The Exhibition

In 2007, exhibition curator Jane Port brought to life Karl Drerup, a leading mid-century craftsperson. His jewel-like pictorial enamels on metal drew a national audience during the mid-20th century, and merit a fresh look today in a comprehensive retrospective of his life and work.

Karl Drerup

Drerup started his artistic career in New York in 1937 after fleeing Nazi Germany. Academically trained in Europe, he first exhibited works in the U.S. as a ceramic artist. After seeing the radiant enamel-on-metal pieces exhibited in the Ceramics National at New York’s Whitney Museum, he became determined to master the art form. Studying German and English texts and observing metalsmiths, Drerup taught himself the techniques that would make him the most renowned and collected enamel artist in America from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Drerup moved to Thornton, New Hampshire, in 1946 at the behest of the director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. The following year he began teaching at Plymouth State College where he founded the Art Department. By the time he retired from teaching in 1968, the department had grown from a fringe activity to a major that included 10 instructors and 135 students. The college gallery in Hyde Hall was named in his honor in 1986, and in 1997, the Art Department moved to the Draper & Maynard Building, where it opened the state-of-the-art Karl Drerup Art Gallery.

In 1999, the College’s commitment to the Karl Drerup Art Gallery was reinforced when its first full-time gallery director was hired and its budget was augmented to allow for regional, national, and international programming. Since that time, attendance at the gallery has quadrupled, a membership program has been added, and gallery publications have increased. The Drerup Gallery recently hosted art exhibitions from Los Angeles, New York, Latin America, Poland, and Russia. In 2001, an exhibition of Jamaican art organized by the director of exhibitions was circulated nationally to galleries and museums in New York, Washington, Charleston, and Atlanta. The gallery has become a community resource with a national reputation and a notable profile in the press.

It is now time to turn our enhanced resources and energy to an exhibition fitting the legacy of Karl Drerup. His works have been collected by individuals such as Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, and institutions including the Metropolitan Museum, the Cleveland Art Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Currier Museum in New Hampshire. Drerup has a following of proud alumni, yet remains an unknown figure in today’s art world. This exhibition and related publication promise to bring the dazzle of his enamels to the public eye.

  • Curated by Jane Port
  • Project Manager Catherine Amidon

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