Clark Remix in Miniature

By Andrew Davis, Museum Building Reinstallation Project

I didn’t set out to plan museum exhibitions. It evolved quite naturally.  Early on in the planning of ClarkNOW, the curatorial team knew that the next several years would be extremely busy. Plans for each exhibition would have to be fleshed out on a small, legible scale before becoming reality. I have an aptitude for the kind of meticulous work that makes some people run screaming, as well as the ability to draw accurately from life, think visually and abstractly, and keep pace with the revisions and changes of direction that a project of this scope will always have.

Synergy was magical as we designed Clark Remix, which presents highlights from the Clark’s permanent collection of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts in a dynamic, interactive space that will allow audiences to engage with the collection in new ways. Clark Remix will be presented in Gallery E, where more than 80 paintings and hundreds of decorative objects will need to fit neatly in a relatively small space. We explored many layouts before selecting a final arrangement of paintings. In this version, a paperboard Reese Witherspoon strolls through a minimally appointed gallery space, enjoying the surfeit of art on the walls.

To ensure we had shelf space for our hundreds of decorative arts objects, I made life-size two-dimensional mock-ups of every teacup, spoon, tankard, mold-blown glass, and porringer on view. Luckily, there were already digital images on file for most of these. First, I made these images actual-size (which sounds easier than it is), then I printed the photos, glued them to mat board, and cut the shapes with an X-Acto knife.

Humble means can achieve impressive ends. For the attractive hardwood floors pictured below, I manipulated a generic digital image into sheets of hardwood wallpaper. I printed them, and then measured and cut them as you might cut wall-to-wall carpeting, and glued them into place.

To really appreciate the high-impact results you can get through low-tech means, just take a look at these life-size paintings I made for Gallery E:

We couldn’t afford to be off by an inch when hanging the Clark’s paintings this densely, so my trusty Sharpie and I made an actual-size stand-in for every work we wanted to use. These are quick studies, done free-hand: first loosely in pencil, then loosely again in marker. Indispensible to our planning, they had the personal benefit of revealing more to me about the collection than I would ever have learned through any research, reading, or hours spent walking through the galleries.

Working in the same scale as the originals allowed me to experience the impact of scale from both the creator’s and spectator’s viewpoints. Making studies from the masters is a time-honored method of learning about art. Reproducing nearly 100 paintings from the Clark’s collection allowed me to walk along with them a bit as they created these artworks in the first place.

Many of the paintings are now on the walls, and the decorative arts are in their cases. We’re nearing completion, and hope you’ll come see the exhibition when it opens on February 12. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Clark Remix!

Looking Back

By Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art

As the in-house curator for Rembrandt and Degas, an exhibition that was first shown at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I worked with my colleagues to decide how we would present these prints and paintings at the Clark—meaning both how to place them within our gallery space, and what to say about them.

As I worked on the installation, I realized that I was thinking about the artists in more personal terms than I expected, rather than seeing the show as primarily a set of themes or images. That’s because the exhibition consists entirely of portraits, most of them self-portraits, which means that it’s easier than usual to imagine being the artist as he stood in front of his canvas, deciding how to portray himself. It’s really that process of thinking that struck me most—you can see Rembrandt considering how different expressions look, and also trying out different kinds of approaches to convey them, using lighter or darker shadows in prints and paintings, and thin or thick lines in his prints.

Degas does the same thing, but he also clearly thinks about the artists who came before him, and how they made portraits. If you were Degas in 1857 or so, looking into a mirror and then at a blank canvas or etching plate, wouldn’t you see not just your own features but also those of Rembrandt—and Ingres and Delacroix and Titian—and wouldn’t you have to decide whether to reject their examples or follow them a little bit—or a lot?

Degas’s etching of his friend and fellow printmaker Joseph-Gabriel Tourny is probably the best example of the French artist adopting some of Rembrandt’s ideas. Tourny wears a Rembrandtesque hat and sits at a window with a stack of paper, just as Rembrandt did in one of his self-portraits, and wears an ambiguous expression that many of the faces in the exhibition share, his head largely in shadows. And Degas printed this image over and over again in different ways, following a method for which Rembrandt had become famous. Even though we’re only showing one version of it, you can see evidence of Degas’s thought process in the two different framing lines that he drew around the central image.

When you see this image in the context of this exhibition, you can find a surprising number of ideas coming together in this one portrait, and maybe you can even feel a little bit closer to that small room with its fringed curtain and sturdy table, and to the artist Tourny is looking at…

Image Credits:

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Beret and Neck Cloth, 1633. Etching second state, 13.9 x 11.9 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-32

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), The Engraver Joseph Tourny, 1857. Etching; sixth printing on Japanese vellum, 32.2 x 25.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. H.O.   Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929, 29.107.55  [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art   Resource, NY]

By Paul Richardson, Assistant Exhibitions Manager

Even a relatively small exhibition like Rembrandt & Degas: Two Young Artists has many component parts that must be organized and coordinated in order to bring the exhibition to completion.

