The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute recently acquired sixteen drawings by the great seventeenth-century French landscape artist Claude Lorrain. This acquisition makes the Clark holder of one of the most important collections of Claude Lorrain drawings outside of Europe. The focused exhibition Claude Lorrain: New Acquisitions, on view January 19 through April 20, marks the first time these 16 drawings will be on view at the Clark.
“The acquisition of these drawings continues the Clark’s tradition of acquiring collections that represent the depth of an individual artist or period,” said Richard Rand, senior curator at the Clark. “Claude is the fountainhead of the European and American landscape tradition, whose legacy is apparent everywhere in the Clark’s collection and in the pastoral setting of our campus.”
The sixteen drawings represent the full breadth of Claude’s draftsmanship, including works made as early as 1630 and as late as 1667. The collection features nature studies of Rome and Tivoli and other identifiable sites, generalized landscape views, and studio drawings with historical subjects that were made as studies for paintings, as well as independent works of art. Claude’s brilliant technique and innovative combination of materials are fully represented as well: there are pen-and-ink drawings combined with wash and white gouache, black and red chalk drawings, and drawings on cream paper and blue paper. Many of the sheets are inscribed by Claude and several are dated.
The drawings have a prestigious legacy, thirteen of them having originated from an album assembled by Claude’s heirs and sold to Queen Christina of Sweden and subsequently belonging to Italian Prince Livio Odescalchi, Georges Wildenstein, and Norton Simon. They were assembled in the 1980s by New York collector Peter Sharp, who acquired three more, including one from the collection of Lord Kenneth Clark, the famous art historian and former director of the National Gallery in London. The Clark acquired the drawings from the heirs of Peter Sharp. The drawings join two oil paintings and several etchings by Claude already in the Clark’s collection.
Born in the Duchy of Lorraine in present day France, Claude spent the majority of his career in Rome, making landscape paintings for prominent collectors across Europe. He drew incessantly, making both studies of nature in the open air and elaborate preparatory drawings for his paintings. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Claude was most popular with British collectors, especially aristocrats on the Grand Tour. He was a hero to landscape painters like Camille Corot in France and John Constable and J.M.W. Turner in England. The acquisition of this magnificent group of Claude drawings perfectly complements the Clark’s recent gift of the Manton Collection.
In 2008, the Clark will open the Stone Hill Center, the first phase of its expansion and campus enhancement project. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, the wood and glass 32,000-square-foot building will house new intimately scaled galleries, a meeting and studio art classroom, an outdoor café, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC).
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November 1 through May 31. Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.