October 24, 2017
[Digital image available upon request]

Williamstown, Massachusetts—Jay A. Clarke, Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Clark Art Institute, presents the opening lecture for the special exhibition The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec on Sunday, November 5 at 3 pm. The free lecture will be held in the auditorium.

“Usually the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the words Impressionism are thick daubs of oil paint on canvas,” Clarke said. “But what about drawing and printmaking? How did the Impressionist line manifest itself in the consciousness of its time? How did the linearity we see in the magical red chalk drawings by Jean-François Daubigny or the watercolors of Constantin Guys impact Impressionism? This is a story that is far less well known than it should be,” Clarke continued.

More democratic than painting or sculpture, works on paper were able to negotiate more porous boundaries—economic, class, political, and creative, as well as in the art press. Although it has been treated as such in the past, the “Impressionist line” was no second-class citizen to painting. It was in fact far more mobile, visible, and, one could argue, modern. As a way to navigate the vast terrain of the late nineteenth century, Clarke’s talk considers three different types of works on paper: caricature, Realism, and Impressionism.

Clarke characterizes caricature as means of artistic and political subversion as well as social commentary, then moves on to discuss Realism and its intersection with and divergence from photography and the popular press. Finally, she explores Impressionism’s experimental, economic, and institutional engagement with prints and drawings. Clarke also looks at some of the main practitioners of Impressionism and their work, including a powerful monotype and pastel of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas, mysterious color woodcuts by Paul Gauguin depicting images from his Tahitian sojourn, and brightly colored posters by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whose domain was the vibrant and scandalous dance halls of the Moulin Rouge in Montmartre.

The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, consisting of more than 270,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit or call 413 458 2303.
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