The intellectual genesis for this exhibition was the observation of a senior staff member from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam upon visiting the Clark that the shading, or chiaroscuro, effects across the face of the Clark’s youthful 1856 Edgar Degas Self-Portrait were reminiscent of the shadows that fall across the Rembrandt’s face in two similarly small format Self-Portraits, one in the Rijksmuseum collection and one from the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.

One of the Rijksmuseum curators, Jenny Reynaerts, investigated whether this was a chance occurrence, or if there was any explicit knowledge or experience that bought about the similarities of these objects. Could Jenny find out what the young Degas knew and thought about Rembrandt?

Jenny found out a great deal, as you can see from the exhibition. Next, the Clark’s senior curator, Richard Rand, suggested that bringing the Clark and Rijksmuseum paintings together with other objects created by these two artists early in their careers would make an engaging and informative show. A special draw for the show in Amsterdam was that there are no Degas paintings in public collections in Holland. For Williamstown, a visiting Rembrandt or two is always a special occasion! I was especially excited to be responsible for some of the planning with staff members from the Rijksmuseum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Once all the basic parameters and goals of the exhibition settled, things really start to move behind the scenes in the curatorial and exhibitons departments. Owners of object identified during the research phase are contacted and loan request letters are sent out. Loan terms such as environmental conditions for display, shipping, and insurance are agreed and loan contracts are exchanged. Gallery space is designed and readied, and wall texts and labels are drafted and reviewed.

I worked with the various curators and exhibitions and registrarial staffs to make sure that everybody understood and agreed upon the objects that would be displayed in each venue and when personnel and artwork would be on the move. I also worked with the Clark’s curator, Sarah Lees, for our installation of the exhibition, as well as the communications and publications departments to help make sure that everything was progressing according to schedule, and that the object labels, wall text and checklist were accurate and complete.

Finally, in the last week or two before the opening, the art works arrive from lenders or are brought out from storage. Then they are readied and inspected before they are installed by our staff art preparators and curators, and conservators from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.

As you can imagine, the art objects are placed in different locations, arrangements, and groupings to see what works best. The curator decides whether this or that etching looks best next to one and not another. Are we making the right comparison or contrast between images? Is painting A hung too high, or is painting B hung too low? Have the wall graphics arrived in time for installation?

Sometimes it’s slow going and sometimes it is incredibly hectic as the final details get worked out and we get ready to open. In the end though, everything falls into place, the excitement builds, the show looks great, our visitors enjoy the amazing artwork—and I’m happy, proud, and relieved.


Image credits:

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait as a Young Man, 1629. Oil on panel, 15.6 x 12.7 cm. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen-Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 11427 [© bpk, Berlin / Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Germany / Art Resource, NY]

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Self-Portrait, c. 1857–58. Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 26 x 19.1 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.544 [Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA]

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait as a Young Man, c. 1628–29. Oil on panel, 22.6 x 18.7 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt, with additional funding from the Prins Bernhard Fonds, the Stichting tot Bevordering van de Belangen van het Rijksmuseum, and the ministerie van CRM, SK-A-4691

Rembrandt   van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Young Man in a Velvet Cap   (Ferdinand Bol), 1637.  Etching, second state, 9.5 x 7.7 cm. The   Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of   Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. 29.107.10     [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY]

“From the Vault” is a weekly post highlighting a rare book from the Clark Library’s extensive collection. This week, Librarian Susan Roeper shares Washington Irving’s 1870 book, Irving Rip Van Winkle, a legend of the Kaatskill Mountains.

Rip Van Winkle: a legend of the Kaatskill Mountains is illustrated with original designs by eminent artists—and these haunting photographs by famous photographer Napoleon Sarony of the comedic actor Joseph Jefferson portraying Rip Van Winkle.

Hope you enjoy this sneak peek of the exhibition Rembrandt and Degas: Two Young Artists, opening November 13–in just FIVE DAYS. See you in the galleries!

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Image credits:

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait as a Young Man, c. 1628–29
Oil on panel, 22.6 x 18.7 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt, with additional funding from the Prins Bernhard Fonds, the Stichting tot Bevordering van de Belangen van het Rijksmuseum, and the ministerie van CRM, SK-A-4691

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait Leaning Forward, 1626–30. Etching third state, 4.3 x 4.0 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Mr. and Mrs. De Bruijn-van der Leeuw Bequest, Muri. RP-P-1961-973

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Curly Hair and White Collar, 1628–32. Etching second state, 5.6 x 4.9 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-2

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait Drawing at a Window, 1648. Etching, drypoint and burin, fifth state, 16 x 13 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. J. Wyss Bequest, Hartford, RP-P-1987-158

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Long and Disheveled Hair, 1629–32. Etching third state, 6.4 x 6 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-17

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Beret and Neck Cloth, 1633. Etching second state, 13.9 x 11.9 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-32

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Self-Portrait, c. 1857–58. Oil on paper mounted on canvas, 26 x 19.1 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.544 [Image © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA]

