Published: March 9, 2017
WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. – The Clark Art Institute recently opened the Henry Morris and Elizabeth H. Burrows Gallery. The American decorative arts gallery, housed in 3,275 square feet of newly renovated space in the Manton Research Center, contains the Clark’s important collection of early American paintings and furniture in addition to its fine Burrows collection of American silver.
Designed by Selldorf Architects, the gallery includes new exhibition cases and an improved layout that enhance the experience of viewing the Clark’s important collection of colonial to early Nineteenth Century American art.
The gallery, located in former exhibition spaces on the upper level of the Manton Research Center, features more than 300 objects, many which have been off view since 2012 and some of which have never been exhibited. Highlights of the display include a portrait of George Washington (1796-1803) by Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), a well-proportioned sugar bowl and cover, circa 1795, by Paul Revere Jr (1735-1818) and a Sheraton-style secretary, circa 1800, attributed to Nehemiah Adams (1769-1840).
The gallery also includes a study center containing additional displays of silver, a computer station and a small library of books on American silver and furniture, allowing scholars and visitors to further their study of the works on view.
“The Clark’s collection of American decorative arts has been assembled largely through generous donations of important collections,” said Olivier Meslay, Felda and Dena Hardymon director of the Clark. “We are so pleased to be able to honor the Burrowses, whose keen eyes and collecting acumen built an exemplary collection, and are indebted to them for their generosity in making such an important gift to the Clark. This new gallery, named in their honor, allows us to provide well-deserved prominence to this lesser-known facet of our collection.”
Very little of the Clark’s early American collections stems from the institute’s founders. It has been developed over time through gifts, most significantly the 2003 Burrows bequest of more than 272 pieces of American silver. In 2001, 30 pieces of colonial and Federal furniture and small decorative arts assembled by distinguished collector George Cluett were received through a bequest from his daughter Florence Cluett Chambers.
In 2010 and 2013, Phoebe Prime Swain donated 28 pieces of Chinese export porcelain from the George Washington Memorial Service, each decorated with a memorial to the first president. While several museums own one or two pieces from this noted service, the Clark now has the largest holding of any public institution, featuring diverse forms such as platters, bowls, sauce boats, and custard cups.
“With the leadership of Selldorf Architects, we have converted our former temporary exhibition space into a suite of permanent collection galleries,” said Kathleen Morris, the Sylvia and Leonard Marx director of exhibitions and curator of decorative arts. “It is exciting to see these objects, many of which were formerly in storage due to lack of space, assembled in such a warm and welcoming environment.”
The reinstallation project included extensive object research conducted by Morris and Alexis Goodin that yielded important information about the collections. A looking glass purchased by Cluett, thought to be a rare example from New York, was made in Bremen, Germany, most likely for the American market. The looking glass was the subject of an intensive research and conservation project in 2015.
The items housed in the Burrows gallery reflect how early American artists and craftsman created a new artistic identity for the fledgling nation through the creation of beautiful, but functional, objects. Their designs demonstrate a knowledge and appreciation of luxury objects being made at the time in Europe, especially in England, but also show a tendency toward a greater simplicity in form and decoration.
The Clark is at 225 South Street. For additional information, 413-458-2303 or www.clarkart.edu.
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