Gifts of Artifacts Enrich Drerup Art Collection at PSU

February 21st, 2008 by Adam

PLYMOUTH, NH — Plymouth State University has conducted extensive research over the past six years into the life and works of former art professor and Chairman of the Art Department, the late Karl Drerup, who was at Plymouth State from 1948-1968.

The resulting PSU exhibition,Enchanted Garden: Enamels by an American Master, celebrated the art and legacy of Drerup as artist, craftsman, mentor and Plymouth State teacher. A second exhibition ran concurrently at the McGowan Gallery in Concord.

Events related to the exhibitions provided opportunities for former students, colleagues, family and friends as well as collectors to see an extensive collection of Drerup’s work, and to share stories about their relationship with the artist and professor.

Recently, three Drerup enamels have been donated to the University’s permanent collection.

“Seeing a reproduction is not the same as seeing the original art work. These gifts will allow Karl Drerup’s works to inspire future generations of students,” said PSU President Sara Jayne Steen.

Rita Hyde and MaryAnn Hyde Saul, widow and daughter of former PSU president Harold E. Hyde, presented one such gift during the university’s annual Homecoming and
Family Celebration. Hyde was president throughout most of Drerup’s tenure at Plymouth State, and the Hydes stayed in contact with Drerup after his retirement.

The round enamel bowl features an iconic Drerup image, that of St. George and the Dragon. “The St. George piece represents one of Drerup’s favorite themes,” said Catherine Amidon, director of exhibitions at Plymouth State University. “St. George on horseback trounces evil with hooves and spar, sounding a triumph of good over evil that Drerup explored throughout his career.”

Mrs. Hyde hopes the Drerup collection will grow at PSU, and enjoyed several visits during the exhibition. “We heard very interesting stories about Karl at the exhibition from other people who knew him. It was a great tribute to him and to his artistic ability,” she said.

A second gift, a large-scale abstract enamel panel with iconography from the 1939 New York World’s Fair, was made by the Sunderland family, longtime Drerup friends and neighbors.

According to Amidon, the panel is representative of a pivotal time in Drerup’s career. “The 1939–40 New York World’s Fair, Building the World of Tomorrow, offered exhibition opportunities for the large community of émigré artists who, like Drerup, had begun new lives in the United States,” Amidon said. Drerup worked briefly with painter and enamelist William Frederick Stark, another German émigré, and collaborated with him on this piece, which is signed by both artists.

Larry Sunderland said it was exciting to meet a community of people who are enthusiastic about Drerup’s work. “We were so pleased with the shows and it felt good to donate a piece to the University that had been part of the Plymouth State exhibition,” Sunderland said. The family chose this piece because it illustrates Drerup’s craftsmanship and fine use of color. It was created before Drerup came to New Hampshire, and that is a time Sunderland remembers well. “I may be one of the only people left who knew Karl at that time,” Sunderland commented.

bandA third gift, made anonymously, is a round enamel plate with a stylized bird holding a flower in its beak, exemplary of Drerup’s interest in the natural world. The folkloric bird motif centered on the small green plate demonstrates the technical and artistic skills of Karl Drerup, according to Amidon. “A simple bird paused in profile with a captured worm in its beak is an iconic struggle of life and death for the worm, rendered timeless and poetic,” Amidon said.

“Donation of these gifts is so like the Plymouth State community,” said President Steen. “Professor Drerup’s legacy to Plymouth is long and deep, and we are all enjoying our renewed connection with this inspiring artist. A number of the pieces in the recent show were loaned to us by generous private collectors, in addition to Drerup’s son Oliver. As collectors become aware of our connection with Karl Drerup and our desire to honor his legacy we hope that many more such gifts will come our way, filling gaps in this element of Plymouth State history.”

“The contemporary art market is beginning to recognize the significance of this American craft medium, as it has again become the focus of a series of national events. PSU has been at the forefront of the enamel revival the very year of the 75th anniversary of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen who discovered Drerup as an American talent,” said Amidon.

Collectors who are interested in discussing a contribution of Drerup works to the University may contact Angela Matthews, director of development at (603) 535-2901.

Information and images from Enchanted Garden: Enamels by an American Master are available online at www.plymouth.edu/drerup . Exhibition catalogs are available for purchase at http://www.plymouth.edu/drerup/catalog.html.

For information about the Karl Drerup Art Gallery at Plymouth State University, logon to www.plymouth.edu/gallery.

For information on this release contact Betsy Cheney (603) 536-2276 or via e-mail to betsyc@plymouth.edu.