Often there are gems in your own backyard which merit revisiting again and again. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts is a place that checks all the boxes (and then some) you could want for a museum. Incredible art holdings? Check. World class art research library and teaching programs which churn out the best and brightest into the museum/curatorial world? Check. Conservation studio which both teaches and restores at the highest level? Check. Sterling and Francine Clark’s vision and generosity have expanded to beyond what they might have imagined, while remaining true to a core mission which remains firmly intact.
In 2014 The Clark completed its campus expansion which included a major addition to the museum, as well as the Lunder Center at Stone Hill. The new buildings and grounds are spectacular…and where old meets new the connections are pleasing and harmonious.
Inside, the collections are mind-boggling. To say that is not hyperbole, it is a truly stellar collection put together initially by Sterling Clark (who inherited a considerable fortune from his grandfather, a principal of the Singer Sewing Machine company). After their marriage Francine Clark joined her husband in adding to their collection. For a more expansive view of the collection I’d encourage you to view the Clark’s website. In the meantime you can see just a sliver of their permanent collection below.
The grounds provide a beautiful spot for an idyllic stroll. Redesigned in 2001 by the landscape firm Reed Hildebrand, if the weather is favorable you can start outside the museum at the reflecting pool, which is fed by recycled water, then climb the hill and along the myriad of walking trails while simultaneously enjoying various outdoor art instillations. Tucked into the hillside is the Williamstown Art Conservation center, on of the biggest conservation centers of its kind.
The Clarks found a truly spectacular spot for their collection to reside, and if you are ever in the northwest corner of Massachusetts I would highly recommend stopping by. The visiting shows are always a delight, and the permanent collection is stellar.
*Note: at the time of this writing (March 2022) The Clark requires proof of vaccine and masks worn at all times by guests older than 5 in order to visit their campus. For the most up to date information check their website.
On view at the Clark from March 5 – May 30, 2022 is the exhibition As They Saw It – Artists Witnessing War. Four centuries of war imagery which will be on view at the Manton Research Center’s Eugene V. Thaw Gallery. Exhibition curator Anne Leonard notes, “This exhibition accounts for both military and civilian experiences of war and presents a great diversity of perspectives, including some which have been historically under-acknowledged.” I am very much looking forward to seeing this show, especially in light of the current war Russian is waging in Ukraine.
Above images by Francisco de Goya, Émile Friant, Hieronymus Hopfer, and Charles Langlois and Léon-Eugène Méhédin.