The Clark Art Institute: a breathtaking look at a selection of illustrious and important American and European paintings, stirs the soul, as great works, often do…

Sunday February 14th, 2021- Spotlight on a selection of the Clark Art Institute’s paintings from its Permanent collection:

Greetings Friends, and Happy February to all!

This week, I am writing about some truly inspiring and awe-inducing paintings, housed in a gorgeous art museum, The Clark, both a museum and an international center for higher education, research and critical discussion of the visual arts, comprised of various huge collections; located in Williamstown, MA; which I have had the great privilege recently, to have discovered, in person.

How about that?

Yay!

Picture a museum campus, nestled and surrounded by spectacular and magnificent Taconic, Green Mountain, and Berkshire ranges; whose awesome natural beauty, especially in snowy winter wonderland months, sets an incredible, serene, magical, and peaceful atmosphere, and enhances tremendously the discoveries of these wonderful masterpieces, while enticing visitors, after the visit, for nature loving folks, to go and meditate on all this beauty, if one chooses to do so, on long snowshoeing walks, on the vast and delightful 140 acres campus.

Yay!

And wow!

To give you some context about this wonderful art museum, just know that the Clark Art Institute was established by Sterling Clark (an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune) and his wife Francine Clark, who together, created over a span of 40 years, an important private collection, noted for its holdings of paintings, from important French Impressionists, American paintings, and European paintings dating from 1300 to 1900, sculpture and European decorative arts and silver.

The Clark Institute opened in 1955, in the academic village of Williamstown, MA, and its proximity to Williams College, ensured that the Clark would foster continued academic inquiry and research, in the visual arts.

As mentioned, I will only share a self-curated, somewhat limited selection of the (painting) works, housed in this incredibly rich Art Institute, which holds a huge amount of treasures.

Specifically, I will only focus and share my very favorite late XIXth/early XXth century renowned discoveries, to draw you to visit the Institute, yourselves.

Let’s begin!

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From America, a few incredible artists particularly resonated with me, and I will share 14 paintings (a few by Winslow Homer and George Inness, (two highly celebrated landscape artists), some by John Singer Sargent, a famous American society portraitist who lived mostly in Europe, and one by Mary Cassatt, another American who also spent most of her life in France and befriended many impressionists painters, in particular Edgar Degas).

Let’s do it!

Yay!

1) Here is “Two Guides” from 1877, by Winslow Homer.

This painting’s depiction of two well known wilderness guides clearing trails for hikers and hunters, in the Adirondack Mountains, particularly moved me, and perhaps, because it captured particularly well for me, the vibrancy, beauty, and serenity which exudes from that mountain range, which can also be found in the men’s hands.

And I was/am also moved by the relaxed and visibly highly enjoyable sharing of knowledge, between the two men.

Yay!

Just stunning!

2) Here is a “Fishing” scene from 1875, reworked in the 1890’s, also by Winslow Homer.

And, in this painting, it is the silence of the fisherman amidst the natural sounds of nature, and the beauty of Adirondacks mountains we can also admire in the background, his patience, simple happiness, and the peaceful atmosphere of the painting, which all, speak to me.

Yay!

Just fabulous!

3) Here is “Saco Bay”, from 1896, also by Winslow Homer, which depicts a late afternoon sunset in Maine, in which two women, are carrying fish nets and lobster traps, and the beauty of the contrast between the relaxing and soothing light and pinkish hues of the skies and sea, against the darker tones of the womanly figures, returning from a hard day’s labor, is what I found particularly arresting and poetic.

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Just gorgeous, and one of Homer’s (and mine), preferred works of his.

4) And finally (yet, there are more at the Clark), here is “Eastern Point” from 1900, the last Winslow Homer painting, I am sharing.

The realism of the powerful, turbulent, and ominous weather from this stormy day from Maine’s seashore is incredible; as if we were there, ourselves.

Wow!

Just spectacular!