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Self-Portrait, 1857. Etching and drypoint, third state, 23 x 14.4 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA, 1955.1402 [© Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA]

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Self-Portrait, c. 1855–56. Oil on paper laid down on canvas, 40.6 x 34.3 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960, 61.101.6 [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY]

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait as a Young Man, 1629. Oil on panel, 15.6 x 12.7 cm. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen-Alte Pinakothek, Munich, 11427 [© bpk, Berlin / Alte Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Germany / Art Resource, NY]

Addy’s Rad Day

Guest post by Adeline’s Daddy

Rachel and I have been talking about making it out to the Pissarro’s People exhibition at the Clark since it opened back in June. All things Life and Child, have been keeping us away, but being that this was the last weekend and the planets aligned for us, we made it out. It was a rainy fall day, but beautiful none the less and the colorful tree-lined drive was art in itself. As is common in our baby-filled life we arrived and tended to Addy’s every need for about a half an hour, and then we were off to explore. Addy must now climb up every set of stairs (aided of course), and climb she did, excited to see the paintings that were hanging just out of sight.

I was slightly bummed when I was told that I couldn’t take photos once we were inside the exhibition, but I did snap this photo right before we went in.

It was a great exhibition. I’ve always been a big fan of the Impressionists and this was great display focused on portraits and scenes focused on people. Addy really wanted to walk around the room, and I thought this may be a distraction (and possible annoyance) for the very packed house of people intent on taking in this once-in-a-lifetime viewing. But many people were just as happy to see this cute kid walking around holding Daddy’s hand, ooohhhing and ahhhing, and hogging some of Pissarro’s spotlight. We did have to make it slightly brief and kept moving to some of the other exhibitions, and for Addy to exhibit her cuteness. We stopped at the gift shop at the end of the day and picked up a new set of board books for Addy. Pretty awesome.

After everything was packed up and we were about to leave, I had to take a shot of part of the Pissarro bio leading upstairs, since it described the day nicely. It was pretty…

Actually, I would more likely call it…

This morning, we signed onto Twitter to find our friends discussing one of the most beloved works in the Clark’s permanent collection: William Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr. We’re always happy to share what we know—and what we think!—about this monumental work. Check back throughout the day as our staff and our visitors add their voices to this page:

Paul Richardson, Assistant Exhibitions Manager: I have a love-hate relationship with Bouguereau in general. Nineteenth-century academic style and content is not really to my taste but these masters surely could draw and paint! As concerns Nymphs and Satyr, I really love the back story that it once hung in a hotel bar in New York City where it inspired cigar-box labels, plates and urns. It is also interesting that it is the one over-sized picture that Sterling Clark purchased and it provides a dramatic comparison to the more intimately scaled paintings that the Clarks otherwise collected. Enjoy.

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts: Nymphs and Satyr is the largest painting in the Clark’s collection; Mr. and Mrs. Clark usually bought works that were more domestic in scale. In particular, they admired the work of the Impressionists, so it’s interesting that they also acquired this large-scale painting of a Classical subject, made in 1873, the year before the first Impressionist exhibition, which is about as unlike an Impressionist painting as you could imagine. The Bouguereau is hanging currently in a gallery in which a number of paintings by Monet are also displayed, so visitors have a perfect opportunity to see the differences between these two types of nineteenth-century French paintings for themselves. 

Monica Henry, Education Coordinator: The action in this work centers around a struggle between the nymphs and the satyr at the water’s edge (satyrs can’t swim, and the nymphs, who have had enough of this satyr, know that). The scene is so idealized that despite this struggle, there are no splashes, and all of the nymphs stay clean as a whistle (no mud!).

Mary Leitch, Manager of Visitor Services:  It is amazing how many visitors associate Nymphs and Satyr with their first art museum experience.  We often hear they visited the Clark as a child or with a school group and they were fascinated with this painting.  Timothy Cahill wrote a great piece about this work for the 2002 Clark Journal entitled, “The Naughty Painting.”  If you visit the Clark, borrow the information desk’s copy of the journal and enjoy this article!

Shane Chick, Clark Visitor: I have always loved Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr; it is the first painting I can remember.  I grew up on the opposite side of the golf course near the Clark Art Institute, and I would walk there by myself on weekends and afternoons and during holidays and vacations.  The Clark always seemed like my own little artistic getaway, in fact the Clark and Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr were the one of the reasons I became an artist.  Every time I would walk into the Clark as a child I was struck by the size of the painting (and I am still in awe of the scale). I would stand there and try to imagine what happened next. This painting was something to look forward to, and still is.  Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Clark for gathering all the artwork for my own personal early art history education. (P.S. This was during the 70’s and 80’s and my hippie father did and still does look just like the Satyr.)

David Keiser-Clark, Web Developer: There’s so much detail in this painting, it makes for easy eye-gazing. Here’s what intrigues me: The nymphs’ turquoise and red hair ribbons are incredibly vibrant, yet I’ve never noticed them before. For all of the satyr’s ruggedness, his right ear appears velvety soft, and vulnerable; and his face, when magnified, appears clearly anguished. And while the nymphs, satyr, tree leaves, grass and water plants are all done in a stunning photo-realistic style, it bothers me that those little red flowers (lower-left) and yellow lily-pad flowers (lower-right) look, well, painted, and un-real. Why’d he do that?

