The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, commonly referred to as the Clark, is an art museum and research institution located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Its collection consists of European and American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts from the fourteenth to the early twentieth century. The institute also serves as a center for research and higher learning. It is home to various research and academic programs, which include the Fellowship Program and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
The Clark, along with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA) and the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), forms a trio of art museums in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. The Clark was created by entrepreneur, soldier, explorer, and prominent art collector Robert Sterling Clark, and his wife, Francine. After numerous adventures in the Far East, Sterling settled in Paris in 1911 and used a considerable fortune inherited from his grandfather (a principal in the Singer Sewing Machine Company) to begin amassing a private art collection. Francine joined him in collecting works of art after their marriage in 1919. The Clarks kept their collection largely private, rarely lending out any works. With the onset of the Cold War and rapid nuclear armament, they became increasingly worried about the safety of their artworks. They wanted to protect their collection from a possible attack on New York City, where they lived. The Clarks began looking at sites in rural New York and Massachusetts with the intention of founding a museum for their art. The Clark was formed in 1950 and opened to the public in May 1955. The Clark has since become a destination for tourists, art lovers, and scholars, helping to establish the cultural reputation of the Berkshires.
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