Let’s now, turn to George Inness, another fantastic landscape XIXth century American painter, I absolutely adore as well, for the gentle peacefulness and harmony, that his paintings (for me), exude.

1) Here is from 1880, “The Road To The Village, Milton” by George Inness, which depicts a beautiful and serene pastoral scene, set in the Spring or the Summer, on what appears (to me), to be a windy day, which I find particularly endearing, as the lone shepherd (or farmer) seems to be fully relaxed, perhaps in the midst of greeting (to what seems to me to be) an approaching human figure; and at ease and content, surrounded by animals, I imagine in his care.

Yay!

Just lovely!

2) And here is now, from 1891, “Wood Gatherers: An Autumn Afternoon”, also from George Inness, which depicts beautifully, and with harmony, the delightful chore, as a family, of gathering wood for one’s house, as it takes you outside, in magnificent woods, in cool and sometimes brisk, yet invigorating Fall temperatures. And the idea that a warm fire, awaits back home, seems (in my imagination), of course, thrilling to these characters.

Yay!

Just charming!

3) Here is from 1886, another lovely pastoral painting, from George Inness, depicting with innocence and harmony, the ease and peacefulness of a shepherdess, walking happily and with serenity, her grazing calf, in a gorgeous emerald hued, almost magical looking forest, in the Spring.

So dreamy.

Wow!

Just fabulous!

4) As is this beautiful wintery painting from 1892, also from George Inness, depicting a warm and cozy property located in a rural like New Jersey landscape, which instantly, evokes (to me) delicious hot tea, coffee, or cocoa to drink by the fireplace to warm up those chilly winter days.

Just wonderful!

5)Finally, the last painting I will be sharing from George Inness (there are a few more at the Clark), from 1894, is “Autumn in Montclair”; to me, an incredibly modern looking depiction of Fall, for that time, in this other beautiful and bucolic New Jersey landscape, whose warm ocre/copper hues painted unconventionally, evoke with simplicity, and yet dramatically, this gloriously bronze/rusted iron-like season.

Yay and wow!

Just fabulous!

Let’s move on to another highly expressive American portrait painter mostly, who mostly lived and studied art in Europe, and whom I also, absolutely adore: John Singer Sargent, who often, chose to paint as well, in addition to high society portraits, everyday lives of ordinary people, rather than city or countryside landmarks.

How about that?

Yay!

1)”A Venetian interior” from 1880-82 by John Singer Sargent depicts well the warm neighborly chit chatting of a few Venetian women congregating together inside a Venetian home, as well as the hard laboring going on often, as well, in these homes; and here, in the background, one woman can be seen stringing Venetian glass beads. Singer Sargent during that time, visited Venice a few times, which most probably allowed him, to capture with great authenticity, some of ordinary Venetians’ spontaneous and usual demeanor, behaviors and spirit.

Yay!

Just spectacularly vibrant and alive!

2) Now let’s take a look at this other Venetian street scene, from 1880-1882, with “A street in Venice” also by Singer Sargent, in which a couple are about to step over the threshold of a wine cellar. The veracity of this ordinary scene is also incredibly striking.

Wow!

Just filled with spontaneous liveliness, and authenticity.

And how about this one, from 1880 as well, also by John Singer Sargent, painted this time in Tangiers and in Paris, “Fumée d’ambre gris” (Smoke of ambergris), isn’t it captivating to watch this woman trying to capture with her elaborate and elegant garment, smoke of ambergris, a waxy substance used in some religious rituals, and said to have, in addition, aphrodisiac qualities? Her intense concentration and stillness are riveting.

Wow!

Just mesmerizing!

Finally, the last painting (more await at the Clark) from 1879, also by John Singer Sargent, I am sharing, is this moving painting of his mentor, teacher and friend, Carolus-Duran, another celebrated portrait painter (here wearing the red pin of the French Légion d’honneur), with whom Singer Sargent had studied; and on the top right side of the portrait, Singer Sargent paid homage to his teacher by describing himself as his “affectionate pupil”, and I see and feel the affection, admiration and pride, Singer Sargent feels/felt toward his teacher, coming through, in this very personal portrait.

