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The Clark Reveals "50 Favorites" Chosen by the Public

For Immediate Release

May 03, 2005

Sargent's Fumée d'ambre gris tops the list.
Special labels with community comments will premier May 17

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA (May 3, 2005) - Earlier this year, the Clark asked the community to help select "50 Favorites" from the collection to help celebrate 50 years of art in nature in 2005 and 2006. The votes are in, and the painting Fumée d'ambergris by American artist John Singer Sargent tops the list as the number one favorite work of art in the Clark collection. Fumée and the other 49 favorites will be highlighted with special labels beginning on the anniversary of the Clark's ribbon cutting on May 17, 1955. The labels feature selected quotes from people who helped choose the favorites, covering all ages and walks of life--schoolchildren, business people, politicians, local residents, tourists, Clark staff, and art historians.

"We were delighted with the diversity of people who responded, and with the insights and heartfelt feelings they expressed," said Richard Rand, senior curator at the Clark. "We love knowing our public's favorite works, because it's really their collection."

Also making the top ten were: The Onions by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas; The Women of Amphissa by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; Nymphs and Satyr by William Bouguereau; Piette's House at Montfoucault by Camille Pissarro; The Scout: Friends or Foes by Frederic Remington, Sleigh Ride by Winslow Homer; Sleeping Girl with a Cat by Renoir; and Crossing the Street by Giovanni Boldini.

About 150 people submitted entires for 50 Favorites. Top vote getters automatically made the list and works of art with fewer votes were chosen based on the brief essays submitted. Several Clark curators also chose their personal favorite to include.
The youngest participant is 19-month old Oscar Low of Williamstown, whose comments about Going to Market on a Misty Morning by Constant Troyon were transcribed by his mother, Molly Polk. Children of all ages told the Clark about their favorites, including first grader Jane Peterson from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Mrs. Austin's entire fourth grade class at Gabriel Abbott Memorial School in Florida, Mass. Several of Mrs. Austin's students' remarks are used on the labels, including Michael Gancarz, who wrote about Renoir's Onions. His comments ("I love to eat onions!...If I had to rate this painting between one through five I would definitely rate it a big five!") share the label with those of James Wood, the former director of the Art Institute of Chicago.

While works by popular French Impressionist and American artists got their fair share of votes, many people chose less well-known paintings, and wrote about their personal reactions. State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, of the First Berkshire District selected Coastal Scene in Moonlight by 18th-century French artist Claude Joseph Vernet. Jessica and Matt Harris of Williamstown chose the Clark's one piece of American folk art, Portrait of Harriet Campbell by Ammi Phillips, writing, "we both fell in love with her and decided to name our as-yet-unconceived daughter after her." Writer Peter Filkins of Cheshire put his thoughts on a Boldini seascape into an original poem.

Participants run the gamut of professions: writers, art dealers, college students, M.D.s, homemakers, teachers, bank tellers, and retirees. Current and former students in the Clark/Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art wrote in, as did former Clark Fellows. Local art historians from Williams College, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center also contributed. Entries were received from all over Berkshire County, southern Vermont, New York, and from as far away as Michigan and Texas.

The special labels will be on view throughout the galleries from May 17, 2005 to May 17, 2006. A binder with all the submitted entries will also be available. During the Clark's 50 Hours weekend celebration, June 3 to June 5, each of the 50 Favorites will be the focus of a brief gallery talk, every hour on the half-hour.  The person attending the most 50 Favorites gallery talks will be rewarded with a two-night weekend stay at the luxurious Boston Harbor Hotel.  The second place winner will receive two tickets to a 2006 Williamstown Theater Festival Production.  Visit the information desk on Friday, June 3 for a schedule of films and contest details.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  Admission is free through May 31. From June 1 to October 31, admission is $10 (members, students, and 18 and under free).  The galleries are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (daily during the months of July and August).  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.
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