At Williams College, Charles Prendergast Is an Outsider Artist Who’s a Total Insider

THE DAILY PIC: As brother of sleek Maurice, well-trained Charles seemed self-taught.


THE DAILY PIC (#1363): This is Holiday Beach Scene, painted in about 1931 by Charles Prendergast, the younger brother of the American post-Impressionist Maurice Prendergast, who is a bit better known and for whom I’ve always had a weakness. I recently saw pictures by both brothers in a smart show called “The Loosening of Time: Maurice and Charles Prendergast”, mounted at the Williams College Museum of Art by grad students Max Boersma and Christopher Borschel. The tight connection between “outsider” art and advanced modernism has been much discussed of late. (There’s a new show about it at the Folk Art Museum in New York, about which more soon.) With the Prendergasts, we’ve got a case where the connection is so tight that it counts as a family tie – or almost as a split personality, since Charles did have art training, and only became an official “folk artist” in the later years of a prolific, varied, and quite professional career. (He was especially successful as a maker of sophisticated frames for elite artists.)

Rather than simply buying into the market’s rediscovery and re-evaluation (in monetary terms) of outsiderism, the Prendergasts help us rethink what the term implies, and how its products came to count as modern art.

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