Plymouth State University will honor the innovation and creativity of painter and enamelist Karl Drerup with a comprehensive exhibition, The Enchanted Garden, Enamels by an American Master, opening August 15 at the campus gallery that was named in his honor.
Already an accomplished painter, ceramist and engraver, Drerup mastered enamel making during his New York years, and became a charter member of the Society of Designer-Craftsmen in 1945. After seeing the radiant enamel on metal pieces exhibited in the Ceramics National at New York’s Whitney Museum, he determined to master the art form.
German, and with a Jewish wife, Drerup left Germany and moved to Madrid, and then the Canary Islands, and finally, on the verge of WWII, to New York City.
Studying German and English texts and observing metalsmiths, Drerup taught himself the technique that would make him the most renowned and collected enamel artist in America from the 1940s through the 1960s. Drerup said, “the usual trial and error method is a hard task master, but it works.”
Drerup moved to the Plymouth area in 1946 at the behest of the director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. He raised the level of craft artistry—developing the crafts community as an alternative to mass market art. He was named the second recipient of the New Hampshire Living Treasure Award presented by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the governor in 1989.
Drerup greeted a cohort of just a few students for art classes when he began at Plymouth Teachers College as the only art teacher in 1948. By the time he left 20 years later, he had built a full department with 10 faculty and 135 students, and a reputation for excellence in teaching and in making art.
His involvement with the community was important. He said, “My Americanization took place at the College.”
Drerup’s imagery reflects the sacred qualities of all life; and men, women and animals at home in nature. The Enchanted Garden, Enamels by an American Master will present a great educational and cultural opportunity at Plymouth State University. Education programs for area school children will be developed and special gallery programs and talks will expand upon areas of the exhibition.
The Enchanted Garden: Enamels by an American Master was curated by Jane L. Port, independent scholar and former curator of collections for Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Mass. (2001-2005). Port holds an M.A. degree in art history from Boston University. She has worked on numerous projects and grants at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, recently as a contributor to Silver of the Americas, 1600-2001, American Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has published articles on 20th century silversmith Margret Craver and on Karl Drerup.
Catherine Amidon, Plymouth State University director of exhibitions and director of the Karl Drerup Art Gallery is the exhibition project manager. Amidon, a UNH graduate, holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Paris-Sorbonne, and has extensive experience as an art professor, curator, archivist, researcher and gallery director. She was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to teach at the Edna Manley School of Arts in Jamaica and work at the Jamaican National Gallery of Art in Kingston in 2008. Previously, she received a Fulbright Hays Grant for Comparative Cultural Diversity in Transition in the Baltic States and Russia.
Jeannine Falino has served as consultant and author. After 16 years as the curator of decorative arts and sculpture in the Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Falino has established a career as an independent curator. She has written numerous articles on American metal work and contemporary crafts.