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John Corry: Bigger and Better in the Berkshires; The New Clark Art Museum PDF Print Email

Aug. 27, 2014: Less than three hours from Bronxville is a beautifully expanded museum whose bucolic surroundings complement its lovely landscapes and other fine paintings.

In the late 1940s, Singer Sewing Machine heir Sterling Clark was determining how to dispose of his large art collection. His concern that it might be destroyed in a nuclear war led him to forsake his native Manhattan in favor of a more isolated setting. Persuaded by Williams College President Baxter and influenced by the fact that his grandfather and father had been college trustees, he chose Williamstown in the Berkshires of northwestern Massachusetts.

In 1955, a year before Clark's death, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opened its doors to the public. On trips to visit our daughter at Middlebury, Emily and I would break our journeys to enjoy its collections of Impressionists (more than 20 Renoirs), Winslow Homers, and other paintings.

As the years passed, through purchases and bequests, the Clark expanded its collections. By 2000, it became clear that it needed to make major renovations. The next year, the trustees adopted a master plan that would substantially reconfigure the Clark's 140-acre campus.

Carried out in two phases, it involved a new visitors center with rooms for special exhibitions and a substantial renovation of the original museum building that added more than 2,200 square feet of gallery space. Also included is the expansion of a building added in 1973, it will reopen next year as the Manton Center and will house a collection of more than 200 English paintings, drawings, and prints, including many works by Constable and Turner, that was donated to the Clark in 2007.

The new complex's architects moved the museum's entrance, previously facing South Street, to its other end so that visitors approach it against an open background of green lawns, meadows, and wooded slopes. Thus, when the Clark reopened last month after being closed for three years, there was special acclaim for its setting. The Architectural Record called it "breathtaking" and a "seamless integration of indoor and outdoor space." The full page New York Times review carried the headline "A Place of Serene Excitement, Inside and Out."

Earlier this month, two friends and I drove to Williamstown. After lunch at the nearby Williams Inn and purchasing our tickets at the new visitors center, we walked the several-hundred-foot-long glass-enclosed passageway to the museum building.

Our first stop was a large gallery containing the Clark's large collection of paintings by Winslow Homer and a number of lovely landscapes by 19th-century American artist George Inness, most of which were given to the Clark only last year. (Another gallery shows paintings by Sargent and other late 19th-century artists).

We next visited the largest gallery, which displays the majority of the Clark's many Renoirs and eight Monets, including one of his series of Rheims Cathedral. The effect of seeing them all together in one room is, itself, impressive. Other paintings by Renoir, as well as by Pissarro and Manet, are in an adjoining gallery. Elsewhere are several works by Degas, including a statue of a young ballet dancer, and a charming pastel by Cassatt.

The Clark Museum owns a small but especially lovely group of paintings by Renaissance masters including Piero della Francesca, Ghirlandaio, and Perugino. Others of its twenty galleries contain works by such artists as Corot, Gainsborough, Gauguin, and Goya. Scattered among the rooms are pieces of sculpture, as well as items of porcelain, glassware, and silver.

The total effect of experiencing the new Clark is overwhelming. I do have one complaint: it appears that nowhere in the museum building is a spot to sit and enjoy a soft drink, coffee, or tea, or to get a cup of ice water. The closest location is on the lower level of the visitors center, and this small café will only be open from July 1 to October 13.

The problem will worsen next year after the opening of the Manton Center with its many English pictures and gallery space to show them. Since the Manton will be reachable via a bridge from museum gallery 18, providing a refreshment station there would ameliorate the problem. Otherwise visitors, many of whom appeared to be elderly, who would like to take a short break will continue to be forced to trek to and from the visitors center in order to spend a relaxed two or three hours enjoying the Clark's many treasures.

For art lovers who have more time, the Berkshires boast other treasures, including Edith Wharton's Lenox home, The Mount, Stockbridge's Norman Rockwell Museum, and the home and studio of Lincoln sculptor Daniel Chester French. But visiting the Clark alone is well worth the trip.

Pictured here: John A. Corry

Photo by N. Bower

 

Registration is Open for Art Classes at OSilas Art Studio in Bronxville

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By Elizabeth Vranka, Executive Director of OSilas Gallery at Concordia College New York Sep. 9, 2020: OSilas Art Studio is pleased to announce that registration is now open for fall...

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Books & the Arts Directory

Art Restoration and Framing

Fine Arts Gallery of Bronxville

The Fine Arts Gallery is a beautiful gallery in the heart of our village. It sells original art and specializes in local artists from Bronxville past and present. It provides high end custom framing, art consulting, restoration and appraisals. Appointments are available upon request. It also sells the Historical Conservancy Journals which include a history of the village as well as the artists who have lived here and are presenting living here ($20/copy).

99 Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-779-5053


The O'Silas Gallery at Concordia College

171 White Plains Road
Bronxville, NY 10708
https://osilasgallery.org/

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Books & Culture

Bronxville Public Library

The Bronxville Public Library traces its origins back to 1875, when it was a small lending library housed in a room attached to the “Bronxville Model School.” The Library was officially chartered in 1906 and moved into the Village Hall Building. The needs of the library grew with the town and, in 1942, a new standalone building was erected, which is where the Library is today. Over the years, the Library was renovated and expanded to meet the needs of the community.

The Library has wonderful resources for adults and children and offers a comfortable and relaxing environment. The Library also houses a fine art collection, consisting principally of Bronxville painters and sculptors.

The Library offers special events, art exhibitions, and programs for adults, young adults and children.  All events are open to the public, unless otherwise indicated.

The Bronxville Public Library
914-337-7680
201 Pondfield Road (Midland Avenue & Pondfield Road)
http://bronxvillelibrary.org/


Womrath Bookshop

Womrath Bookshop is a located in the heart of Bronxville village. In addition to selling books, the store also sell children's toys and holds readings both at the store and elsewhere in the community, such as at the Library.

76 Pondfield Road, Bronxville

(914) 337-0199

http://www.womrath.com/

Music & Performing Arts Schools

 

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Concordia Conservatory

Concordia Conservatory, a preeminent center for music education in Westchester County, is a welcoming community where children and adults find lifelong inspiration and joy through learning, performing, listening to, and participating with others in music. Concordia Conservatory, a community outreach division of Concordia College, offers top quality music programs for early childhood, youth, adults and seniors. The Conservatory's vision is to enrich the lives of the people in our community through music.

Executive Director: Kathleen Suss

Concordia Conservatory of Music & Art

Concordia College-New York

Phone: 914-395-4507

Kathleen.Suss@concordia-ny.edu

www.concordiaconservatory.org


Crestwood Music Education Center

Crestwood Music Education Center, founded in 1987, has established itself as one of the most reputable and premier music schools in Westchester County with well over 800 students studying piano, guitar voice, Suzuki and much more. Their philosophy is to create a very positive, stimulating environment that gives each student the chance for creative self-expression. They believe in the importance of having a world-class faculty with extensive education as well as the teaching and performing experience that can only found in America's finest music schools.

453 White Plains Road
Eastchester, New York 10709
914-961-3497

 

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