Clark Art Institute

BTW Cubist and Surrealist encounters at the Clark

The cloth of her shirt ripples like light on water, and above her three circles of light shine like bubbles or sun on a lens. This is a self-portrait. Dora Maar was about 28 when she made it. I can imagine her in her darkroom, shaping light and shade on a silver gelatin print. Sounds…

Northern Berkshire art overlaps

In 1999, the summer Mass MoCA opened, Robert Rauschenberg came several times to see his work installed in the football-field-sized gallery in building 5. The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece gathered images from athletes and animals to umbrellas and planets. In collage or silkscreened onto fabrics, aluminum and copper, they formed a massive record…

150 years of Woodblock images

I spent a sleeting winter afternoon walking through Japanese Impressions at the Clark Art Institute. Here’s a glimpse of colors, subjects and styles in these woodblock prints as they change over time. You can find the full feature story here, and my thoughts here, on these artists across a century and a half.


Clark opens Manton Center

She stands in profile with one arm lifted, pointing toward his forehead, and he closes his eyes against the light. These are not the well-known poker faces of daguerrotypes. Their expressions are fluent, feeling, and the light touches their skin like the glow in a pre-Raphaelite painting. They look alive. Julia Margaret Cameron’s portraits surprised her…

Stone Hill — Philosophy made physical

He lives at the southern end of Stone Hill. On a late summer afternoon he walked around his garden. On the slope above him, the meadow grew hip-high and protected the wetland that sent a stream across his lawn. Here he channels the water into ponds and keeps the grass cut around natural marble intrusions…

Bodies bared at the Clark Art Institute

A courtesan without a name looks levelly along her shoulder. Saint Sebastian leans against a tree trunk and gazes at the sky. Hercules shoulders his club, and Susannah cups up water from a pool. And they are almost as bare as the day they were born. These paintings once hung in the palaces of the…

Clark Art Institute’s ‘Eye for Excellence’

Daphnis and Chloe lean casually together as he speaks into her ear. Around the corner a bat-winged Spaniard rides a wildcat in the night, and beyond a traveler in Egypt stands like a fragment of shadow outside the step pyramid at Sakkarah. Six degrees from the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown can reach around the…

Where’s Whistler?

When James Whistler was larking about town with a sketch pad, drawing caricatures, sketching a fire in the rectory roof, skating and coasting with friends, where did the Whistlers live in Pomfret, Conn.?

For a short few years in high school the boys, James and his youner brother William, went to the Christ Church Hall School, run by Dr. Roswell Park, then the Rector of Christ Church, and the Whistlers lived nearby —  on that much every source seems to agree. Biographers tend to put the family in part of an old and drafty farmhouse and leave it at that.

Among Pomfret locals and historians, consensus has the Whistlers downtown on “the Street,” the town’s strip of grand old buildings downtown, among churches and estates.

In “Folklore and Firesides of Pomfret,” Susan Jewett Griggs writes in 1950 that the Whistlers lived in “the house used today as the Catholic Rectory.” The Rev. David M. Carter, rector of Christ Church today, told me that though the Catholic Church has moved since Whistler’s day, he believes today’s rectory may be the same.

My uncle believes the Whistlers lived in one of two houses across the street from it, and the librarian at the Pomfret library believes the Whistlers’ house is now one of the buildings at the Rectory School, which covers a long sweep of the Street across from Christ Church.

The church itself is newer than the Whistlers’ time, and they would not have seen this old stone building, its Tiffany windows or the woodcarving by Charles Wiggins, who made a “Walrus and the Carpenter” coffee table for my grandparents. But they would have seen the cemetery. The burial ground goes back to the early days of the church.

I first saw that cemetery, to remember it, when I was eight years old, leaving a service to the ringing sound of When the Saints Go Marching In, a striding top-of-the-lungs tribute that managed to sound glad and grieving, Protestant and mischievious all at once.

My Abbott grandparents are buried here. In my search for the Whistlers, I came here to see them, and I thought of that day and what I remember of my father’s father’s memorial.