Wow!

Just incredibly moving.

Finally, from the American painters, there is one pastel painting from circa 1904, by American painter Mary Cassatt (who also lived mostly in France), that I particularly enjoyed, for its beauty and depth, in addition to its striking coloring “Child with a red hat”, as the little girl’s features hold both the grace, innocence and cuteness of her age, and a timeless expression of questioning and wisdom in her gaze, which I find remarkable.

Wow!

Just marvelous.

From Europe, I will share as well, a plethora (brace yourselves), of exciting top notch works (30 paintings), by celebrated XIXth-early XXth century masters, from France, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and Holland; starting with Maurice Denis (illustrious French symbolist, and Nabi painter), Odilon Redon (illustrious French symbolist painter and pastellist), Edgar Degas (illustrious French Impressionist famous for his love of dance in particular), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (illustrious French painter in particular of the colorful theatrical life of Paris’ XIXth century, Théodore Géricault (illustrious French Romantic and Realist painter), Eugène Delacroix (illustrious French Romantic and leader of the French Romantic school), Gustave Courbet (illustrious French painter who led the Realism movement), Théodore Rousseau (illustrious French painter of the Barbizon school, an art movement leaning towards Realism in the context of dominant Romanticism), Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (illustrious and pivotal French painter in landscape painting, anticipating the “plein air” innovations of Impressionism), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (illustrious French portraitist and landscape painter, and a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style), Camille Pissarro (illustrious Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist who studied with Courbet and Corot), Claude Monet (illustrious French landscape painter and founder of the independent French Impressionist movement further to his exhibition in 1874, of his eponymous, iconic and “plein air” painting “Impression, Soleil Levant”), Auguste Toulmouche (illustrious French society portraitist painter, in an idealized version of the dominant academic Realist style), Edouard Manet (illustrious French Modernist painter, and a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism), Alfred Stevens (illustrious Belgian society portraitist painter, Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta (illustrious Spanish portraitist painter from the Realistic movement, and later influenced by Rococo and Japanese styles, Johan Barthold Jongkind (illustrious Dutch painter of sea/marine landscapes and regarded as a forerunner of Impressionism), and finally, an unusual and early Vincent van Gogh painting (illustrious Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, who posthumously, as many of us know, became one of the most famous and influential figures, in the history of Western art).

And this selection doesn’t even cover, half of the works on view, at the Clark.

Wow!

1)Let’s begin nevertheless, this “voyage”, with one of my all time favorite artists, symbolist painter Maurice Denis (and part of the Nabis movement working in symbolic, rather than realistic manner), and his incredibly inspiring and awesome 1894 “The Pilgrims at Emmaus”, particularly unusual, with his flattened and decorative colors, characteristic of his style, and depicting here, a strong mystical and religious topic: a few of Jesus’ disciples, suddenly realize that their traveling companion, is the resurrected Christ. And to me, the mysticism of the painting is incredibly apparent in its simplicity, and the glaring golden, pale yellows and white colors chosen by Denis, to evoke godliness against the somber colors of the other characters’ garments.

Wow!

Just incredible.

2) Here is from circa 1903, Odilon Redon’s “Woman with a vase of flowers”, and the poetry, beauty, and melancholy of this atmospheric, as well as symbolic and contrasted piece (the colorful, bended, and still lively flowers vs the more evanescent closed-off woman), really moves me, as does, their closeness.

Just stunning.

3) Here is, for all of us who miss admiring live dance, from 1880, Edgar Degas’ “Dancers in the Classroom” which depicts incredibly well, and in a lively manner, dancers ordinary rehearsal days, the concentration and artistry of these wonderful athletes, the heat of the classroom, and their amazing gracefulness, whether dancing or adjusting their tights, with particularly adroitly chosen touches of bright color, to draw our eye in.

Just wonderful.