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts: Hi David, I’m not sure I can answer your question definitively (what looks “unreal” to one person might look fine to someone else), but… I think it’s likely that certain parts of the painting would have looked rather different when it was painted 130+ years ago (paintings “age” just like human beings).  The reeds that appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas suggest another connection that may or may not be relevant to the painting’s theme.  One of the mythological stories told about Pan and his “passions” involved a nymph called Syrinx, who—to escape his attentions—cried out for help from the gods and was transformed into a clump of water reeds.  The noise made by the wind as it passed through the reeds gave Pan the idea of cutting some of them down and stringing them together to make his famous set of pipes (the musical instrument known as the “pan-pipes” is also known as a “syrinx”).

Terri Boccia, Acquisitions Librarian and Special Projects Officer: I have always loved the playfulness of Nymphs and Satyr. The brilliant composition not only keeps the eye moving around the painting, it also conveys the push-and-pull going on as the frisky nymphs try to get their reluctant satyr into the water. Notice how the feet nicely fall on a perfect diagonal leading from the lower right up into the scene. You can almost feel the twisting of the highly lit back of the foremost nymph as she tugs on the satyr.  The nymph with her arm raised looks like she is signaling to friends to come join the fun. The ladies certainly look like they are having a good time.

Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art: While Nymphs and Satyr is certainly a fun, appealing, crowd-pleasing painting, I also find it somewhat maddening, in a way. Think of the realist artist Gustave Courbet, who was Bouguereau’s contemporary (actually, Courbet was a few years older) but who painted in a style radically opposed to his. Courbet, who depicted workers, ordinary people, and rough, unpicturesque landscapes, supposedly said: “Show me an angel and I’ll paint one.” Well Bouguereau obviously never saw a satyr (though he probably had a model or two in his studio who looked something like a nymph), but he painted one so convincingly, in such detail and with a perfect, glassy, photograph-like surface, that I actually have to work hard to remember that this is a mythical creature! Of course I don’t mind being “fooled” by such a skilled artist, but then again…

Glenn D. Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, discusses the influence of Nymphs and Satyr here.

Lauren Puzier, Former Clark Library Intern: How elegantly Bouguereau depicts a struggle between a single satyr against four agile nymphs! Passing by this work in the museum I see a playful and lighthearted painting with figures fooling around near the ponds edge.  The composition is so fun as far as movement and soft curves (not to mention the Arcadian background!) But just looking at the way these nymphs tug, pull and push quickly becomes more shocking than playful.  I find myself stuck looking at the satyrs’ head.  Nymph #3 (facing us with a turquoise hair ribbon) quite violently wraps her fingers around his neck, nearly digging them in. Meanwhile, Nymph #1 and #2 push and hang off of his head.  As he struggles to stay on land his hooves slip on the soft muddy ground. It is no wonder he does not look overjoyed by the pretty attention!

Sally Morse Majewski, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing: In 2006 Nymphs and Satyr were special witnesses to a marriage proposal at the Clark. The enterprising groom contact the Clark in advance and we helped out with the arrangements including flowers, and a photographer who snapped the special moment.  Good news is – she said yes!

Peter Unique, Clark visitor, asks: The details are exceptional! Did Bouguereau have any models?

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts, responds: Hi Peter. Like most academically trained artists in France at the time, Bouguereau made many preparatory studies from life, using models posed in different positions, adjusting their poses to fit the figures together in the kind of rhythmical composition we can see in his painting of Nymphs and Satyr.  In fact, we have a figure drawing of a female nude in the Clark’s works on paper collection.  The drawing isn’t a study for our painting but it gives some idea of his working method.

We’d love for you to post your questions and thoughts about this painting in the comments section, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and we’ll respond in the body of the blog.

By Norma, guest blogger
Last week, my quilting buddies and I visited the Clark to see the El Anatsui installation at Stone Hill Center. El Anatsui was born in Ghana and now lives in Nigeria, where he makes monumental sculptures from discarded liquor tops. He wires them together and makes a sort of metal fabric, which he then drapes, pleats, and places them on the wall.
Did I say they are enormous? It’s hard to tell from this picture of Delta, although I guess you can see the floor and the ceiling and get an idea of the scale.
Strips of Earth’s Skin is even bigger. I really wanted to touch it, but I didn’t.
This one, Intermittent Signals made me gasp as I entered the room. The golden colors took on a glow that reminded me of Egyptian splendor. It wrapped around two walls and ended up draping on the floor.
Barbara and Nike getting a close-up view.
Some of the tops were folded and spiraled around into circles that were joined together by wire.
In these last two you can read some of the names of the liquor companies.

