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Archive for the ‘International Tour of Masterpieces’ Category

A guest post by Dallas-based contemporary artist Meg Fitzpatrick

John Singer Sargent is on my Top Ten List of best painters who ever lived. The Clark has lent four of his paintings to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, and one of them—Fumée d’Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris)—is among my Sargent favorites.

Why is he in my pantheon? One reason is his masterful handling of paint.  As seen in Fumée, Sargent manipulates the color white in a way that every studio art teacher can use as a textbook example of how to handle white. There is no color white in nature; it exists only in a can or tube of manufactured paint. And, every beginner painter (myself included) automatically uses it straight from the tube; and, thus fails to capture the essence of sunlight or the subtle recesses of a distant wall. From Sargent we learn a trade secret: mix white with other colors to capture on canvas what you see in life.

To imitate sunlight, a touch of orange is the secret. To render a remote corner, violet grey is the solution. Fumée is basically a monochromatic painting, but on examination you rarely see white “straight” from the tube.

Here are a few other reasons, which are evident in Fumée, that I greatly admire Sargent. His compositions are cropped, a device that was modern for his time. He was innovative in his choice of subject matter, using travels to exotic locales for ideas. The North African woman inhaling vapors in Fumée was an image from a trip to Tangier.

Since I’ve opened and shared my art voting book, my number one favorite Sargent painting is The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, which is on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). I remember being fortunate my senior year of college when I was selected to intern at the MFA. I’d take breaks and visit this painting—simply staring firsthand at the masterpiece that I had seen in an art history slide lecture.

When I lived in the Boston area decades later, I would again sit on the same wooden bench before the sisters and sketch as a way to practice drawing and linger with Sargent.  The study below is of eight-year-old Maria Louisa (the sister in the left corner). Of note, the Boit heirs gave the MFA the six-foot-tall, blue-and-white vases you see in the painting. They now flank this nearly life-size (87-3/8” x 87-5/8”) group portrait.

If you are a Sargent fan or simply like looking at an excellent painter’s work, I recommend the drive to Fort Worth. Sargent’s Youthful Genius: Paintings from the Clark is open through June 17, as is The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark across the street at the Kimball Art Museum.

Image Credit:

John Singer Sargent (American, 1856–1925), Fumée d’Ambre Gris (Smoke of Ambergris), 1880. Oil on canvas, 139.1 x 90.6 cm. Acquired by Sterling Clark, 1914. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts (1955.15)

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By Andrew Davis

Photo by Blake Gardner

With the original museum building closed for renovations, where are my favorite Clark masterpieces? I checked in with curatorial to get the full story. You may find the answers surprising. Come, let’s take a look, shall we?

The Renoirs I love so well have been to Madrid:

And Milan:

And Giverny:

And Barcelona:

And will see quite a few more cities before they return home.

More than one million people have enjoyed the Clark’s collection since these paintings hit the road over a year ago. I hope some of those people come to Williamstown when the collection is reinstalled here in 2014.

It’s all part of ClarkNOW. That’s the snazzy name someone thought up for all the museum programming happening from now until Summer 2014, when the museum building reopens. It’s being renovated now, from top to bottom. It will be bigger and more spacious when it’s done.

There will also be a completely new visitor services building. They’re working on that right now.

ClarkNOW is more than a world tour of paintings. Plenty of things are staying right here in Williamstown. In fact, nearly everything that was in the old museum building is still here at the Clark and on view.

Monet’s Rouen Cathedral? Ugolino’s altarpiece? Homer’s Undertow? They’re all on view now, in the galleries off the main lobby. I just walked over there myself, to be sure.

Photo by Kevin Sprague

There will also be plenty of special exhibitions in the Manton building, and at Stone Hill Center.

Clark Remix, which opened February 12, more than doubled the number of paintings on view in Williamstown. Clark Remix is an utterly different way to enjoy the collection. Think of a salon-style install, and amplify that. There are more paintings per square foot than I’ve ever seen in one place. I don’t know if I can handle it!

Photo by Kevin Sprague

Every single decorative object the Clark displays is shown in a spectacular V-shaped room-within-a-room. That’s hundreds of objects! I have to remind myself to breathe.

Photo by Kevin Sprague

 They’ll be handing out touch screen tablets in case I want to look up info on anything.

Photo by Kevin Sprague

Seeing all this art in a novel way has definitely lit a creative spark, so I’ll be designing my own exhibition with uCurate. I’m excited about this interactive feature. It might be the first of its kind in the world. Anyone can walk up to the screen and arrange digital works from the collection however they like. People can post their exhibitions online, and some of them will actually be chosen to get installed after the museum building reopens! So, if you ever wanted to design exhibitions, here’s your chance. I’ve got a couple ideas…

I’m glad to know ClarkNOW offers plenty to see and do for the next couple years.

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Marie-Thérèse Durand-Ruel Sewing, 1882
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919), Marie-Thérèse Durand-Ruel Sewing, 1882. Oil on canvas, 64.9 x 54 cm. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.613

by Victoria Saltzman, Director of Communications

Happy Bastille Day from Giverny! It’s just past midnight in France and the rush of the last two days has just culminated in a walk down Giverny’s “Main Street,” the Rue Claude Monet as fireworks burst into the night sky. It was the perfect celebratory exclamation point to the excitement of the last 48 hours as the Musée des impressionnismes marked the opening of its exhibition,  La Collection Clark à Giverny, de Manet à Renoir.

Seeing the Clark’s French paintings in the elegant Musée des impressionnismes galleries is a thrill…both for the opportunity to reconnect with these wonderful works and to appreciate them in a space and arrangement that is very different from the Clark’s galleries.  Set against walls of deep red, blue, and gray, the paintings seem to glow. Is it a conceit to think that Giverny’s much vaunted light is enhancing them in some unique way?

There is an unmistakable sense of magic in strolling out of the beauty of Monet’s house and garden and in to the Musée’s galleries. In one moment you are standing inside Monet’s studio and in the next you are standing in front of his Tulip Fields of Sassenheim. You can’t help but wonder what part of this painting was finished at the maison down the lane.

It is also very tempting to imagine how Sterling and Francine Clark would feel if they had had the opportunity to be a part of this moment.  Many of these paintings have not been seen in France for more than 60 or 70 years since they became a part of the Clarks’ private collection. There is an unmistakable sense of delight on all sides at the notion of bringing these beautiful works back to their birthplace to be enjoyed by the people of France.  Surely Mr. and Mrs. Clark would have taken great pride in bringing these paintings back to share them in this way.

In only its first day, the exhibition is proving to be a crowd pleaser. There were lines of people waiting to get through the doors as the Musée opened and the vernissage drew a wildly enthusiastic response.  The Ambassador of Japan was among the dignitaries who filled the galleries.  A contingent of the Clark’s Board of Trustees, led by president Peter Willmott were also on hand for  the festivities. As Peter Willmott noted, the significance of bringing these paaintings to France at the time when Parisans are focused on their national heritage seemed particularly apropos.

From the Paris Metro stations, which are lined with huge banners hailing the Clark collection to the shady lanes of Giverny, there is great excitement that French audiences have yet another reason to celebrate: M. Monet and M.Renoir are back along with many of their amis.

Here are just a few of my photos from opening week:

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Vive le France!

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