Provenance Research Project

The history of ownership and collecting is intimately connected with the history of art and is taken especially seriously by museums based upon private collections, such as the Clark Art Institute. Since the inception of the Institute in 1955, the curatorial staff has compiled a wealth of information not only on the collecting interests of Sterling and Francine Clark, but also on the history of ownership, or provenance, of the works they acquired. This research has continued over the years as the Institute's collection has expanded. It is available to the public and speaks to a range of issues related to the art market, patronage, and the history of taste over many generations. As we prepare our upcoming catalogues of the permanent collection of European paintings, patronage research has become even more significant. This material, along with detailed bibliography, exhibition history, conservation analysis, and, of course, scholarship on each object's place in the development of art, will figure prominently in these volumes.

In recent years provenance has assumed additional importance. Following recommendations of the American Association of Museums (AAM), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the U.S. State Department Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA), the Clark has taken steps to identify any objects in its collection that might be subject to potential claims that they were confiscated from their rightful owners by the Nazis during the period of their power, 1933 to 1945.

The Clark has focused its provenance examination on paintings purchased by Sterling and Francine Clark, the Institute, and other Institute donors from 1933 to the present, with special emphasis on those paintings that might have changed ownership between 1933 and 1945. Researchers are now in the process of gathering all available provenance information on the Clark's European paintings. The Institute will disclose the provenance of all works in the collection that were created before 1945, transferred after 1932 and before 1946, and were or could have been in continental Europe between those dates. The Clark will continue to update this list in a timely manner as research continues.

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