4) And I can’t resist sharing another painting (and there a few more at the Clark), from circa 1882, also by Edgar Degas, on a topic we are much less used to seeing from this painter, with “Before the Race”, which to me, depicts vividly as well, the restlessness, of both the horses and the riders, before the start of an imminent race, as well as capturing the intense warmth of this sunny, and seemingly blazing hot day.

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Just incredibly lively and realistic.

5) Here, in this wonderfully expressive “Waiting” painting from circa 1887, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the model, evokes to me for some reason, a cabaret dancer, posing in the artist’s studio, in front of a glass of absinthe, and she exudes, to me, a tiredness and yet a determined courage, which are readily apparent, and interestingly, captured in an unusual and intimate viewpoint.

Wow!

Just incredibly moving.

6) Here in the “Trumpeter of the Hussars” from circa 1815-1820 by Théodore Géricault, a pioneer of the Romantic movement, it is the eerie, ghost-like unusual light, and dark skies, that I find interesting, which may allude to the isolation of this lone Hussar, at a distance from a raging nearby battle, and of course, I couldn’t help, but think of Géricault’s iconic “Wounded Cuirassier” from 1814, or his even more illustrious “Raft of the Medusa”, painted in 1819, with similarly dramatic, yet different overtones.

Wow!

Just beautiful.

7) And here is “Two horses fighting in a stormy landscape” from circa 1828, by Eugène Delacroix, one of the most significant painters associated with the Romantic movement, and this “horse battle” scene, seems to evoke here, a symbolic idea, with incredible violence, as this painter often does (his 1827 astounding and awesome masterpiece “The death of Sardanapalus” is also incredibly violent), and here, these horses seem to be fighting an epic battle, which could be between good and evil.

Wow!

Just incredibly vivid and dramatic.

8) And here is “The Sailboat” from 1869, by Gustave Courbet, a leading French figure of the Realism movement, a nature and sea loving artist, depicting in this instance, with incredible accuracy and intensity, two rolling and struggling sailboats on a a stormy sea, to emphasize the elemental power of nature, how magnificent.

Wow!

Just incredibly dramatic and awesome.

9) And here is different type of Realism, from a Barbizon school famous figure, with a piece painted over a lapse of 20 years, from 1844 to 1867, this “Farm in the Landes” painted with meticulous detail and high finish reflects Theodore Rousseau’s extended work process, and his desire to present a timeless vision of an ideal coexistence of human beings and nature, in this rural setting. It almost looks like photography to me, and the peace and harmony, that exudes from the living beings and the farm depicted in this painting, is just incredibly relaxing.

Yay!

Just amazing.

10) And here is a more “dreamy” fiction depiction, from circa 1865-70, by wonderfully poetic Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, an illustrious French landscape artist, anticipating some of the Impressionists stylings to come (“plein air”), about an enchanting “rêverie” type of scene, taking place on islands, from Lake Maggiore in Italy, which he painted 20 years after his last visit to Italy; and his “Bathers of the Borromean Isles”, are in my mind, simply delightfully playful, charming, and beautiful.

Yay!

Just wonderful.

11) And here is a work from another great artist, illustrious French painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style (and the Clark, has many of his works, whether portraits or landscapes); and yet, from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, it is mostly his landscapes, that speak to me, his depiction of nature, and/or the hustle and bustle of daily life in his works, are what moves me the most; and I am sharing a few examples of his landscape works, and a “nature morte”/still life below, (I am less a fan of his portraits); and from 1881, with “Bay of Naples, Evening”, it is the busyness of an ordinary evening, that Renoir captures beautifully, with soothing interesting soft colors, to depict the magnificence of the imposing natural landscape seen in the background, including the lovely haze surrounding the bay, alongside the ominous smoke, which can be seen drifting from Mount Vesuvius, one of Italy’s awesomely powerful volcanoes.

Wow!

Just beautiful.

