This summer the Royal Academy of Arts
presents From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism Paintings from The Clark. The exhibition showcases 70 major works, many of which have never been on public display in the UK before. Masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Sisley and Morisot, as well as an exceptional group of more than twenty paintings by Renoir, from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, are shown. The exhibition illustrates the Clark Art Institutes holdings of French 19th-century art, with particular emphasis upon Impressionism. The exhibition also embraces important works by pre-Impressionist artists such as Corot, Théodore Rousseau and J-F.Millet, as well as examples of highly polished academic paintings by Gérôme and Bouguereau.
The paintings in the exhibition are presented by genre, in order to reveal the range of subject matter and diversity of stylistic approach in French 19th-century art. The groups of works include: landscapes and cityscapes; marine views; genre paintings depicting scenes of life; nudes; still lifes; portraits - including self portraits of artists central to the exhibition such as Renoir and Degas, and paintings reflecting the contemporary interest in Orientalism. Highlights from each of these sections include Monets The Cliffs at Étretat, 1885, Alfred Sisleys, Banks of the Seine at By, c. 188081, Berthe Morisots The Bath, 188586 and Jean-Léon Gérômes The Snake Charmer, c. 1879. A selection of 20 works by Auguste Renoir are on display including At the Concert, 1880.
The history of the Clark collection dates back to 1910 when Sterling Clark settled in Paris after a career in the United States Army and began collecting works of art. Sterling married Francine Modzelewska (but known by her stage name Clary) in 1919 and together they continued a shared passion for collecting. In 1950 the Clarks decided to found the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts as a permanent home for their vast collection, although they had originally thought to build their museum in New York City. The Clark family had close ties with nearby Williams College (Sterlings grandfather was an 1831 graduate of this college and had served as a trustee from 1878 to 1882). The museum opened to the public in 1955.