There are only three pieces in the installation, but it was well worth the trip just to see them. El Anatsuiwas in Stone Hill Center, the newer section of the museum, which is a whole separate building. We could have taken shuttles up to the main building , but we opted to walk on the path through the woods. It was a lovely walk on a beautiful day.

At the main building we saw Pissaro’s People, the work of Camille Pissarro (1830–1903). This was a large exhibition with many rooms of his paintings. Although Pissarro was best known as a landscape painter, he had a lifelong interest in the human figure and painted people from many walks of life. We enjoyed this and the other special exhibit, Spaces, which were large-scale photographs by Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth.
It truly was a wonderful trip, and our heads were spinning with ideas.
[This post originally appeared on the blog News from Norma, and has been reprinted with permission.] 

Image credits:

All photos courtesy of Norma.

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Delta, 2010. Found aluminum and copper wire, 15 ft. 3 in. x 11 ft. 3 in. (464.8 x 342.9 cm). Private collection [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY]

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Strips of Earth’s Skin, 2008. Found aluminum and copper wire, 12 ft. 10 in. x 22 ft. 10 in. (330.2 x 696 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY]

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Intermittent Signals, 2009. Found aluminum and copper wire, 11 x 35 ft. (335.3 x 1066.8 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY]

Field notes from Matt Noyes, Grounds Manager:

Meadow grass in bloom at Stone Hill Center. The tall meadow grass offers exciting variations to the landscape and lessens the need for mowing, while providing a favorable habitat for fauna.

View from Moltz Terrace Stone Hill Center looking North towards the Green Mountains of Vermont. In the foreground stands a magnificent thicket of White Birch, Gray Birch, and  Aspen.

I hope you’ll visit Stone Hill to enjoy the view AND check out the El Anatsui exhibition. The contemplative galleries provide an undistracted environment where you can experience Anatsui’s transcendant sculptures. Strips of Earth’s Skin, especially, reminds me of the colorful, complex landscape surrounding Stone Hill Center.

Image credit:

Detail of El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Strips of Earth’s Skin, 2008. Found aluminum and copper wire, 12 ft. 10 in. x 22 ft. 10 in. (330.2 x 696 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY] Photo by Michael Agee

Vive le France!

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!

By Caedy Shultz-Loomis, Membership Coordinator

Summer has arrived, and we are very excited to present a lively new lineup of free outdoor concerts for this summer’s July band concert series!

Part of my job here at the Clark is to book and manage these concerts, and I have met some incredible artists through the years. My process for finding and choosing artists is always a really fun and enlightening experience. When I am looking for bands, I look at venues within the region that are of similar type and size to us. I check out the artists on their upcoming roster, as well as the artists who have performed at each venue in the past. I often look for local groups who can easily travel to the Berkshires, and I sometimes come across groups who are already traveling this way and are able to add the Clark to their schedules.

I try to book as wide a variety of artists as I can so that there is always something new going on at the Clark for all of our visitors to enjoy.

This summer’s concert series will kick off with The Doerfels on July 5. The Doerfels perform lively progressive acoustic music that is a blend of rock, bluegrass, gospel, country, and jazz. Back by popular demand, The Doerfels are not to be missed!On July 12, we will be treated to a special performance by The Sweetback Sisters. The charismatic Sweetback sisters combine their passion for classic country music with new interpretations of country music traditions to create a fresh take on what it means to be country.We will welcome local favorites, The Sister City Jazz Ambassadors on July 19. Led by Pittsfield guitarist/banjo player Andy Kelly, this popular local band performs a wide range of jazz music, from New Orleans style to modern jazz fusion.The series will conclude with a very special and truly unique performance by Kinobe. Gifted, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer Kinobe and his band are at the vanguard of Ugandan performers representing the inspired synthesis of African roots and global fusion.Bring your family and friends, a picnic basket, and a blanket to the Clark for these free outdoor concerts. Barbecue fare will be available for purchase and the galleries will remain open until 6:00 pm.

Booking and managing the concerts at the Clark is a passion of mine and one of my favorite things that I do at the Clark. I am really looking forward to a great season and to seeing many new and familiar faces in the crowd again this year!

Size and Space

By Nancy O’Connor, Williams College M.A. 2011

Working in the Clark Art Institute’s Manton Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, I would often pull out photographs for visiting scholars or classes.  This entails sifting through a box of photographs and, upon finding the one needed, placing it on the easel for viewing.  Though the works hanging on the walls in the Spaces exhibition are photographs too, they require several hands to maneuver. 

Looking at some of the larger pictures such as Höfer’s Igreja da Ordem Terceira Secular de São Francisco Salvador Bahia II, it seems that these works are wholly different from the smaller-sized, nineteenth-century photographs featured in the Clark’s collection.  Thomas Struth’s Audience 7 fills an entire wall!

I draw attention to their size, perhaps an overly obvious feature, because it is precisely this that affects how we interact with these works.  When walking across the bridge to the main galleries, even before opening the glass doors, we are greeted by one large work (Struth’s San Zaccaria). The details are not immediately decipherable but, nonetheless, the photograph commands our attention from afar. 

