Appreciating a painting to the fullest takes practice due to the work’s layered symbolism, historical context, and hidden 3-D dolphin that only reveals itself after dark. Shed some light on the art world’s many hidden mysteries with today’s Groupon: for $125, you get a Contributor membership to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown (a $250 value).
For more than 50 years, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has visually arrested aesthetes with its collection of European and American paintings, sculpture, and early photography. The current exhibition of romantic British and French landscapes incorporates the Institute’s signature store of French impressionist paintings and 19th-century English meat pies, while upcoming summer exhibitions feature sculptures from Ghana-born El Anatsui and contemporary photographs from Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth. A Contributor membership to the art depository grants a host of benefits, such as unlimited admission for the member and four guests, a seasonal calendar and newsletter, invites to exclusive members-only exhibition previews, discounts to the museum shop and café, and reciprocal membership benefits at more than 400 museums in North America.
A garnet set into the natural splendor of the Berkshires, the Clark sits atop 140 acres of explorable lawns, meadows, and walking trails. The verdant grounds boast a lily pond, woods, and the Stone Hill, upon which lip-quivering views of Williamstown, the Green Mountains, and a montage of someone else’s childhood may be espied.
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Arriving in Paris after leading a scientific expedition through northern China, Sterling Clark was just another Boxer Rebellion veteran and Yale-educated engineer looking for something to do with the inheritance of his magnate grandfather, Robert Clark, who was an heir to the Singer sewing-machine fortune. Like the countless men who found themselves in the same position, Sterling did the only thing left to do at that point of his adventurous life: invest in art.
Sterling and his wife Francine both displayed a discriminating eye for art in their first year of collecting, almost immediately acquiring a piece by the sought-after painter Hyacinthe Rigaud, who was famous for his portraiture of 17th-century European nobility and drawing the most realistic-looking stick people. The Clarks' tastes evolved over time, and their collection ballooned to include more than 30 paintings by Renoir and dozens of works by other impressionist artists.
In 1955, a year before Sterling passed away, he and Francine founded their art institute, where the museum's curators presently stay true to the couple's artistic interests. French impressionism still forms the crux of the collection, but the museum's scope is ever expanding and nowadays includes works of early photographers and American painters and a rotating schedule of well-curated special exhibitions.
225 South St.
Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267