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St. Michael's, Charleston, 1918
Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
32 x 26 inches
Signature Details: Alson Clark./18
Status: Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina

Alson Skinner Clark, painter, illustrator, printmaker, teacher and muralist, belongs to no particular school or group. His landscapes, timeless and painterly, record locations of infinite variety with a special genius for capturing the essence of a place. Giverny (1910), Town Dock, Alexandria Bay (1971), and California Coast (1924, all private collections) are typical examples.

He was much influenced by William Merritt Chase, who gave him a good sense of composition and an understanding of color that served him well for the rest of his life.

Clark was born in Chicago in 1876. At age 14, he enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago, where he stayed for four years. He spent one year at the Art Students League; although he met Chase there, he found it restricting. When Chase seceded from the League to found the Chase School, Clark and a small group of students left to study with him.

He went to Paris in late 1899 for further training, but apparently gained little from study at the Academie Julien and the various studios, and schools of Lucien Simon, Cottet, Mucha, Merson and James McNeill Whistler.

In 1901 Clark’s painting The Violinist (date and location unknown), a rather conventional work, was accepted by the Salon.

He returned to the United States shortly after this recognition, and set up a studio in Watertown, New York, where he began to explore one of his favorite subjects, snow scenes. For working in the snow when he visited Quebec, he went out with snowshoes and a combination charcoal burner-palette, to prevent the paints from freezing.

In 1904, Clark had a show of his turn-of-the-century Chicago scenes. He received the ultimate accolade from Chase, who bought The Bridgebuilders (date and location unknown) for his own collection.

Seemingly oblivious to the impending danger in Europe, early in 1914 Clark and his wife bought a Hupmobile and returned to Rochefort-en-Terre, a place in Brittany where Clark had done a series of paintings some years before. When German soldiers broke into France, the Hupmobile was given to some mystified but grateful French infantrymen. Later, Clark served as one of the first aerial photographers in the war.

In April and May, 1917, Clark painted in Charleston, South Carolina. The warm light of the south spurred Clark. Charleston Houses (Catfish Row) captures the bright sunny heat of Spring with the cool stretches of shade along the distant walls. The various textures of the scene: the walls, the fence, the cobblestone street and the trees are al handled with masterly ease. As one of the last paintings prior to Clark=s enlistment in the Navy, it testifies that the artist had developed his own distinct style and was totally competent in his art.

In 1919, Clark settled in California to teach and paint. He died in 1949.

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