Thomas Shields Clarke
Photo by Jeremy Borkat
Mr. Thomas Shields Clarke (April 25, 1860 - November 15, 1920) was an American artist––painter, sculptor, illustrator, and medalist––born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Princeton University in 1882, Mr. Clarke split his time between the United States and Europe. He was a pupil of the Art Students League, in New York City, and of the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, France under Jean-Léon Gérôme; later he entered the atelier of Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, and, becoming interested in sculpture, worked for a while under Henri Chapu.
As a painter, among his most famous paintings is his A Fool's Fool, exhibited at the Salon in 1887, and Night Market in Morocco, for which he received a medal at the International Exposition in Berlin in 1891.
As a sculptor, he received a medal of honor in Madrid for his The Cider Press, and he made four caryatids of The Seasons for the Appellate Court House in New York City.
As an illustrator, Mr. Clarke established a comic paper while at Princeton, called The Princeton Tiger. He'd later illustrate for magazines, such as St. Nicholas Magazine, a popular children's magazine founded by Scribner's.
I have been researching the life and work of Mr. Clarke since 1988. My research has led me to New Jersey's Princeton University; Rhode Island's Brown University Library; Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Massachusetts' Lenox Library, Pittsfield Antheneum, Berkshire Museum, Stockbridge Library, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library; and to numerous telephone calls, and further internet searches.
This website represents research that I intermittently conducted over the past twenty years on Mr. Clarke. One would think that there would be books written about him, especially someone of his stature. However, this is not the case. He was mentioned in various articles in magazines during his lifetime, and in some reference books listing American painters and sculptors. There was very little information available about him, up until now.
Since I first published this website I have had the great fortune of having some of Mr. Clarke's descendants contact me. I cannot say enough how much of an honour this has been for me.
I also had contact with the grandson of Mr. Clarke's gardener at Fernbrook. I was able to share some information and photographs I have of Fernbrook. In exchange, he offered a copy of a letter of recommendation from Mr. Clarke.
Every now and then some work of Mr. Clarke's will show up at auction. For example, in 1991, an oil painting titled Japanese Girl, was sold at an estate auction. In 1993, a painting titled Roses in a Brown Pitcher, sold at an auction for $400.00. In 2005, one of his1896 Princeton University Sesquicentennial bronze medals sold on eBay for $540.00. And another one in 2007 sold for only $178.00. And, in 2018, one for $120.00, and another for $200.00. Sometimes articles from old magazines featuring one of his paintings will pop up on eBay. And, over the last couple years, one of his bronze sculptures, Cupid's Sundial, has made an appearance on the circuit. Its fate is uncertain at this time. One of the Crystal Gazer statues sold at auction in March 2018 for $1,500.
In July of 2008, I had the most extraordinary experience. I went to the Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to view an exhibit. Afterward, I strolled through the American Fine Arts area. There, a painting caught my attention. It was Mr. Clarke's Dawn of a New Life. Being an unexpected find, as this was, makes moments like these all the more special. (As a celebration of that great find, that very day I purchased a nice frame for a print of that painting I have from Century Magazine. It now hangs in my study.)
I have also had the thrill of finally being able to see Mr. Clarke's A Fool's Fool in colour. A print of it is available at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts website.
Another thrill to share with you is regarding his sculpture The Apple Cider Press, in San Francisco, California. It was moved to make way for the building of the deYoung Museum parking garage. The Apple Cider Press has been reinstalled to its original site opposite the deYoung Museum. A part of the sculpture, a bucket, had been found missing. On July 29th, 2008, the fine art handlers installed a re-fabricated bucket.
In 2015, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts featured Thomas Shields Clarke's photographs in The Artist's Garden exhibition and catalog, in one of its companion shows, Gardens on Paper. It featured a rediscovered set of Autochromes––the earliest method of color photography––by TSC of his Fernbrook gardens in Lenox, Massachusetts. The exhibition featured digital reproductions with back-lighting allowing visitors the chance to see how these glass plate Autochromes would have appeared when viewed through their standard viewing device––the Diascope. Because these glass plates cannot be exposed to light long-term, PAFA is thrilled to bring them to you HERE. Since TSC's photographs made their online debut, there has been a resurgence of interest in Mr. Clarke's art.
I am proud to present the life and work of Thomas Shields Clarke on this website. This is the most comprehensive biography and documentation of his work available–ANYWHERE!
Consider this a work in progress. For, as more data becomes available, I'll be sure to update this website.
This site was created October 2005 and is owned and operated by C.A. Chicoine. And it was last updated April 2019. No material from the site may be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way, except that you may download one copy of the materials on any single computer for your non-commercial use only, provided that you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. Modification of the materials or use of the materials for any other purpose is a violation of this site owner's copyright and other proprietary rights. The use of any such material on any other Website or networked computer environment is prohibited.