About the Collection

Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788), Wooded Landscape with a Cottage and Cows, mid-1770s. Black chalk, watercolor and gouache on paper. Clark Art Institute. Gift of the Manton Art Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, 2007.8.68

The Manton Collection of British Art was created by business leader and arts patron Sir Edwin A. G. Manton (1909–2005) and his wife Florence, Lady Manton (1911–2003). Born in Essex County, just twenty miles from “Constable Country” in the east of England, Sir Edwin arrived in New York in 1933 to help develop the American International Group. He spent the remainder of his life in the United States, though his love of British art, which he began collecting with his wife in the 1940s, was testimony to his continued devotion to his native country. Sir Edwin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1994 for his generous contributions to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) in London. Throughout his life, his appetite for art collecting never diminished. “I am a compulsive buyer,” he once observed. “It's better than spending your money on bottles of Scotch.”

The most significant gift of art to the Clark since its founding in 1955, the Manton Collection of British Art includes more than three hundred works by Gainsborough and English artists from succeeding generations, including John Constable (1776–1837) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who built upon the landscape tradition that had begun to gain recognition with Gainsborough’s picturesque scenes. The fourteen drawings by Gainsborough in the collection represent the breadth of the artist’s approach to nature. Constable, who also hailed from Suffolk, attested to his predecessor’s exhaustive study of his home region, claiming, in 1799, “I fancy I see Gainsborough in every hedge and hollow tree.”