The Clark

I had been neglecting seeing art, and was really feeling it, so Slava and I recently hit some museums in our home state of Massachusetts.


The Clark in Williamstown, MA was recently renovated and added to, but I don’t care for the new building, which seems to be mostly a lobby, gift shop, and restaurant.  It’s a large, extremely modern addition, but it’s all hallways and high ceilings, with apparently only one gallery.  There’s an outdoor space that looks like a cross between a gravel drainage pit and a Zen garden where they presumably have outdoor events.   This was our first visit, so I don’t know what it was like before, but the old building is very nice….. We were starving when we got there, though, so we started our day in the café.  The soup was delish & I was ready to look at some art.

Like almost all the art museums in Massachusetts these days, the Clark costs more than a movie, which is too much, in my view.  Visiting an art museum should cost the same as sitting in a movie theatre for a few hours.

It was a winter Sunday afternoon, cold and wet out, and there were a fair number of people at the museum.  It didn’t feel too crowded, but also we were never alone in a gallery.  I got the impression, however, that all the other visitors were exceptionally wealthy assholes, and I was glad I was wearing my usual uniform of a t-shirt and legitimately worn-out jeans.

Speaking of impressions, Impressionist paintings are what the Clark is known for, and it’s not my favorite genre of art, but we did make a few discoveries.  They boast a boatload of heavy-hitters including Renoir, Monet, Manet, Sargent (hard not to love him, especially for a Bostonian), as well as local hero Winslow Homer and a number by the Academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose work I find unbearably perverse and ridiculous (which makes them rather fun to see in real life).


Our fave painting was this one, FRIENDS OR FOES? (THE SCOUT) 1902–05 by Frederic Remington.  It’s a fairly large oil, cold and full of atmosphere.  It is has a Rockwellian illustrative feel to it, but without his lowbrow schmaltz.  As I love a movie with snow in it, so too do I love a painting of snow.  Throw in a horse, some stars, and an “Indian” and I’m sold.


There are some nice ones by Corot, like this strange one of a junked-out looking dame.

George Inness is a painter I wasn’t familiar with. They have half a room full of his work, which I found charming and nostalgic.  It’s a little too romantic, but I still like it.

We wandered into a gallery and found Turner’s Rockets and Blue Lights, which is fantastic and I exaggerate only a little when I say if we had seen nothing else, it would have made the journey worthwhile.  The digital image does not do it justice.

It’s not all wall art, though; the Clark has a nice collection of decorative arts. Slava & I wandered around, picking out which pieces of silver and ceramic we would want to own, because isn’t that what it’s all about? Check out this plate from 1840!  If only we were getting married again, I’d put the pattern in the gift registry.


Other treasures include this strange little Boschian etching.


The new gallery had a show up of, fittingly, new acquisitions.  Some great stuff in the department of photography, as well as some modern art.  A ridiculous rococo piano, some hideous paintings, etc.

We stopped in at the gift shop, but of course they didn’t have any postcards of their good art.  We picked up a total of one – Renoir’s onions.


One thought on “The Clark”

  1. Gotta love Corot–and wow, those onions put a whole new culinary spin on Renoir. We just visited the Black Mountain show at ICA yesterday–so can’t wait to get your report. We managed to glimpse the dance performance in the afternoon–despite crowded conditions. Merce Cunningham avant garde in the year of my birth. Wow!

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