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Sterling and Francine Clark Papers:


Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Archives
225 South St.
Williamstown, MA 01267

March 31, 2009

Profile Description

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Anne JustApril 23, 2007
Language: Finding aid written in English.

A Guide to the Images

Repository:Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Archives
225 South St.
Williamstown, MA 01267
Creator:Clark, Robert Sterling, (1877-1956)
Title: Images
Dates:1899-1953 (inclusive)
Dates: 1935-1945 (bulk)
Quantity:7.5 linear feet
Abstract:The Images series consists primarily of images derived from stereodrome (Taxiphote) negatives: the negatives themselves; black-and-white glass slides; and prints in various sizes. Other materials include a film; miscellaneous snapshots and studio portraits; and four photograph albums. The principal subjects are horses and RSC's silver and porcelain collections.
Identification: CAI ARC 2006.01.05
Language: English, French

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The materials in the Images series include 273 photographic negatives, 275 photographic prints, 250 black-and-white glass slides for the stereodrome, four photo albums documenting collections, and a movie of Never Say Die winning the Epsom Derby. A stereodrome viewer is included in the Realia series.

The stereographic materials consist of 250 negatives, 250 slides made from them, and 204 single-view prints in various sizes made from the negatives. Slides measure 4 3/16 x 1 11/16 inches or 45mm x 107 mm. These slides are stereo transparencies in the French Taxiphote format, rarely found outside Europe. Almost all of these images show horses owned or considered for ownership by RSC. Some identified as taken at Saratoga include such famous stallions as Man O'War and War Admiral; others are identified as taken in Canada. Most locations are unknown, but because many of the horses are identified by name and are known to have belonged to RSC, they were probably taken in Kentucky and Virginia. Most of these pictures show full-body profiles of a single horse with a groom; some show mares and their foals. A few of these pictures show unidentified people.

Four photograph albums document the Clarks' collection of silver and porcelain. One album (10½ x 12 x 1¼ inches) documenting a silver collection is missing a large proportion of its photographs, which might have been moved to a second album (12½ x 12½ x 4½ inches), also documenting silver. A third album (13 x 12 x 4 inches) documenting silver is identified on the spine as "Plate." The fourth album (12½ x 12½ x 3 inches) is filled with photographs of the Clarks' collection of porcelain.

Of the approximately 100 remaining items, 30 are passport or carte d'identite photos of RSC and Francine; ten are of the interior of RSC's mother’s apartment on 89th St. in Manhattan; four are of Williams College; three are of RSC and an unidentified woman on horseback in Arizona; five were taken in the Cooperstown area; seven are removed from a letter from Robert H. Lewis and seem to document a picnic; and 14 others, also removed from correspondence, document racetracks, houses, and horses. There are six large, matted prints of two portraits of the horse Galatea. Five items are x-rays either of RSC's cranium or of Francine’s teeth. The remaining items consist of snapshots and studio portraits, mostly unidentified.

Biographical Note

Born in 1877, Robert Sterling Clark, along with his three brothers, was heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. Their father, Alfred Corning Clark, was the son of Edward Corning Clark, Isaac Singer's business partner. RSC attended Yale University and graduated in 1899 with a degree in engineering. He joined the army and his service during the Boxer Rebellion earned him the commission of first lieutenant. In 1908, RSC undertook an expedition to the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in a remote area of northern China. He intended to carry out ethnographic and zoological research, as well as conduct surveys and create maps. His partner in this undertaking was Arthur de Carle Sowerby. Sowerby, in addition to being a naturalist, explorer, artist and editor, collected specimens for the British Museum and other museums of natural history in the United States and China. The expedition came to an abrupt end when Hazrat Ali, their translator and surveyor, was murdered.