It is this ability to observe from a distance that these photographs permit, much like we are able to do with William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyr in the room adjacent to the Spaces exhibition.  We can appreciate them from multiple distances—whether standing a pace away or across the room.  Indeed, we think of them not only in terms of the space within the photographs but also the space of the Clark’s galleries.

In preparing for this exhibition, I worked with the curator to research not only the photographs themselves but also the spaces depicted.  This inquiry included Google searches on the Viking ship pictured in Candida Höfer’s Wikingmuseum Oslo I as well as looking through publications on the Venetian church of San Zaccaria. 

The search to uncover information on one image even entailed a call to the Oslo Public Library to identify the mural shown in Höfer’s Deichmanske Bibliotek Oslo II (a painting by Norwegian artist Axel Revold).  Researching everything from when Michelangelo created the famous statue David (in 1503) to the history of the cloister in Höfer’s Kloster Mehrerau Bregenz, it was clear that this project was different from my usual work as a graduate assistant.

After visiting Pissarro’s People be sure to make your way to the main galleries and find the photographs nestled amidst the Clark’s permanent collection. 

Image credits:

The Clark Art Institute’s Manton Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Thomas Struth (German, born 1954), Audience 7 Florence, 2004. Chromogenic print, edition of 10, 6.07 x 9.65 ft. (185 x 294 cm). Private collection  [© Thomas Struth]

Spaces exhibition

Candida Höfer (German, born 1944),  Wikingmuseum Oslo I 2000. Chromogenic print, edition of 6, 3.28 x 3.28 ft. (100 x 100 cm). Private collection [© Candida Höfer/VG-Bildkunst, Bonn 2000]

Check out the exhibition’s special website for more!

By Jay A. Clarke, Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, and curator of Spaces: Photographs by Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth

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There’s nothing quite like a set  of “before” and “after” photos to tell a story.  As curator of the Spaces show, it is a rare treat to be able to work with a room like this (we call it Gallery 2) for an installation of large-scale photographs. 

This room has a special history in the annals of the Clark.  As the central space of the original white marble building, it is usually filled with natural light and populated with paintings by Renoir, Monet, and Morisot, sculptures by nineteenth-century artists, Francine Clark’s piano, and a sumptuous carpet.  But, with many of our French paintings currently on an international tour, this room was recently emptied of its usual contents. 

What to do?  Close it down?  Lock the doors?  How about using the room for an installation of contemporary art? 

We decided on the latter, specifically to juxtapose the work of Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth.  Their photographs are all about absence and presence and, much like the Clark’s dual mission, they often focus on the experience of the museum visitor and the contemplative atmosphere of libraries and research centers. 

Featuring Höfer and Struth’s work in this historic space at the Clark is a provocative pairing.  Gone are the furnishings, the walls are freshly painted, the spacing is generous, and two benches designed by Tadao Ando take the place of Degas’s sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

I hope you will come see for yourself the before and after of Gallery 2.  It was just as much fun to conceptualize this transformation “before” as it is to see the final product “after.”

By David Breslin, guest curator of El Anatsui

Though one of the tasks of a curator and art historian is to find words for visual experiences, I’m mostly struck dumb and dumber when I stand on the terrace of Stone Hill and look toward the mountains in Vermont.

I find myself wondering, in something like a fever pitched by being totally in the moment, whether the bright green of the trees and earth is radiating toward me or if I’m inexplicably being drawn into it. I have nearly the same physical reaction when I stand in front of the three sculptures by El Anatsui that constitute our summer show at Stone Hill.

Giving myself over to their beauty, I get lost in things formal and aesthetic: the layering and repetition of color, the play of patterns, the heft and heave of material that intimate mass and space. So, yes, I take the bait. Beauty is the lure.

When we look closely at the sculptures, we see that color, weight, and form are the properties of the aluminum bottle tops that Anatsui uses to construct his works. But, for Anatsui, there is nothing neutral or natural—or even immediately beautiful—about those aluminum tops. It is an object lesson in history. Anatsui has said about his 2002 discovery of these materials:      

Several thoughts went through my mind when I found the bag of bottle tops in the bush. I thought of the objects as links between my continent, Africa, and the rest of Europe. Objects such as these were introduced to Africa by Europeans when they came as traders. Alcohol was one of the commodities brought with them to exchange for goods in Africa. Eventually alcohol became one of the items used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They made rum in the West Indies, took it to Liverpool, and then it made its way back to Africa. I thought that the bottle caps had a strong reference to the history of Africa.

Though the hook is beauty and we’re given the physicality of these sculptures to contend with, Anatsui also leaves us with the weight of time. It is a reminder that history is always around us—surrounding us like the mountains we see everywhere from Stone Hill.

