Charles Prendergast and his Frames

Charles Prendergast (1863-1948) was known as a painter, a highly successful frame maker, and a furniture maker. The brother of Maurice, Charles started making frames for himself, his brother, and his artist friends to save money and complement the ideas expressed in the artworks. Eventually, his frames became more celebrated than his paintings, and his style developed into a pioneering force behind the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century.

With the frame maker Herman Dudley Murphy, Charles founded the Carrig-Rohane frame shop in Boston, which was widely known for creating unique, sought-after pieces. Many of  Prendergast’s highly original frames were displayed with the groundbreaking works displayed at the original Armory Show in 1913. Ultimately, the artist produced around 400 frames and over 100 other works throughout his lifetime.

A rare carved and gilt frame by Charles Prendergast with ogee profile and intermittently spaced floral carvings alternating with plain burnished “mirror” panels in the Venetian style, with punchwork around the floral carvings
A rare carved and gilt frame by Charles Prendergast with ogee profile and intermittently spaced floral carvings alternating with plain burnished “mirror” panels in the Venetian style, with punchwork around the floral carvings

Like the painters of his time, in his frames Charles Prendergast reconsidered the natural qualities of gold as a medium, showcasing the natural lustre of gold through a restrained brilliance and terse, balletic design elements. We can also see the artist’s lively and eclectic use of pattern at work in his the painting below.

Charles Prendergast, Central Park, 1939 (image courtesy of www.barnesfoundation.org)
Charles Prendergast, Central Park, 1939 (image courtesy of http://www.barnesfoundation.org)

Although he was based in Boston and New York, Prendergast’s style nonetheless reflects the influence of global art trends. The artist traveled to Italy in 1898 and became strongly influenced by the Venetian style. Like the classic “Canaletto” frame pictured below, many of Prendergast’s frames used an ogee profile with intermittently spaced floral motifs. However, in his frames Prendergast swapped the order between floral motif and flat panel, effectively moving the decorative corners to a formerly unembellished region of the frame. This unique layout is a hallmark of the artist’s work.

18th-century Venetian carved, gilt and polychrome frame
18th-century Venetian carved, gilt and polychrome frame

Interested in Prendergast frames? For more information on this or any of the other 5,000 antique frames we have available, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

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