12) And Renoir did it again, in Italy, from 1881 as well, with another beautiful and perhaps slightly more classical in its hues, yet gorgeous depiction of Venice’s Doge Palace, on what I imagine is, a warm and sunny summer day.

Just delightful.

13) And my favorite of Renoir, from the Clark, from 1883, is without a doubt, “View at Guernsey”; I think it is the quality of Renoir’s lighting of nature, whether the skies, the rocks, or the flora, which I find particularly compelling, inspiring and beautiful.

Yay!

Just stunning.

14) Although, I also absolutely adore as well, from 1874, also by Renoir, this vibrant and harmonious “Wash-House boat at Bas-Meudon”, whose soft brush strokes and tones, and unique perspective, including a large and blurry panorama, I find, not only soothing and relaxing, but also enchanting.

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Just magnificent.

15) And finally, from Renoir still, I can’t resist sharing, this charming and whimsical “nature morte”/still life, chosen as a panel decoration, for a library door, painted by him in 1879, depicting “A bouquet of roses”, and while the bouquet’s orderly arrangement is traditional, the thick brushstrokes and lively colors, reflect Renoir’s Impressionist lively technique. And there is a joyfulness, and vitality to this “nature morte”/still life, which I find incredibly inspiring and wonderful.

Yay!

Just beautiful.

16) Let’s now turn to another illustrious Danish-French Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, who interestingly studied with Courbet and Corot, and let’s take a look at a few wonderful examples the Clark has collected; and first let’s admire a typical Impressionist landscape painting, from 1891, “Landscape at Saint Charles, near Gisors, Sunset”, whose unusual vibrant lavender/purplish colors and brush stroke technique, create a compelling lighting for this beautiful sunset.

Wow!

Just beautiful.

17) Just as is “Route de Versailles, Louveciennes, Rain effect”, a more melancholic painting from 1870, still by Pissarro, capturing well the dreary November low lights, and rainy days, as well as its simple relaxing village strolls, despite the dismal weather, often experienced in France, in the Fall.

Wow!

Just lovely.

18) I also particularly like the snowy effect, from the blanketed trees, garden, and rooftop, of this lovely farmhouse from the southwest of Paris, with this wonderful quick painting, in the cold, by Pissarro, of his friend and fellow artist’s property, entitled “Piette’s House at Montfoucault” from 1874. You can almost hear the silence that has enveloped the beautiful land, despite the quick conversation (because of the cold), seemingly taking place between two of its inhabitants, gathering wood and branches to burn, in one, or perhaps multiple fireplaces.

Yay!

Just charming.

19) And here, “Port of Rouen, unloading wood” from 1898, is a late painting from Pissarro’s career, in which he captures particularly well, the busy activity of a riverside dock in Rouen, with a rich variety of brush strokes, revealing the beauty of this ordinary scene, from a functioning worksite, and you can start to dream away, at what these various stacked materials are going to help build. How about that?

Wow!

Just sensational.

20) And lastly, still by Pissarro, from 1902, because like many, I miss visiting in person, the Louvre museum’s incomparable treasures, here is a wonderfully beautifully serene piece, painted from a unusual perspective, from a rented apartment on the Île de la Cité, “The Louvre from the Pont Neuf”, in which Pissarro, is trying to render what he described as Paris’ “silvery atmosphere”. How about that? And what a great view of this great museum, of the unique bridge, and of the busy Seine river.

Yay!

Just spectacular.

21) Let’s now turn to the most illustrious French painter ever, and founder of the Impressionists movement, further to his exhibition in 1874, of his epic, eponymous, iconic, and “plein air” painting “Impression, Soleil Levant”, I am speaking of course, of Claude Monet. The Clark has an incredible number of his works, yet, I will only, share a few of my favorites. So let’s start out, with this wonderful “Spring in Giverny”, from 1890, set in Monet’s incredibly beautiful property, one can still visit today, from which Monet painted many beautiful pieces. I had never seen this particular painting, and its simplicity, and soft pinkish colors, against the contrasting darker greens and charcoal colors, as well as the beauty of these young trees, just enchanted me.