Image credits:

El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Intermittent Signals, 2009. Found aluminum and copper wire, 11 x 35 ft. (335.3 x 1066.8 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY]

Detail of El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944), Strips of Earth’s Skin, 2008. Found aluminum and copper wire, 12 ft. 10 in. x 22 ft. 10 in. (330.2 x 696 cm). The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica  [Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY]

By Kathleen Morris, the Sylvia and Leonard Marx Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of Decorative Arts

I spend much of my days working on future exhibitions. At any time, we are in the midst of many projects, each of them at a different point of evolution.  For a complex show like Pissarro’s People, the planning takes many years and involves scores of people. Seeing such a show come together—and being part of the team that turns a curator’s idea into a physical reality—is incredibly rewarding. Smaller exhibitions may not take as much time, but each of them presents their own challenges as we shepherd them to fruition. 

This weekend we are opening three exciting exhibitions. For many of us, this is the culminating moment of a tremendous amount of work—and we feel proud and thrilled to open the doors and invite the public in.  This summer we will be offering our visitors three great exhibition experiences. Even as I go back to my daily concerns of chasing down details for shows that open six, twelve, twenty-four, or more months from now, I’ll relish those moments I can escape to the galleries to enjoy three “finished” projects. 

Here’s just a sneak peek at what you’ll see in the Pissarro’s People exhibition:

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See you in the galleries!

Image credits:

Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), The Marketplace, 1882. Gouache on paper,
31 3/4 x 25 1/2 in. (80.6 x 64.8 cm). Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Private collection, L.1984.54.1

Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), Haymakers, Evening, Éragny, 1893. Oil on canvas, 21 3/8 x 25 3/4 in. (54 x 65 cm). Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska. Endowment Fund Purchase, JAM1946.28

Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), Self-Portrait, 1873. Oil on canvas, 22 x 18 5/16 in. (56 x 46.5 cm). Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Gift of Paul-Émile Pissarro, 1930, RF 2837

Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), The Harvest, 1882. Tempera on canvas, 27 11/16 x 49 9/16 in. (70.3 x 126 cm). The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Donated by the heirs of Mr. Kojiro Matsukata, P.1984-3

Camille Pissarro (French, 1830–1903), Jeanne Pissarro, called Minette, Sitting in the Garden, Pontoise, c.1872. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 23 5/8 in. (73 x 60 cm). Private collection

By Sarah Hammond, Curatorial Assistant

Having worked on our summer exhibition Pissarro’s People with Rick Brettell and the Clark curatorial staff for the last year, I am filled with eager anticipation as we count down the days to the official opening.

Over the last several weeks, our intrepid preparators have been hard at work: they have painted walls, installed pictures, cut labels, and aimed lights, all to make Camille’s characters come to life.

As I’ve wandered through the in-progress galleries, dodging tool carts and light cans, I have been struck by how colorful our show is. To be sure, in an exhibition of works by an Impressionist painter, color unsurprisingly plays a major role, and Pissarro’s People is no different.

And while Pissarro’s blues, crimsons, and greens seem to radiate forth from each canvas—thousands of repeated dabs, dots, and strokes appear woven together, like threads of a tapestry—it is not just the hues of the paints that are so vibrant.

The people in the pictures themselves form a colorful crew, a cast of distinct roles. The favorite child, the dreamy maid, the exhausted worker, the impassioned radical, the prudent shopper: all mingle together in the Clark’s galleries, seeming to fill our rooms with a bustling din as each painting, drawing, and print vies for our attention.

I hope you’ll have a chance to visit the exhibition this summer, to meet and greet Pissarro’s colorful people!

For more information about Pissarro’s People, check out the special website dedicated to the exhibition.

Image credits:

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), The Marketplace, 1882. Gouache on paper, 31 3/4 x 25 1/2 in. (80.6 x 64.8 cm). Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Private collection, L.1984.54.1

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), Apple Harvest, 1888. Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm). Dallas Museum of Art. Munger Fund, 1955.17.M

By Matt Noyes,
Grounds Manager

It is hard to believe it’s the first day of spring and we have been graced with a delicate blanket of snow! For tried-and-true New Englanders this is just…well…spring in New England.

I recently moved back to Williamstown after spending 15 years in North Carolina, where I got a little used to spring actually being spring, with pears in bloom and the proverbial dogwood blooms just around the corner. But spring in the Berkshires is no less beautiful in the snow.

Let’s take pleasure in the magnificent beauty that adorns our landscape on this day.

Beech tree (Fagus grandiflora):

The beech tree holds onto its old, leathery leaves throughout the spring, and their tan color provides a striking contrast to the white snow. New leaves will emerge in late spring and push off the existing leaves. The beech tree in the photo above is a young tree planted on the periphery of the of Stone Hill Center.

Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis):

Snow on hemlocks gives you such a serene feeling. The hemlock is by far one of my favorite trees, with its cinnamon-colored bark and dark green leaves. These trees line the Clark’s Howard and Nan paths, which offer picturesque short hikes. My kids love exploring these paths:

Paper birch tree or white birch (Betula papyrifera):

When you look at the picture below, it’s hard to believe that we’re just a few short months away from all of the great summer activities that will take place on the South Lawn!

But spring is here—even if it doesn’t seem that way quite yet.

