This past weekend Susie and I took a day trip to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, to spend some quality time with their collection of French impressionist art. It was a gorgeous day for a drive to the wilds of the far northwestern corner of Massachusetts, a space tucked amongst the Berkshire hills safe from the trials and tribulations of a chaotic world, a space shared with New York and Vermont. The traffic was light as we slipped quietly out of Providence early Saturday and headed up Route 146 to I-90, the revered and often reviled "Mass Pike" where we turned left and headed west toward Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and eventually Williamstown, MA.
Exiting at Lee, MA, we turned north up Route 7 passing through Lenox and crawling through Pittsfield and eventually found ourselves in the quintessential New England college town of Williamstown. A few minutes later and we pulled into the parking lot of the enormous Clark Institute complex of art research centers, labs, various offices and of course the museum itself.
We were slightly shocked and a bit let down to learn upon our arrival that most of their impressionist art -- Manet, Morisot, Degas, Caillebotte and others -- are touring the world for the next two years or so while the museum adds a whole new wing/building to their already amazing complex. As the women at the front desk informed us, the main gallery and numerous display cases in the peripheral galleries were indeed empty, leaving one with the impression of trespassing on a massive crime scene.
But having collected our wits and sensibilities we quickly realized that this place was well worth the drive. First of course there is this incredible location to be experienced and still quite a bit of fantastic art to be seen and felt: Pierre Renoir's seemingly endless fascination with women taking a bath, John Singer Sargent's impeccable studies of the human form, Winslow Homer's capture of the White Mountains, Alfred Stevens touching portraits, and Degas' Little Dancer to name just a few of the more outstanding pieces to see. Even a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.
I hope you enjoy looking at these bits and pieces from some of the greatest painters who have ever picked up a palette; I know we did:
Next up: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston -- maybe next week a trip in to the city on commuter rail and then the Tee to the MFA. After that it's NYC! And maybe even Brooklyn if we drive. . .