Shortly thereafter, RSC moved to Paris. In 1909 he inherited various pieces of art from his family and these pieces became the foundation of the collection he was to build over the ensuing decades. He made his first purchases in 1912 and was initially attracted primarily to Dutch, Flemish and Italian old masters. Soon, his interests expanded to include silver, prints and drawings, rare books, and more contemporary artists such as Renoir, Degas, Sargent and Homer.

During this time RSC met Francine Clary. Formerly an actress with the Comedie Francaise, Francine was the mother of a daughter, Viviane Modzelewska. Francine and RSC began seeing one another in 1910, but didn’t marry until 1919. Their relationship was a source of tension with RSC’s family and eventually led to a rift between him and his brother, Stephen. Stephen, the youngest of the Clark brothers, had shouldered the daily administration of the family's fortunes. RSC felt that he was at a disadvantage because of the way the Singer trusts were constructed. Should something befall RSC, the money would pass back into the Clark family rather than to Francine and her daughter. When he was unable to resolve the issue within the family, he and Stephen had a falling out that would never be mended and RSC sued unsuccessfully in court to break up the trusts.

RSC and Francine were partners in assembling the collections that would eventually be housed at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, visiting galleries and dealers together. Another keen interest was horse breeding. RSC owned large operations that bred, raised and trained racehorses, first in Belgium and then in Virginia. In 1951, his horse, Never Say Die, won the Epsom Derby, the first American-bred horse ever to do so.

After considering various options for the eventual disposition of their artworks and objects, including donation to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and founding a museum in New York City, RSC and Francine decided to locate their collections in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Beginning in 1950 and continuing through RSC’s death late in 1956, their lives were focused on building the Institute, both physically and administratively.

Index Terms


Clark, Francine, d. 1960
Clark, Robert Sterling, 1877-1956


British Bloodstock Agency


Architecture, Domestic -- New York (State)
Horse racing
Horses -- Breeding
Porcelain Collectors and collecting
Race horses
Silver bowls
Silver coffeepots
Silver plated ware
Silver saltcellars
Silver servers
Silver sugar bowls
Upperville (Va.)
Virginia -- History

Document Types:

Black-and-white negatives
Black-and-white photographs
Black-and-white slides
Identification photographs
Motion pictures (Visual works)
Passport photographs
Photograph albums
Photographic negatives
Photographic prints


Restrictions on Access

This material is currently restricted.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Cite the item (as appropriate)], Images Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Acquisition Information

The glass slides and many of the photographs were accessioned from the Director’s vault. Photos found among the correspondence were removed, cross-referenced, and placed in the Images series. Other black-and-white photographs and negatives were found among materials in the former office of David Brooke.

Processing Information

Items in the Images series were rehoused and arranged between December 2006 and April 2007 by Anne Just and Alex Grimley, archives interns. Items are stored in archival boxes and are primarily grouped by size, as original order is unclear due to extensive handling before they were accessioned into the archives. Black-and-white stereographic glass slides are arranged in archival boxes in the order in which they were found. Each slide is housed in a wrapper made of archival paper. Three of four photograph albums have been disbound and are stored in archival boxes, with leaves separated by buffered tissue. Their bindings, which were already in deteriorating condition, were too tight to allow for insertion of buffered tissue in place. The fourth album was in good condition with room for buffered tissue insertions between photographs and so was left undisturbed

Related Material

Personal - Medical

Personal - Horses

Correspondence - Miscellaneous

On the occasion of the Clark Art Institute's 50th anniversary, the Clark published: The Clark brothers collect: impressionist and early modern paintings / Michael Conforti ... [et al.]; with additional contributions by Daniel Cohen-McFall ... [et al.], Williamstown, Mass., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2006.

In addition, the Clark has published a catalog documenting the silver collection: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. English, Irish, & Scottish Silver at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Beth Carver Wees, ed. New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1997.

Related or similar material can be found in the following series in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Archives, Williamstown, Massachusetts: Diaries Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Correspondence Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Financial Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Personal Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; and Realia Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Records and Papers of David Brooke; Institutional Oral Histories.

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