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Never-Before-Seen Photographs Of Stockbridge Area By Local Resident George Henry Seely Featured In Clark Exhibition

For Immediate Release

October 01, 2001

Photographer George Henry Seeley (1880-1955), an important artist of the American Pictorialist school, was a lifelong resident of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. During the World War I era he created a portfolio of 32 platinum prints celebrating the rural simplicity of life in the Berkshires. The works were in a private collection until earlier this year, when the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute purchased the portfolio. The photographs will be seen by the public for the first time in the exhibition Stockbridge Portfolio: Photographs by George Henry Seeley, on view at the Clark October 7, 2001 through January 6, 2002.

"These photographs demonstrate Seeley's artistic sensibility, his technical virtuosity, and his love of the nature beauty of Stockbridge," said James A. Ganz, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Clark.

Seeley, a life-long resident of Stockbridge, was educated at Williams Academy before studying painting at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. He took up photography in the early 1900s. In 1904, he became an art instructor for the Stockbridge Public School System. In that same year, his photographs won critical acclaim at the First American Photographic Salon. Seeley was invited by prominent photographer Alfred Stieglitz to join the Photo Secession, a loose association of contemporary photographers who exhibited in New York. Although encouraged by Stieglitz to move to New York, Seeley chose to remain in Stockbridge, working in the modest house he share with his family. The prints he developed in his Stockbridge kitchen and basement won prizes in international exhibitions.

The photographs included in Stockbridge Portfolio, all taken around 1917, depict a variety of subjects: summer and winter landscapes, architecture, still lifes, and allegorical figures. Because the photographs were previously unidentified, exhibition organizer Paul Martineau, a Clark intern and student in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, spent time in Stockbridge trying to locate the photographic subjects in the portfolio. The buildings Seeley photographed include Town Hall and Linwood, the summer residence of Charles Butler, for which Seeley's father was the superintendent for many years. Photographs of farms, ponds, streams, and woodland area's demonstrate Seeley's affection for the area.

Martineau believes that the Stockbridge portfolio was made as a gift for the artist's sister, Laura Seeley (1888-1979), who was his frequent model and appears in many of the photographs on view. The photographs were assembled into a marbled portfolio and remained in Seeley's family until the Clark acquired them. The portfolio was purchased in January 2001 in honor of retiring staff member John H. Brooks. The entire contents of the portfolio, several other photographs by Seeley, and the diaries of George and Laura Seeley are included in the exhibition.

Stockbridge Portfolio will be on view through January 6. Also on view is the exhibition Goltzius and the Third Dimension, featuring the engravings of 16th-century Dutch printmaker Hendrick Goltzius and the bronzes of his countryman Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode.

Photography at the Clark

The Clark began its ongoing initiative to build a collection of early photographs in May 1998. Since then the Institute has assembled a core collection of about 200 photographs that date from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the threshold of modernism in the 1920s and reflect the quality and character of the Clark's collections of paintings, prints, and drawings. The invention and development of photography informed every aspect of art in the nineteenth century, the period for which the Clark is perhaps best known, yet the medium was generally neglected in the art market when founders Sterling and Francine Clark were building their collection. The couple collected no photographs but did amass some 500 drawings and 1400 prints that formed the basis for a curatorial department devoted to works on paper—now the department of prints, drawings, and photographs.

In addition to the Seeley portfolio the works collected to date include The Angel at the Sepulchre (1869) by Julia Margaret Cameron, Château de La Faloise (1856) by Édouard Baldus, an important nude study (ca. 1855) by Gustave Le Gray, The Nile by John Beasley Greene, and Woman Wearing Foxes, Bois de Bologne (1911) by Jacques-Henri Lartigue.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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