Boucher Painting, Degas and Negre Photographs, and Rare Books among the Highlights of 2002 Acquisitions by the Clark Art Institute

For Immediate Release

November 18, 2002

Boucher Painting, Degas and Negre Photographs, and Rare Books among the Highlights of 2002 Acquisitions by the Clark Art Institute

Acquisitions round out a year of program growth
and planning for Tadao Ando designed campus enhancement

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA (November 18, 2002) -The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute announces that it has enhanced its collection with key additions of painting, photographs, and rare books. This past weekend, Institute trustees approved the purchase of the richly conceived painting Laundresses in a Landscape by French rococo artist François Boucher. The small landscape with an unusually complex composition is an important addition to the Clark's collection of 18th-century French paintings.

Other highlights of 2002 acquisitions are the gelatin silver print Jules Taschereau, Edgar Degas, and Jacques-Emile Blanche by Edgar Degas and a selection of photographs by Charles Nègre purchased this spring at the historic sale of the collection of Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes, and rare 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century books from the collection of Julius S. Held.

"This year's acquisitions enhance our remarkable paintings collection, build the photography collection that we began in 1998, and add to the resources of our research library used by scholars and the public alike." said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark Art Institute. "While many people know us for the wonderful collection of French Impressionist, Old Master, and American paintings left us by our founders, Sterling and Francine Clark, some may not know that we continue to expand on their legacy."

The acquisitions took place over a year of programmatic innovation and planning for future expansion. Throughout 2002, the Clark continued to work with Pritzker-Prize winning architect Tadao Ando on schematic designs for the Institute's forthcoming facility and campus enhancement project. The exhibition Tadao Ando: Architect, on view at the Clark through April 27, features 15 of Ando's other buildings and demonstrates the ability to elegantly weave together architecture with dramatic natural environment that led the Clark to select him to oversee its master plan. Designs for the Clark facility, as well as landscape architecture designs by Ando and Reed Hilderbrand Associates, are expected to be unveiled early next year.

2002 also brought programmatic growth to the Institute. Building on its success in organizing major international exhibitions such as 2001's Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890, the Clark was the initiator and coordinator of "The Vienna Project," an unprecedented collaboration of eleven leading cultural institutions in the Berkshires. "The Vienna Project" presented performing and visual arts programs related to Vienna from the age of Mozart to the present. At the center of "The Vienna Project" was the Clark's exhibition Gustav Klimt Landscapes. More than 70,000 people participated in the Klimt show and other programs at the Clark this past summer.

Laundresses in a Landscape

The acquisition of Laundresses in a Landscape compliments other 18th-century French paintings at the Clark, including Boucher's Vulcan Presenting Arms to Venus (1756) and works by Fragonard, Vernet, and Robert. According to senior curator Richard Rand, the idyllic subject matter relates to the Institute's landscapes by Ruisdael, Corot, and Renoir.
Laundresses in a Landscape was painted in 1760 and exhibited by Boucher at the Paris Salon of 1761. The oil on canvas measures 19 7/8 by 24 inches and depicts a young man spying on laundresses in the foreground. A screen of trees interspersed with rocks, fallen logs, and branches surround a pond or river deep in the forest. Though Boucher was primarily a history painter-rising to the rank of First Painter to Louis XV-he drew and painted landscapes throughout his career. The new acquisition is typical of Boucher' lush gardens, dense forest interiors, and picturesque farmlands populated by laundresses, shepherdesses, and swains.

"Boucher's landscapes are among his most innovative and attractive works," said Rand. "The detailed surface and intense color scheme of this painting are fully in the spirit of the Clark collection. The painting has a distinguished provenance, having been in the collections of Prince Paul Demidoff of Florence in the 1880s. It came on the market through a private dealer in London and was purchased directly from the private family that has owned it since 1967."

