Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Clarks as Collectors

Recently I have surveyed the work of illustrator Constantin Alajálov residing in the collection of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It did not immediately occur to me that these seven remarkable pieces were not acquired in 1955 by the museum's directors, but rather were collected by Sterling and Francine Clark themselves only a few years earlier. They were definitely my kind of collectors. Not only did they assemble a world-class collection of French Impressionist masterpieces and very impressive 19th century European salon paintings, they also took time out to purchase outstanding contemporary magazine cover illustrations by a New Yorker artist.

It's not clear what the museum's curators think of this, if they think of it at all. The Alajálov illustrations are catalogued online, to be sure, but the listings don't betray any scholarship or even mild curiosity. Still, I think these works can hold up to an occasional public airing if the museum should ever have the inclination.

My first visit to the Clark was some twenty or more years ago and I was overwhelmed particularly by all the Impressionist masterpieces on display. I had high hopes for my second visit in March of 2013, but the main galleries were closed for an extensive renovation and only a tiny fraction of the stunning collection was on view. I took a few pictures as you can see, but the grandeur and scope of the magnificent collection can't really be appreciated until the galleries reopen in all their glory on July 4.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Richard Guino, Venus Victorious, modelled 1913-1914, cast in bronze c. 1914-1915.
Venus is modeled after a figure in a Renoir painting of The Judgment of Paris. Renoir supervised sculptor Guino's work on the large-scale figure.

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, modeled 1879-1881, cast posthumously 1919-1921

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, modeled 1879-1881, cast posthumously 1919-1921.
Another view.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bather Arranging Her Hair, 1885
Renoir retreats a bit from his earlier Impressionism to focus more on the figure.

Auguste Rodin, Man with a Serpent, plaster, c. 1886.
This battle to the death is based on a figure from Rodin's unfinished Gates of Hell.

Auguste Rodin, Man with a Serpent, plaster, c. 1886.
From this angle we can see who has won and who has lost.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema designed this Sample Panel for the Marquand Music Room, c. 1883-1884. Acquired by the Clark Art Institute in 2009.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema designed this Steinway Model D Pianoforte No. 54538, 1884.
The fallfront was painted by John Poynter. Acquired by the Clark Art Institute in 1997.

Extensive renovations were underway in March of 2013. The galleries will reopen on July 4, 2014 with a new Visitor Center.

The Clark's Fiat
The Clark Art Institute, March 2013

Note:  More posts about Renoir may be seen here.

A total of only twenty-eight castings of the Degas Little Dance Aged Fourteen were made. See another one here.

Rodin is always good for a blog post or two. See my earlier posts here.

Other posts regarding works in the Clark Art Institute may be seen here.

May Day is International Workers' Day. I have collected some appropriate reading here.


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