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Robert Sterling Clark

Robert Sterling Clark (June 25, 1877 - December 29, 1956) an American art collector, horse breeder, philanthropist, and heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune.

He owned several residences: New York City, Cooperstown, New York, "Sundridge Farm" in Upperville, Virginia, and Paris, France.

He served in the military in the Philippines and during the Boxer rebellion. At least one source claims he served under General Smedley Butler.

Art collecting

Sterling Clark purchased his first Impressionist painting, Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Girl Crocheting, in 1916. He and his wife Francine (1876-1960) continued to collect art rapidly and towards the end of their lives established their collection as a museum near the campus of Williams College in Williamstown Mass. They did this after originally making plans with his brothers Stephen Carlton Clark and F. Ambrose Clark to combine their collections in a single art museum in Cooperstown.

After a falling out among the brothers, Sterling not only cancelled such plans but also withdrew his share of the family fortune from the collective trust. He established his own foundation and sold off or donated all of his property holdings in Cooperstown. He donated the Ernest Flagg designed neoclassic YMCA building commissioned by his mother, Elizabeth Scriven Clark, in 1898 to the village in 1932, and it now houses village offices, the library and the Cooperstown Art Association.

Almost no communication between Stephen and Sterling occurred again.

Over the next five decades he and his wife collected numerous paintings by Renoir, plus dozens of paintings, sculptures and pastels by other Impressionist artists.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opened its doors to the public in 1955. According to Time Magazine, "In building their $3,000,000 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Clarks ignored costs (Local boosters boast that the marble for the new museum was the biggest single order in Vermont since the U.S. Supreme Court.) but insisted on quality."

Works in the collection included over 30 Renoirs as well as Dutch, Spanish and American painters such as Winslow Homer, Goya, Frans Hals, and Degas.

1909 Expedition

He financed a 1909 Expedition which sought specimens from the Yellow River into Shaanxi and then to Kansu provinces of China. He recruited the explorer Arthur de Carle Sowerby as naturalist for the trip, later publishing a book with Sowerby about the expedition entitled Through Shen-Kan.

Horse Racing Interests

The most noted horse owned and bred by Mr. Clark was Never Say Die (1951 - 1975) an American bred chestnut colt. Raced in England, the colt at 3-yrs old captured the 1954 Epsom Derby at odds of at 33 to 1. He was ridden by Lester Piggott, the youngest jockey to ever win the prestigious race at just 18 years old.

Never Say Die went on to win also the Rosslyn Stakes (ENG) and St. Leger Stakes (Gr.1); upon retirement he was donated to the National Stud.

Following his marriage Sterling's interest in horses wanned considerably. Yet he was during his lifetime most noted for being a successful horse owner than the private art collector he's best known as today.


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