Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
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    From October 13, 2012, to January 20, 2013  

Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA and curator of this exhibition in Montreal, is delighted that “For the first and only time, one of the finest collections of Impressionist works in North America will be displayed in a Canadian exclusive at the Museum. Montreal will be the sole Canadian venue for this historic tour, which will travel from Europe to Asia during expansion work at the prestigious Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Chosen for their exceptional quality, seventy-four paintings by Bonnard, Corot, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Millet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and Toulouse-Lautrec, including a selection of twenty-one outstanding canvases by Renoir, and the Degas sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (on view exclusively in Montreal) will be shown at the MMFA. The inclusion of academic works by Bouguereau, Gérôme and Stevens, among others, will enable visitors to see how the new ‘modernism’ challenged official painting.”

This extraordinary collection, comparable in quality and size to that of Alfred C. Barnes, was the work of Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956), heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, who, for over half a century, quietly built up one of the finest art collections in the United States. Married to a French actress, Clark lived for many years in Paris, enthusiastically collecting art. A discriminating art lover and skilled negotiator, as independent in his lifestyle as in his tastes, this thoughtful and reticent man chose the artworks himself, consulting only with his knowledgeable wife, Francine. His collection included European and American paintings, Old Master prints and drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics.

In 1955, the Clarks opened the institute that bears their names in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in the heart of New England. It is now famous around the world for the outstanding quality of its art collection, which spans from European Old Masters to nineteenth-century art, decorative arts and remarkable holdings of works on paper, and one of America’s largest art history libraries.
  Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Website

This exhibition is organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. The Montreal presentation is produced in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a 224-page catalogue published in English (Skira Rizzoli) and French (Skira Flammarion) and in which each work is illustrated and analyzed in depth.

Numerous educational activities will be offered in connection with the exhibition, particularly for families and schoolchildren, in the new Studios Art & Education Michel de la Chenelière.


We have been offered the opportunity – for the first time at the Museum–  to tell the story of Impressionism afresh in the light of sociological and historiographic research, by disregarding arbitrary disputes about style and presenting the works in such a way as to pay tribute to the coherence of a collection specifically constructed to reflect the Clarks’ passion.

Nathalie Bondil explained, “The selection on display shows a refined taste and a discerning eye for Impressionism: its forerunners with the Barbizon School, the birth of the movement and the historic vindication of the 1870s and 1880s are particularly well illustrated. Beyond the prestige of the signatures, these canvases are all of high quality in and of themselves.”

Visitors will be able to admire Monet’s landscapes, from The Cliffs at Étretat to the Dutch tulip fields and Spring in Giverny, the pastoral banks of the Seine painted by Caillebotte and Sisley and the cityscapes of Pissarro, such as The Louvre from the Pont Neuf. Works by Degas include the famous Before the Race with the horses and the jockeys in their brightly coloured silks. The exotic settings of Gérôme contrast with the elegant subjects of Stevens and Boldini. Twenty-one Renoirs selected from the thirty-two Renoirs currently in the Clark collection vividly illustrate the blazing talent of the master of Impressionism: his celebration of female beauty (Girl with a Fan, A Box at the Theater, Blonde Bather, …), his landscapes (Sunset, Venice, the Doge’s Palace, Bay of Naples, Evening), still lifes (Apples in a Dish, Peonies, …) , and portraits (Self-portrait, Marie-Thérèse Durand-Ruel Sewing, …).

After having been seen by one million of art lovers around the world, in Madrid, Milan, Giverny, Barcelona, Fort Worth and London, A History of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark makes its Canadian premiere at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October 13, 2012 to January 20, 2013. In fact, Montreal will be the sole Canadian venue for this historic tour, which will also travel from Europe to Asia during expansion work at the prestigious Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.