Unexpected Encounters

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts

When the Eye to Eye exhibition first opened in January, I think all of us—Clark staff, and Clark visitors, regulars and “first-timers”—were genuinely blown away by the sight of so many wonderful portraits looking back at us from the gallery walls.  I would find myself sneaking away from my desk whenever I had a minute to spare, for another peek at a favorite face, a splendid sleeve, an inscrutable expression or a magical passage of paint.  Of course, I’m lucky, I work here, I can get from my office to Galleries 4 and 7, where the portraits are hanging, in about a minute and a half.  But in the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself coming back more slowly through the permanent collection to look at paintings I’ve known for a long time in a rather different light.

Van Dyck’s luscious Study of a Young Bearded Man has the energy and spontaneity of a “live” performance; the artist’s brush has captured the sitter’s features very convincingly, you get the feeling that you’d definitely recognize this guy if you bumped into him in a coffee shop or a bar.  But the tilt of his head and the thoughtful look in his eyes might make you hesitate to strike up a conversation with him; he might not welcome someone breaking in on his introspection.  The portrait of the bearded gentleman by William Merritt Chase on show in Gallery 1, makes use of the same muted colors and the paint has been handled with a similar degree of confidence, but the effect is completely different.

I have always had a special regard for David’s portraits, and the Clark’s Comte de Turenne is a particularly great example, but being able to compare this painting with Baron Gros’s sensational portrait of another successful Napoleonic soldier—the Comte de LaRiboisière—makes you realize how wonderful each of them is in their different ways.  The red-headed young man in the gray fur cape—who looks much younger than his 27 years—seems to wear his heavily decorated artillery officer’s uniform with something of a swagger, like a teenager showing off a new outfit in which he knows he looks good.  David’s painting is more restrained, it’s an appropriately respectful image of an older and more sober member of Napoleon’s inner circle, though the sitter’s tousled curls soften the formality somewhat.

This pairing of portraits from the exhibition with portraits from the permanent collection can be as much fun as the “spot the resemblance” game my colleagues Richard and Kathy have been playing in earlier blog entries, though it involves spending time in both the exhibition and the permanent collection to get your own eyes tuned in.  Comparing Margaret Lemon’s self-confident expression with that of Elizabeth Linley in the portrait of Elizabeth and her brother by Thomas Gainsborough (which I’ve always thought was a little “assumed”—as if she’s thinking “Oh I’m so beautiful and talented, sigh…”) makes me feel relieved they lived in different centuries and were never in the same room together!

On the other hand, I can imagine the sweet-faced Girl Holding a Bouquet of Flowers, whose portrait is attributed to Girolamo Macchietti, might have got on quite well with the young woman in Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of a Lady, painted about 80 years earlier.  Both seem poised on the edge of adult womanhood, excited at what the future might hold but a little apprehensive about it too.

Special exhibitions are always full of exciting discoveries and unexpected encounters with great works of art, but what we see when we visit a special exhibition can also make us look again at—and think twice about—works we think we know well.  I could go on, but I’d hate to spoil the fun for you; maybe you’ll get a chance to experience both the Eye to Eye exhibition and works from the Clark’s collection for yourself, if you can get to Williamstown before the show closes on March 27th.

Image credits:

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641), Study of a Young Bearded Man, c. 1618–19. Oil on paper laid down on panel, 16 11/16 x 15 1/8 in. (42.4 x 38.4 cm). Private collection. Photo by Glenn Castellano.

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916), Portrait of a Man, c. 1875. Oil on canvas, 24 x 19 in. (61 x 48.3 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gift of Asbjorn R. Lunde, 1980.43.

Antoine-Jean Gros (French, 1771–1835), Portrait of Count Honoré de La Riboisière, 1815. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 23 1/4 in. (73 x 59 cm). Private collection. Photo by Glenn Castellano.

Louis Joseph Trimolet (French, 1812–1843), Deuxième Macedoine, 1841. Wood engraving, sheet: 17 11/16 x 12 1/2 in. (44.9 x 31.7 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1992.2.

Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641), Portrait of Margaret Lemon, c. 1638. Oil on canvas, 23 3/8 x 19 1/2 in. (59.5 x 49.5 cm). Private collection.

Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788), Elizabeth and Thomas Linley, c. 1768. Oil on canvas, 27 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (69.8 x 62.3 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.955.

Attributed to Girolamo Macchietti (Italian, 1535–1592), Portrait of a Girl Holding a Bouquet of Flowers, c. 1570s. Oil on panel, 23 x 17 1/2 in. (58.5 x 44.5 cm). Private collection. Photo by Glenn Castellano.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (Italian, 1449–1494), Portrait of a Lady, c. 1490. Tempera and oil on panel, 22 1/16 x 14 13/16 in. (56.1 x 37.7 cm). Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1955.938.

Whose eyes are these?

Take a close look at the Eye to Eye portraits and *see* if you can match these eyes to their faces. Post your answer (a list of the portrait titles in order of the eyes from left to right) in the comment section by noon tomorrow. The first person to identify all 12 eyes will win a special Clark prize!