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Great French paintings from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute on view in Houston
Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Snake Charmer, c. 1879. © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA.

HOUSTON, TX.- On December 22, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presented The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, showcasing the Clark’s renowned holdings of French Impressionist painting. The exhibition features 73 paintings by artists such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, as well as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Jean-François Millet, Jean-Léon Gérôme, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard, among others. The exhibition will be on view through March 23, 2014.

The Clark launched its collection tour in early 2011 at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, coinciding with a three-year expansion of its Williamstown, Massachusetts facility. The MFAH is only the second U.S. museum to host the exhibition, with lead corporate funding provided by TMK IPSCO. The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, initially the exclusive American venue, displayed it in spring 2012. Houston was recently added as a final U.S. site following the conclusion of the Asian leg of the tour. To date, the tour has been viewed by more than 1.6 million people around the world.

"The Clark is delighted to have this opportunity to bring the exhibition back to the United States to complete the world tour. After the exceptional welcome we experienced in Fort Worth, we look forward to having the opportunity to share our collection with the people of Houston where we know that these great works will find a receptive and appreciative audience," said Clark director Michael Conforti.

"It’s a spectacular exhibition and we are thrilled to have the chance to present the show in Houston," said Gary Tinterow, Museum director. "The Clarks were some of the finest collectors of their time, and their distinctive sensibility and taste is evident in this remarkable selection of some of the most renowned paintings in the history of nineteenth-century French painting."

Most of the works in the collection were acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark between 1910 and 1950. Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, began collecting art in Paris after a distinguished career in the United States Army. The couple assembled their collection based on their personal tastes, amassing paintings, silver, sculpture, porcelain, drawings and prints for their homes in Paris and New York. In 1950, the Clarks decided to create a permanent, public home for their collection. Drawn by the setting of the surrounding Berkshires and the appeal of its proximity to the academic community of Williams College, they settled on a 140-acre site in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opened in 1955. Since its inception, the Institute has pursued a dual mission as both a museum and a center for research and higher education in the visual arts.

The 73 paintings by 25 artists exhibited span 70 years and not only tell the story of the Clarks' devotion and passion for collecting but of painting in nineteenth-century France, from the Orientalist works of Gérôme to the Barbizon paintings of Corot and Rousseau to the Impressionist masterpieces of Manet, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Pissarro, and concludes with the early modern output of Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard. Portraits, landscapes, marines, still lifes and scenes of everyday life are all represented.

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