Skip to main content

Thomas B. Clarke letters from or about Homer Dodge Martin, 1893-1897

Thomas B. Clarke letters from or about Homer Dodge Martin, 1893-1897

Clarke, Thomas B. (Thomas Benedict), 1848-1931

Collector

The letters of Thomas B. (Thomas Benedict) Clarke from or about Homer Dodge Martin in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009.The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 65 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 0.2 linear feet

Summary: Since Martin kept no diaires or sales ledgers himself, the letters are invaluable in understanding his painting, financial struggles, and his physical and mental condition in the last 5 years of his life. Additional letters from Martin's son, Ralph, his wife, Elizabeth, and gallery owner William Macbeth, and a letter from Martin to his friend Montgomery Schuyler, further illuminate Clarke's activities as a dealer and patron of Martin's work, and provide insight into Martin's financial affairs and the increasingly favorable market for the painter's work just prior to and following his death in 1897.

Biographical/Historical Note

Montgomery Schuyler (1843-1914) was an architectural critic and collector from New York, N.Y. There is no known relationship between he and Rev. Dr. Montgomery Schuyler (1814-1896) from St. Louis, Mo.

Provenance

Letters on reel D9 donated 1957 by Charles Feinberg; reel 3482 Irving Burton 1967.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Thomas B. Clarke Letters From or About Homer Dodge Martin,
1893-1897
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.clartbhm
Biographical Note
Thomas Benedict Clarke (1848-1931) was a New York prosperous merchant who began collecting American art in the 1870s. Over the course of the next 20 years he actively traded, loaned, and sold artwork through dealers in New York City, outlets in Worcester, Cincinnati and St. Louis, and with artists. He also shared his collection through public and private exhibitions in New York and elsewhere. He earned praise from the critics for being the foremost patron of American painters during the late 1800s and was praised by many painters for his attention to American artists at a time when they considered themselves neglected or ignored.
Hudson River School painter Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897) was one of the artists for whom Clarke acted as patron. Martin studied briefly with James Hart and spent his summers during the 1860s sketching in the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the White Mountains and then painted landscapes from the sketches he made at his studio in New York City's Tenth Street Studio Building.
In 1876 he took his first trip to Europe and from 1882-1886 lived in Normandy, France. There he was influenced both by the Barbizon school of painting and the Impressionists and his painting took on darker, more melancholy tones.
By 1887 Martin had returned to New York and in 1893 moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. During the 1890s Martin was plagued by ill health and financial struggles. A dead optic nerve in one eye and a cataract in the other, left him close to blindness when he died in February 1897. At the time of his death two of his greatest paintings,
Westchester Hills
(circa 1887) and
Harp of the Winds
(1895), remained unsold and another,
Adirondack Scenery
(1895) had been bought by Clarke for circa $400.
In 1890, Clarke had dissolved his dry-goods partnership, Clarke & King, and announced that he would no longer deal in American pictures except as an agent for George Inness. Clarke opened a showroom known as "Art House" in 1891 on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and began dealing primarily in Oriental porcelains and Greek antiquities. The Martin letters are one source of evidence that Clarke did, however, continue to deal in American art as a private agent through Macbeth Gallery and others. A letter written on Clarke's behalf to Martin dated April 17, 1896, stated that he had contacted Samuel P. Avery on Martin's behalf, and suggested that he consign his paintings to Avery, rather than having Clarke promote them himself.
In January 1899 Clarke announced that he would dispose of his American pictures at auction following a week long exhibition at the American Art Association. In February 1899, 7 of the 10 Homer Martin paintings in Clarke's possession were sold at that auction, including
Adirondack Scenery
for $5500. Within two years of his death, Martin's
Harp of the Winds
was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In addition to the Metropolitan Museum, Martin's work can be found in other important American museums including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1874 and was one of the founders of the Society of American Artists.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 1 series:
Series 1: Thomas B. Clarke Letters From or About Homer Dodge Martin, 1893-1897 (Box 1; 9 folders)
Provenance
Letters on reel D9 donated 1957 by Charles Feinberg; reel 3482 Irving Burton 1967.
Processing Information
The collection was received in 2 separate donations in 1957 and 1967 and microfilmed on reels D9 and 3482. The letters were merged in 2008 by Stephanie Ashley, and digitized in entirety in 2009, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Thomas B. Clarke letters from or about Homer Dodge Martin, 1893-1897. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available