March 7, 2018
Williamstown, Massachusetts—The Clark Art Institute’s summer season kicks off Saturday, June 9 with the opening of two exhibitions rooted in late nineteenth-century France. Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 recognizes the accomplishments of an international group of women who, despite gender-based restrictions, continued to advance their art. The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy celebrates the beauty of old wrought iron collected largely during the late nineteenth century, a period of rapid modernization in France and Europe.
“While both of these exhibitions are geographically centered in France, what’s most interesting is the stories they tell of artists and art forms that have been underappreciated for too long,” said Olivier Meslay, the Hardymon Director of the Clark. “Women Artists in Paris shows us an exceptional selection of paintings by artists whose talent was equal to their male counterparts, but who rarely received the same recognition. The Art of Iron celebrates the splendid craftsmanship and great beauty of objects that, at one time, were central to architectural and commercial interests throughout Europe. Sadly, industrial progress and changing tastes literally consigned much of this work to scrap heaps. Thanks to the efforts of passionate collectors, we are able to introduce the work of past generations of skilled artisans to contemporary audiences.”
Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900
June 9–September 3
Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 examines a key chapter in the history of art during which an international group of women artists overcame gender-based restrictions to make remarkable creative strides, taking important steps in the fight for a more egalitarian art world.
During the mid-nineteenth century, Paris was the center of the art world, luring painters from around the globe to its academies, museums, salons, and galleries. Scores of women traveled to the French capital to further their training and bolster their careers, yet despite the city’s many professional opportunities, gender norms remained strikingly conservative. Women were not allowed to attend the École des Beaux-Arts—the country’s most important art academy—until 1897. Barred from this prestigious institution, women sought out alternative venues and opportunities—attending private academies, exhibiting independently, and forming their own organizations, such as the influential Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs created in 1881.
Featuring more than seventy paintings drawn from prominent collections across the United States and abroad, this exhibition presents renowned artists such as Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Rosa Bonheur as well as lesser known but equally remarkable peers, including Anna Ancher, Lilla Cabot Perry, and Paula Modersohn-Becker. The exhibition includes moving portraits and self-portraits of artists, intimate depictions of daily life, sweeping landscapes, and dramatic historical scenes.
“At this moment in time, it is more important than ever to recognize the achievements of women,” said Esther Bell, the Clark’s Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator. “This exhibition is a celebration of the extraordinary talent of a multinational group of women artists that deserve their rightful place in the canon of art history.”
Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 is organized by the American Federation of Arts. Guest curator Laurence Madeline, Chief Curator for French National Heritage, was aided by Suzanne Ramljak, AFA Curator, and Jeremiah William McCarthy, AFA Associate Curator. Presentation of the exhibition at the Clark is coordinated by Esther Bell, Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator at the Clark.
The exhibition is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional funding is provided by the JFM Foundation, Elizabeth K. Belfer, the Florence Gould Foundation, Monique Schoen Warshaw, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Clare McKeon, Steph and Jody La Nasa, Victoria Ershova Triplett, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and the Finlandia Foundation. Support for the accompanying publication provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.
Presentation of Women Artists in Paris at the Clark is made possible by the generous contribution of Denise Littlefield Sobel, with additional support from the Dr. Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation.
The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy
June 9–September 16
Drawn from the celebrated collection of the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles in Rouen, France, The Art of Iron presents thirty-six unique objects in an installation celebrating the craft and beauty of wrought iron. Salvaged by the founders of the Musée Le Secq during a period when wrought iron was being rapidly discarded and replaced with modern materials, these pieces tell stories of preindustrial times and highlight the importance of iron in our shared past. The exhibition features shop, inn, and cabaret signs; architectural grilles; gates and balcony railings; masterful locks and lockboxes; spectacular lecterns made for churches; and household objects, including wares for the kitchen, bedroom, and garden.
The Musée Le Secq des Tournelles’s celebrated collection originated with Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq Destournelles (1818–1882), a painter who studied in Paris and Rome and became one of the first photographers in France. In the 1850s while photographically documenting various French monuments for a government project, he discovered the numerous pieces of ironwork adorning towns and ancient cathedrals that inspired him to begin his own collection. His son Henri (1854–1925, who changed the spelling of his last name to des Tournelles), continued to add to the collection, and in 1900 he loaned nearly a thousand objects to the Paris Universal Exhibition before donating the collection to the city of Rouen.
“The opportunity to work with the extraordinary collection of the Musée Le Secq has been incredible,” said Kathleen Morris, the Sylvia and Leonard Marx Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Decorative Arts. “It has opened my eyes to the beauty of this material, which is one that perhaps we take for granted. The artisanship on display in these objects is phenomenal—and our dynamic installation will both captivate and delight our visitors.”
The exhibition is co-organized by the Clark Art Institute and the Réunion des Musées Métropolitains, Rouen, Normandy. Major support for The Art of Iron is provided by Sylvia and Leonard Marx and the Selz Foundation, with additional support from Richard and Carol Seltzer.
In addition to these presentations, the Clark will open two exhibitions in July 2018 that will be announced at a later date.
The Clark will offer a number of special events and programs to provide additional insights into the exhibitions.  Among these will be lectures, member talks, private after-hours tours and dining events, a summer book club, a film series on French director Agnès Varda presented in conjunction with Images Cinema, and a French-themed Family Day (July 8). For details, visit

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. Free admission is available through several programs, including First Sundays Free; a local library pass program; EBT Card to Culture; Museums for All; Bank of America Museums on Us; and Blue Star Museums. For more information on these programs and more, visit or call 413 458 2303.
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