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2011 Catalog > 5. Eliot Candee Clark. “Connecticut Hills”



5. Eliot Candee Clark. “Connecticut Hills,” c. 1940s. Oil on board, 16 x 20." Signed, l.r. Framed to period style with a gold metal leaf Munn molding and linen liner, 22 x 25 3/4." Fine.

Price: $2,500. [ Order ]

Combining an influence from the Tonalist work of his father, Walter Clark, with tutelage from the great American artist John Twachtman, Eliot Clark (18831980) developed his own distinctive style of impressionism, which he adapted in different ways to suit the subject at hand. In Connecticut Hills, the artist applies a classic impressionist approach to the countryside near his home in Kent. He captures the effects of sunlight on the elements of the landscape by rendering them as reflections of pure color. Long and short dabs and dashes of contrasting hues optically coalesce into a path, landforms, trees, and distant hills shimmering beneath the shifting light of high-level clouds. Consistent with many of his works in the impressionist mode, his palette in the present work, “delves,” in Estill Curtis Pennington’s words, “in shade and hue beneath primary values to rest in the subtle variations of mauve and teal, contrasted with a shadowy gray.”

A child prodigy, Clark learned to paint at his father’s easel from a very young age. “As a child,” he wrote in 1957, “I grew unconsciously in the association of artists, of studio talk and the smell of paint and turpentine.” By the time he was 9, he had already exhibited at the New York Water Color Club and by age 13 at the National Academy. “While still going to school,” Clark continued, “I studied in the afternoon for a term at the Art Students League under John Twachtman.” The two months with Twachtman constituted the sum total of Clark’s formal instruction. His father believed that nature was the best teacher, and consequently he took his son with him to paint in the summer art colonies at Annisquam, Gloucester, Chadd’s Ford, and Ogunquit where they worked side by side with such notables as Twachtman, Edward Potthast, and Frank Duveneck.

From 1904 to 1906, Clark traveled to Europe, studying painting in Paris and Giverny. While in London he saw an exhibition of Whistler, whose use of color and subtle compositions had a substantial impact on Clark’s subsequent work. Clark returned to New York in 1906 and began exhibiting regularly in national shows throughout the first decade of the twentieth century. During this time, he also made several trips West, where he painted scenes of northern Arizona, New Mexico, and California.

After spending the winter of 1921 painting in Kent, Connecticut, Clark moved there from New York and lived for the next 10 years on the nearby Housatonic River on the state’s western border. A bitter divorce led him to retreat to Albemarle County, Virginia, and to travels during the late 1930s to India and Tibet. In 1944, Clark remarried and returned to the Connecticut countryside to resume his plein air studies of the surrounding hills and lakes. This is likely to have been the period during which Clark painted Connecticut Hills. In the late 1940s, he began to summer once more in Virginia where he ultimately returned in 1959, settling with his wife in rural Albemarle. Throughout the rest of his life, Clark remained active as an artist, an art historian, and a member of numerous art clubs. Between 1956 and 1959, he served as president of the National Academy of Design. He continued his work in both painting and writing until his death in Charlottesville, Virginia, at age 97.

Connecticut Hills is a fine example of Clark’s classic impressionist style, rendered in a high-keyed palette of luscious blues, purples, and greens.

Refs.: Estill Curtis Pennington, Celebrating Southern Art (Morris Museum of Art, 1997); Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.

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