ground. This uniform pattern is broken up by the sweeping lines of the twisting flowers and vines and the marvelous shapes of the animals and figures. Together these wonderful vignettes create a virtual playground for the eyes, the creation of an artist employing a child-like perspective to capture the pleasures of everyday life.

The work retains its original, hand-carved Charles Prendergast frame.

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