Clark Purchases Murray Photograph of Taj Mahal

For Immediate Release

January 03, 2000

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute recently added to its growing collection of early photography by acquiring a paper negative and corresponding albumen print by pioneering Scottish photographer John Murray (1809-1898).

The photograph, Taj Mahal from the East, with Dr. John Murray Seated in the Foreground, was taken between 1858 and 1862. The negative is on view now through March 3, along with a new positive of the image printed for the Clark by Chicago Albumen Works.

The positive and negative were purchased in honor of Clark registrar Martha Asher of Williamstown, who retired in December after working at the Institute since 1970. Mrs. Asher's late husband was born in India and the couple lived there for several years. John Murray was a physician who lived and worked in India from 1833 to 1871. He first took up photography in 1849 and was the first photographer in India to systematically record the famous antiquities at Agra, Mathura, Sikandra, and Fatehpur Sikri.

The photograph, which shows the Taj Mahal with Dr. Murray posted amid ruins in the foreground, was among the last of his photographs to be exhibited at the Bengal Photographic Society in 1862. Photography at the Clark Taj Mahal from the East is the latest photograph acquired by the Clark through purchase or gift since it began its ongoing initiative to build a collection of early photographs in May 1998. The Clark has assembled a core collection of about seventy-five photographs that date from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the threshold of modernism in the 1910s and reflect the quality and character of the Clark's collections of paintings, prints, and drawings.

The invention and development of photography informed every aspect of art in the nineteenth century, the period for which the Clark is perhaps best known, yet the medium was generally neglected in the art market when founders Sterling and Francine Clark were building their collection. The couple collected no photographs but did amass some 500 drawings and 1400 prints that formed the basis for a curatorial department devoted to works on paper-now the department of prints, drawings, and photographs. Among the works collected to date are The Angel at the Sepulchre (1869) by Julia Margaret Cameron, Château de la Faloise 1857) by Édouard Baldus, an important nude study (ca. 1855) by Gustave Le Gray, The Nile by John Beasley Greene, and Woman Wearing Foxes, Bois de Bologne (1911) by Jacques-Henri Lartigue.

Important photography books are also being added to the collection of the Institute's research library. The collecting initiative has been funded through the Institute's acquisition fund and through the generosity of donors who have stepped forward in support of the new collection. The Homer photograph was acquired by the Clark in part by a generous gift from the Fitzpatrick family of Stockbridge. In addition to their donation, major gifts have also been received from Herbert A. Allen, Mr. and Mrs. James Moltz, Evelyn Stefansson Nef, The Scott Opler Foundation, Inc., the Janet Upjohn Stearns Charitable Trust, and anonymous donors.

By building a collection of early photography, along with its photography reference library, the Clark Art Institute furthers the intellectual and academic mission that Sterling and Francine Clark originally endowed. The private collections of the Clarks were first revealed to the public when the Institute opened its doors in 1955. These collections have continued to grow by gift and purchase. Highlights of the collection include Italian and Flemish paintings of the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries; French and English paintings of the nineteenth century; French impressionist paintings; and American works. Extensive holdings of silver, prints, drawings, sculpture, and porcelain are also included.

In addition to its role as a museum, the Clark is charged with fostering research and scholarship. The Clark's library has grown into one of the nation's premier resources for the study of European and American art. Along with 200,000 printed volumes, the library's holdings also include many rare illustrated books, bound periodicals, auction sales catalogues, a large study collection of photographs and reproductions of works of art, and 135,000 slides. These resources allow the Clark to serve not only the general public but also the academic community. With nearby Williams College, the Clark administers the Graduate Program in the History of Art, the country's foremost program of its kind.

In addition, the Clark plays host to museum and university professionals from around the world through its Fellows program, and it addresses vital and current topics in the visual arts through an ongoing program of conference and symposia.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

Return to the previous page