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Sue Bush
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Kennedy At the Clark

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, August 05, 2005

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy views a favored Clark Art collection painting, Winslow Homer's "West Point, Prout's Neck," during an Aug. 5 stop at the museum.
Williamstown – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s Aug. 5 Berkshire region visit included a stop at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and afforded Kennedy an opportunity to view his self-described “favorite” Clark collection painting: Winslow Homer’s “West Point, Prout’s Neck.”

Kennedy named the painting in response to a Clark-initiated survey that asked numerous schoolchildren, area residents, business leaders, politicians, and Clark staff and art historians to identify their favorite Clark collection painting. The responses were compiled as “50 Favorites” and are included as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration. Kennedy’s comments about the Homer painting are posted on an exhibit text label at the art institute.

Kennedy was visibly pleased to view the painting and engage in artistic discussion with museum Director Michael Conforti and Marc Simpson, the curator for the Clark’s upcoming Winslow Homer exhibition. Simpson is widely regarded as an American paintings expert, said Clark Director of Public Relations Mary Leitch.

The vivid reds of the painting, a connection between painter, subject, and canvas, and Homer’s technique were included in the discussions. The painting was initially panned by art critics of the day, who considered the deep reds of the sunset to be “lurid,” Simpson said.


Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his wife Victoria arrived at the Clark just past 9 a.m..
Homer was born in Boston in 1836, and worked as a lithographer, illustrator and a Harper’s Bazaar writer who reported on the Civil War. In 1876, Homer turned away from illustrating and embraced painting. His ultimate inspiration was the sea and he painted at Prout’s Neck, Maine, during the summer and in Florida or the Bahamas during the winter. Homer painted with oils and watercolors and it is his watercolors that are most revered. The “West Point, Prout’s Neck” painting was done in oils and was acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark in 1941. The painting depicts the rugged Maine coastline during a blazing sunset. The work was painted as part of a pair of paintings; the companion work, titled “Eastern Point,” is also included in the Clark collection.

“The Scout: Friends or Foes,” an oil painting by Frederic Remington, also captured Kennedy’s attention. Kennedy acknowledged that he enjoys painting, and commented on Remington’s ability to cast moonlight over snow cover in the painting.

“That’s hard to do, white on white,” he said.

Kennedy and his wife Victoria arrived at the Clark prior to the museum’s 10 a.m. opening and were greeted by Conforti. Kennedy and Conforti shared conversation about the museum mission and its’ many dimensions, including cultural and educational resources. Conforti led Kennedy on an abbreviated tour of the museum’s first floor and a viewing of Jacques-Louis David’s painting “Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard.” The famous, imposing painting is part of the Clark’s current “Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile” exhibit.

Several renditions of Clark expansion plans were displayed on a window ledge, and Kennedy paused to examine the depictions as he ascended a stairwell to the second floor gallery housing the favored Homer work.

The Clark’s “Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History” exhibit will open on Oct. 9 and conclude on Jan. 16, 2006 and is being promoted as “the largest showing from the Clark’s extensive holdings in

Kennedy at the Clark
decades,” according to information provided by the museum. The exhibit is scheduled to host 10 oil paintings, 11 watercolors, 17 drawings and etchings, one photograph, and about 120 rarely viewed wood engravings.

The current exhibit is slated to close on Sept. 5.

Additional information about the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is available at the www.clarkart.edu web site or by calling 413-458-2303.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or by calling 802-823-9367.
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