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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 Lacy SchutzMarch 8, 2007
Language: Finding aid written in English.

A Guide to the Realia

Repository:Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Archives
225 South St.
Williamstown, MA 01267
Creator:Clark, Robert Sterling, (1877-1956)
Title: Realia
Dates: 1877 - 1956
Quantity:ca. 85 linear ft.
Abstract:These items range from a set of andirons presumably used by the Clarks to RSC’s military uniforms. Items related to RSC’s horse breeding and scientific exploration are included, as are decorative objects.
Identification:CAI ARC 2006.01.06
Language: English, French

Arrangement of the Papers

The items have been divided into seven subseries by type, or predominant use: Subseries 1. Luggage -- Subseries 2. Costume and Personalia -- Subseries 3. Clark Art Institute Miscellaneous -- Subseries 4. Decorative Arts -- Subseries 5. Surveying Instruments -- Subseries 6. Horse Furnishings and Equipment -- Subseries 7. Firearms -- Subseries 8. Liquors. Each subseries contains further description.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This eclectic series of objects includes personal items such as RSC’s military uniforms, as well as luggage, scientific equipment, horse tack, and decorative objects.

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.



A. Goertz & Co.
Berry Bros. & Rudd
Brooks Brothers (Firm)
Browning Firearms Company
Crouch & Fitzgerald
Dr. Auzoux
Duveen Brothers
F.E. Brandis, Sons & Co.
Field, Son & Co.
G. & J. Cary
Gaumont (Firm)
George Philip & Son
Gerrard and Company Ltd.
Gibson Distilling Co.
Green River Distilling Co.
H. Kohlbusch
H.V. Allen & Co.
Hatfield & Sons
Henry Vallien & Co.
Herbert Blockley
Hermès (Firm : Paris, France)
Hirsbrunner & Co.
I. M. Jenkins
Instruments et Compas Baraban
J. A. Doughtery's Sons, Inc., Distillers
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Lichon a Paris
Loewe (Ludwig) and Company, A.G.
London Armoury Company
M. Knoedler & Co.
Morse Twist Drill and Machine Company
Newton, Shakespeare & Co.
Old Overholt & Co.
S. and J. Fuller
S.N. Meyer
S.W. Silver & Co.
Sherry-Lehmann, Inc.
Smith & Wesson
Societe des etablissements Gaumont
Sterling Watch Co.
Welch Margetson & Co. Ltd.
Whitaker & Co.
Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co.
William Gramm


China -- History -- Boxer Rebellion, 1899-1901
Derby (Horse race)
Military uniforms
Decorative arts
Rubbing -- China
Surveying -- China
Tanagra figurines
United States. Army
United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, Ninth
Williams College
World War, 1914-1918

Document Types:

Animal equipment
Architects' scales
Art objects
Astronomical charts
Belts (Costume accessories)
Black-and-white photographs
Cases (Containers)
Charts (Graphic documents)
Color photographs
Desk lamps
Dress swords
Exhibit cases
Frames (Furnishings)
French Curves
Lamps (Lighting devices)
Leveling rods
Mantel clocks
Manuals (Instructional materials)
Military uniforms
Models (Representations)
Official documents
Photoengravings (Prints)
Plates (Dishes)
Pocket knives
Pocket watches
Prints (Visual works)
Revolvers (Firearms)
Rifles (Long guns)
Scales (Weighing devices)
Sheaths (Cases)
Steel tapes
Sword belts
Tripods (Stands)
Trunks (Containers)
Whisk brooms


Restrictions on Access

This material is currently restricted.

Administrative Information

Custodial History

The origin of these materials is largely unknown. Presumably they came from the Clarks’ apartment at the museum. Some of the items, such as the coat rack, were in use by employees of the Institute until recently. These items were and are all stored in the art vault or in other, less secure locations around the museum.

Preferred Citation

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

Processing Information

In 2000 a contract archivist conducted an inventory. The numbers she assigned to items were retained, as well as her groupings of like items into one record. The objects were examined and catalogued between November and December 2006 by Lacy Schutz, Archivist and Danielle Ryan, Archives Assistant.

Related Material

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

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; Images Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Financial Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; and Personal Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers.

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