The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is probably one of the best small private museums in the country. We never miss a visit while up in the Berkshires and never get tired of the permanent collection, which is detailed here.
The collectors Sterling and Francine Clark opened the museum in 1955. Thus, last year the museum celebrated its 50th anniversary, and still does in The Clark: Celebrating 50 Years of Art in Nature and with 50 Favorites – you can view everyone of them online! This summer's special exhibit pays a tribute to Sterling Clark and his brother Stephen, The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings – extensive online coverage of the exhibit. The brothers originally collected similar art, but then Stephen earned Sterling's disdain when he started collecting moderns beginning with Cézanne, a period Sterling could not relate to. He considered some of Matisse's works “awful things”.
Later, the brother had a falling out over inheritance and did not speak to each other any longer. While Sterling founded his museum, Stephen became involved with MOMA, and later gave part of his collection to that institution, as well as to other museums. He also was the founder of the Fenimore Art Museum (American, folk, and native art) and the National Baseball Hall of Fame both in Cooperstown, New York where both brothers grew up.
This is the first time that collections by the brothers have been shown side by side (poor Sterling is probably revolving in his grave), and fascinating it is. They both liked Renoir, as well as American painters such as Winslow Homer. Sterling collected John Singer Sargent, Stephen preferred Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper.
The exhibit will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from May 22 through August 19, 2007.
In the permanent collection, there was a small special exhibit of a new acquisition, Delacroix and the Horse, which was shown opposite drawings (black and colored chalk on paper) and sculptures by Degas, which I did prefer over Delacroix. Also a Toulouse-Lautrec, “The Jockey”.
Then, I went to look for my favorite (ghastly?) piano, designed by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Next to it hang “The Women of Amphissa”, and another one which we had not seen before, “Preparations for the Festivities”. For more on Alma-Tadema see my earlier blog. My friend loves the Singer Sargent Fumée d'ambre gris.
All in all a perfect day, escaping the heat…