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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 28, 2007
Language: Finding aid written in English.

A Guide to the Diaries

Repository:Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Archives
225 South St.
Williamstown, MA 01267
Creator:Clark, Robert Sterling, (1877-1956)
Title: Diaries
Quantity:12.3 linear feet (30 boxes)
Abstract:This series contains RSC's diaries from 1923 through 1949. The entries recount his daily life in New York City, Cooperstown, Virginia, and Paris.
Identification:CAI ARC 2006.01.01
Language: English

Arrangement of the Papers

The Diaries are arranged chronologically, in the order in which they were received. Entries were bundled together using either staples or fabric tape. Those bundles were preserved within individual paper sheaths.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Diaries begin with Robert Sterling Clark's falling out with his brother, Stephen, and continue, on and off, through the end of World War II, with some spotty entries until 1949. The entries recount friendships; disputes; meals and cooking; parties; financial investments; the purchase of artwork and silver; Clark's relationship with various art dealers; his thought and opinions about art and collecting; his and Francine's health; horse breeding and racing; politics; and the other subjects that make up a lifetime.

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


Domergue, Jean-Gabriel, 1889-1962
Duveen, Joseph Duveen, Baron, 1869-1939
Baker, Auval
Beach Day, W.
Brewster, General Andre Walker
Carstairs, Carroll
Christmas, Albert G. (Albert Grant), d. 1953
Clark, Alfred Corning
Clark, Edward Severin, 1870-1933
Clark, Florence Stokes, d. 1950
Clark, Francine, d. 1960
Clark, Frederick Ambrose, 1881-1964
Clark, Robert Sterling, 1877-1956
Clark, Stephen Carlton, 1882-1960
Clark, Susan
Cooke, Beach
Cooper, Paul Fenimore
Crowninshield, Frank, 1872-1947
Dale, Chester, b. 1883
Drake, James F.
Drake, James H.
Drake, Marston
Drey, Paul
Durand-Ruel, Charles
Durand-Ruel, Pierre
Elfers, Herbert H
Glass, Carter, 1858-1946
Grayson, Cary T.
Guille, Peter
Hancock, A. B.
Henschel, Charles R., b. 1885
Johnston, Waldo
Lewis, Robert H.
Mara, Vincent
McDonald, M. A.
Mellon, Paul
Nelson, Ernest Bruce, 1888-1952
Patch, L. B.
Popoff, Alexandre
Ray, Viviane
Remy, Suzanne
Stainforth, Martin
Tefft, Erastus
Wildenstein, Felix, 1883-1952
Wildenstein, Georges


Clark Estates
Frick Collection
Galerie Durand-Ruel
James F. Drake, Inc.
M. Knoedler & Co.
National Gallery of Art (U.S.)
Parke-Bernet Galleries
Paul Drey Gallery
Sherry-Lehmann, Inc.
Singer Sewing Machine Company
Tiffany and Company
Wildenstein and Company (New York, N.Y.)


Upperville (Va.)
Art Collectors and collecting -- France
Art Collectors and collecting
Art dealers -- France -- Paris
Art French -- 19th century
Art, American -- 19th century.
Art, American -- 20th century
Art, French -- 20th century
Booksellers and bookselling
Bouguereau, William Adolphe, 1825-1905
Cooperstown, (N.Y)
Homer, Winslow, 1836-1910.
Horses -- Breeding
Horses -- Breeding -- America
Horses -- Breeding -- United States
Horses -- Training
Municipal bonds
Paris (France) -- Diaries
Race horses
Race horses -- Breeding
Race horses -- United States -- (New York)
Race horses -- United States -- (New York) -- New York
Real estate investment
Renoir, Auguste, 1841-1919
Saratoga Racecourse (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) History.
Saratoga Springs (N.Y.)
Sargent, John Singer, 1856-1925.
Stock exchanges -- United States
Trusts and trustees
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945 -- France -- Paris

Document Types:



Restrictions on Access

This material is currently restricted

Administrative Information

Custodial History

The Diaries were kept in the Director's vault.

Preferred Citation

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

Acquisition Information

These items were acquired in whole from the Director's Vault.

Processing Information

The Diaries were processed beginning in December 2006 by Lacy Schutz, archivist, Dani Ryan, archives assistant, and Anne Just and Alex Grimley, archives interns. Staples and ties were removed and all bundles rehoused in paper sheaths in acid-free folders. Minor corrections were made when pages were out of order. Each page was given a unique identifying number, written lightly in pencil in the upper right hand corner.

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: Correspondence Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Financial Series, Sterling and Francine Clark Papers; Images 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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