Yay!

Just lovely.

22) I also particularly enjoyed from 1867, “Street in Sainte-Adresse”, still by Claude Monet, a beautiful depiction from an unusual angle and perspective, of a village gathering scene, towards the church’s main entrance, of various families about to meet up. A typical ordinary scene, filled yet with warmth and caring, despite the grey uneven skies.

Yay!

Just beautiful.

23) With “Tulip fields at Sassenheim” from 1886, still by Claude Monet, we are invited to discover, as if we were present there, ourselves, Holland’s famous tulip fields, on a sunny and windy day, whose vibrancy, colorful, thick, and parallel brushstrokes, are breathtakingly beautiful, as if moved by the wind, before our very eyes. How about that?

Wow!

Just spectacular!

24) With “Seascape, storm” from 1866, still by Claude Monet, and maybe my favorite Monet, from the Clark, I found Monet’s subdued and minimalist colors, and unusual loose and broad strokes, to emphasize the choppiness of the waves, and the strange stormy light, incredibly poetic and breathtaking, and very different, and to me, even more modern than other admirable works of his.

Wow!

Just stunning and spectacular.

25) And now, let’s turn to another French painter, of complete opposite style, an interesting portraitist of high society, with “Woman and roses” from 1879, by Auguste Toulmouche, whose attention to vibrant colors, lighting, and textures, and depiction of hyper realistic and highly precise garment and flower details, is what fascinates me mostly, contrasting interestingly, with the more dreamy and romantic face profile, of this young woman. Almost modern photography or film image. How about that?

Wow!

Just beautiful.

26) And here, with “Moss roses in a vase”, we step into another form of modernity, with this gorgeous, yet casual, small, “nature morte”/still life, from Edouard Manet, in his late years, from 1882, painted in quick strokes of color, rendering with talent and seemingly great ease, various textures. I especially love the smooth and palpably liquid water depiction, as well as the beautiful light, reflecting on the vase’s surface, in addition to what I imagine, are wonderfully velvety, small rose petals.

Wow!

Just gorgeous.

27) With Alfred Stevens, an illustrious whimsical Belgian portraitist painter (and the Clark has a large number of his wonderful works,) we also discover a modern expressiveness, and a unusual, mysterious lighting, which “The Parisian sphinx” from 1880, here embodies perfectly.

Wow!

Just beautiful.

28)With Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta, an illustrious Spanish painter, the expressiveness of his portraits are also incredibly compelling (and the Clark holds as well, a few of these), and with “Woman with picnic basket” from 1890, we can admire the detailed renderings of the garment textures, and the picnic basket, including a bottle of wine, which the woman seems to be delighted, to be sharing soon, as in my mind she has just spotted, the arrival of the awaited person/people she cares for, and with whom she is about to share this picnic meal with.

Yay!

29) With Johan Barthold Jongkind, an illustrious Dutch painter, with “Frigates” from 1850-55, this wonderful harbor scene is painted with great attention to detail, yet his sensitive recording of atmosphere and light, would later influence Claude Monet, who attributed to Jongkind “the final education of his eye”. How about that?

Wow!

Just stunning.

30) And to end this selection of paintings from the Clark’s permanent collection, here is an unusual early Vincent van Gogh painting, from 1886, “Terrace in the Luxembourg gardens”, a piece he painted shortly after moving to Paris, and after encountering for the first time, works from fellow artists, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. And here, van Gogh experiments with Impressionist subject matters and technique, and one can tell, he is yet to find his own style, although we can already admire his great sensitivity.

Wow!

Just beautiful.

What a collection!

And how lucky for viewers in person, that these paintings having found a wonderful home in enchanting Massachusetts, in such an incredibly beautiful campus, can rest happy.

Of course, this reminds me of this wonderful largo movement from Dvorak’s New World sang here beautifully, “a cappella”.

Enjoy!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