Photography

The Clark began its ongoing initiative to build a collection of early photographs in 1998. Since then the Institute has assembled a core collection of more than 400 photographs that date from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the threshold of modernism in the 1920s and reflect the quality and character of the Clark's other collections of paintings. Sterling and Francine Clark 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.

One of the goals of the photography collecting initiative is to better serve the Clark's mission as a center for education and research in the visual arts. The invention and development of photography informed every aspect of art in the 19th century, the period for which the Clark is best known. The photography collection serves as a resource for the Graduate Program in the History of Art, jointly sponsored by the Institute and Williams College. Among the students taking advantage of the collection is Paul Martineau, a 2002 graduate of the masters program, who this spring made a gift of the 1910 photogravure Brigitta by Frank Eugene to the Clark upon his graduation.

The Institute purchased Jules Taschereau, Edgar Degas, and Jacques-Emile Blanche, a self-portrait of the artist with two friends, following the sale of the Jammes collection at Sotheby's, Paris, this spring. The print, made in December 1895, is believed to be the only photograph by the French Impressionist artist to have retained its original frame. According to Richard Kendall, consulting curator of European paintings at the Clark and an internationally recognized expert on Degas, the photograph represents a key moment in Degas' career.

"This magnificent photograph comes from the most experimental moment of Degas' engagement with photography, when he made dramatic images of himself and his friends by lamplight and explored the manipulation of focus, extremes, of tonal contrast, and multiple exposure. It is an extremely important work from Degas' rare photographic output, which will carry those familiar with his Impressionist oeuvre into the complex territory of his final decades," said Kendall.

The photograph depicts a seated Degas with his friends Taschereau and Blanche (another painter whose work is represented in the Clark collection). The photograph is framed in what is believed to be its original frame from an exhibition of Degas' photographs held on the premises of Tasset et Lhote in 1895. The print is thought to be the only enlargement made from Degas' negative.

The Clark also holds a smaller format photograph by Degas, a portrait of Ludovic Halévy, acquired during the first year of the photography initiative.  In addition to the Degas photograph purchased after the Jammes sale, the Clark acquired five photographs by pioneering French photographer Charles Nègre, including an interior of the kitchen of the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes and a striking still life.

Julius S. Held Library of Rare Books

The Held Library was acquired through combined purchase and gift in April, 2002. The collection comprises more than 200 volumes, including a notable group of books published by Plantin Press in Antwerp in the 16th century. Dr. Held, a distinguished scholar of Rubens and Rembrandt, collected many of the books for their illustrations by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens. These books include works by Virgil and Ovid, versions of Aesop's fables, and titles on mythology, astronomy, religion, and anatomy from the 1500s to the 1800s, in a range of languages, including Greek, Latin, German, Italian, and French. The collection also includes important art histories and early treatises on iconology and emblems.

The addition of the Held library enhances the Clark's art history research library, one of the nation's premier resources for the study of European and American art, containing more than 200,000 printed books, bound periodicals, and auction sales catalogues. The library, one of the few that is open to the public as well as to scholars, supports the Institute's role as an international center for research and discussion on art, its history, criticism, and the institutions that shape and support the field. The library is home to offices for recipients of Clark Fellowships-one to ten month research fellowships awarded to museum, university, and independent scholars annually (21 appointed in 2002)-and supports the Graduate Program in the History of Art.

The Clark

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of the country's foremost art museums and also a dynamic center for research and higher education in art history and criticism. The Clark's exceptional collections of Old Master, Impressionist, and 19th-century American art on display in the museum's intimate galleries are enhanced by the beauty of its 140-acre setting in the Berkshires. The Institute is one of only a few art museums in the U.S. that is also a major research and academic center, with an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia, and an important art research library. The Clark regularly organizes significant special exhibitions, often in partnership with leading European institutions, which generate popular interest in the arts while advancing critical thought. Upcoming exhibitions include Renoir and Algeria (February 2003) and Turner: The Late Seascapes (Summer 2003).

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.

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