Charles E. Prendergast (American, 1863-1948)
Untitled (Vase with Flowers and Birds)
Signed "C. Prendergast" l.l., dated "1936" l.r.
Tempera and gold and silver leaf on incised gessoed panel, 20 x 16 in. (50.5 x 40.0 cm), framed.
Provenance: Private collection, New York, by family descent; Sotheby's New York, American Paintings, Drawings & Sculpture, December 2, 2010; through to the current owner.
N.B. Nancy Mathews of the Prendergast Archive & Study Center examined this painting in 2010 and rendered her opinion that the work is by Charles Prendergast, based on its stylistic similarities to Flowers (MFA Boston) and Blue Vase and Birds (private collection).
The present painting hung at one time in the home of Juliana Force, the first Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The location in Force's home was documented in a photograph from the magazine Country Life, April 1937, depicting Force's bedroom decorated with furniture by Max Kuehne. The Prendergast painting hung just to the left of the Kuehne folding screen. The photograph was subsequently reproduced in Max Kuehne, Artist and Craftsman (New York: Hollis Taggart Galleries, 2001), p. 36, figure 13.
Charles Prendergast established a reputation as a skilled and inventive frame maker before dedicating himself to the production of exquisite decorative panels. In 1911, at the height of his renown as one of the finest frame makers of his time, Charles and his brother, artist Maurice Prendergast, traveled to Italy. Their visits to Italian museums and churches inspired Charles to draw on the Christian tradition of gilded panels, as well as Middle Eastern and Asian imagery, to create decorated panels and objects. These works called on his talent with woodworking as well as his interest in and understanding of fine art. Like his Arts and Crafts-style frames, the panels featured carved and incised patterns highlighted with gesso (a mixture of chalk and glue coating the picture surface), tempera paint, and gold and silver leaf. Charles exhibited his panels alongside Maurice's paintings in several joint exhibitions in New York following the brothers' return from Italy, and before Maurice's death in 1924. Charles continued to create panels and decorative objects, and his work was influential in the rise of interest in American primitive and folk art in the first half of the twentieth century.
The frame is believed to be original.
Very minor scuff mark c.r. in the background. Tiny surface holes from bubbles in the gesso background. Varnished over the two birds and most of the blossoms. Brown paper remnants to the reverse of the panel.
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