American Decorative Arts Galleries

The Clark’s American decorative arts collection is housed in the Henry Morris and Elizabeth H. Burrows Gallery and the Lauzon Glass Study Gallery in the Manton Research Center. The Burrows Gallery features early American paintings, furniture, and the Burrows collection of American silver, composed of more than 340 objects including tea and coffee wares, tankards and porringers, objects for personal adornment, church silver, and presentation pieces. 

The gallery features prized objects including furniture from the Florence Cluett Chambers collection, a partial Chinese export porcelain dining service made to memorialize George Washington donated by Phoebe Prime Swain, paintings by Gilbert Stuart, Ammi Phillips, and others, as well as several new loans. The suite of rooms feature groupings that look at the role of silver and other materials in early American culture, the development of regional styles of decoration, and social customs such as tea and coffee drinking, dining, and the use of silver for personal adornment.

The installation of the Henry Morris and Elizabeth H. Burrows Gallery and the Lauzon Glass Study Gallery was supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.

The Manton Collection of British Art

The Manton Collection of British Art includes more than three hundred paintings, drawings, and prints by Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, and others. The collection was created by business leader and arts patron Sir Edwin A. G. Manton (1909–2005) and his wife Florence, Lady Manton (1911–2003). Born in Essex County, just twenty miles from “Constable Country” in the east of England, Sir Edwin arrived in New York in 1933 to help develop the American International Group. He spent the remainder of his life in the United States, though his love of British art, which he began collecting with his wife in the 1940s, was testimony to his continued devotion to his native country.
 
Sir Edwin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1994 for his generous contributions to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) in London. Throughout his life, his appetite for art collecting never diminished. “I am a compulsive buyer,” he once observed. “It's better than spending your money on bottles of Scotch.” This magnificent collection, a gift from the Manton Foundation in 2007, constitutes the most significant addition of art to the Clark since it was founded in 1955, and perfectly complements the Clark’s holdings of nineteenth-century French and American art.

Manton Study Center for Works on Paper

The study center houses the Clark's collection of works on paper and is open to the public by appointment. For more information on the collection or to make an appointment, please call 413 458 0560 or complete this form

The Clark's collection of more than six thousand prints, drawings, and photographs spans the history of the graphic arts from the fifteenth century through the early twentieth century. The collection includes significant concentrations of work by Albrecht Dürer, Claude Lorraine, John Constable, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Winslow Homer. The Clark's small but important group of pastels by Degas, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, and Jean-François Millet are also housed in the department.
 
In 1998 the Clark began a major initiative to establish a core collection of European and American photography from the 1840s through the 1910s. The collection now numbers more than one thousand works, including important photographs by Eugène Atget, Édouard Baldus, Julia Margaret Cameron, Francis Frith, Gustave Le Gray, Nadar, William Henry Fox Talbot, Alfred Stieglitz, Linneaus Tripe, and Carleton Watkins.

New to the collection

For the first time since acquiring Guillaume Guillon Lethière’s masterpiece, Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death, the Clark presents the painting in its permanent collection galleries. The painting was acquired at auction in spring 2018 along with a preparatory drawing by Lethière (c. 1788) and a stipple engraving dated 1794 by Pierre Charles Coqueret (Paris, 1761–1832) after Lethière’s painting. All three works are on view in a special installation in the Clark’s permanent collection galleries.
 
The important neoclassical work depicts a dramatic scene featuring the decapitation of one of the sons of Lucius Junius Brutus. Brutus led the 509 BC revolt to overthrow the last king of Rome and establish the Roman Republic, swearing a sacred oath before its citizens that Rome would never again be subject to the rule of a king. When his two sons were later discovered to be among the conspirators attempting to restore the monarchy, Brutus demonstrated his commitment to the Republic by ordering and then witnessing the execution of his own children.

Painted before the onslaught of the French Revolution, Lethière’s composition is eerily prescient in its moralizing message and its brutal iconography. Brutus’s willingness to prioritize the interests of his country above his own made him an exemplar of Republican duty and stoicism. The tale inspired Voltaire and other leaders of the Enlightenment to establish Brutus as a foundational hero of the French Republic.  The painting was publicly exhibited during the height of the French Revolution and inspired the French citizenry to contemplate the democratic principles at the heart of their tumultuous society. Like his contemporary, Jacques-Louis David, Lethière played a critical role in promoting the artistic tenets of the French Enlightenment.
 
Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death was displayed at the Salons of 1795 and 1801 and has never before been shown in the United States.
 
Guillaume Guillon Lethière, along with Jacques-Louis David and Jean Germain Drouais, ranks as one of the most important neoclassical artists of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries. Lethière is widely recognized as the first major French artist of African descent. He completed Brutus Condemning His Sons to Death in 1788 at the relatively young age of twenty-eight when he was at the French Academy in Rome.

PROVENANCE RESEARCH PROJECT

The history of ownership and collecting is intimately connected with the history of art and is taken especially seriously by museums based upon private collections, such as the Clark. The Clark has focused its provenance examination on paintings purchased by Sterling and Francine Clark, the Institute, and donors from 1933 to the present, with special emphasis on those paintings that might have changed ownership between 1933 and 1945. Researchers continue to gather all available provenance information on the Clark's collection, including European paintings. 

For more information click here.

Collection Activity

The Clark Art Institute continues to build and shape its collection to realize more fully and effectively its mission. To view recent acquisitions and deaccessions from the Clark's collection, click here.

BROWSE COLLECTIONS

About the Clark’s Collections

The collection of the Clark Art Institute features European and American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. The collection is especially rich in French Impressionist and Academic paintings, British oil sketches, drawings, and silver, and the work of American artists Winslow Homer, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent. Based on the founding gift from Sterling and Francine Clark, the collection has expanded over the years through numerous acquisitions as well as significant gifts and bequests, including the gift of the Sir Edwin and Lady Manton Collection of British Art and the gift of paintings by George Inness by Frank and Katherine Martucci.

Multimedia Guide

Try our multimedia guide—a new way to connect with art!

Multimedia guides are available at the admission desk for $5 ($3 members). The Clark’s multimedia guide can also be downloaded as an app for free onto your iPhone or Android phone using iTunes or Google Play™. 

In consideration of other visitors, please bring earbuds to listen to the audio in our galleries.