Backstories: The Other Side of Art at The Clark

Backstories: The Other Side of Art on View at
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
December 22nd-April 21st in Williamstown

Works of art can lead a double life, with one side revealed to the public and the other hidden from view. In the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s exhibition Backstories: The Other Side of Art, these often hidden sides will come to light as a selection of works tell their little-known “backstories,” revealing when and how they were made, how they have been cared for by collectors, and the many changes they have undergone.

Museums and galleries use more than just the pieces displayed in the exhibits they show to identify them – the stories behind paintings, sculptures, and other creative works are often much richer than they seem at first glance.  Information like signatures, dates, and other notes can often be found on the back of paintings, while busts and vases often have information carved into their bases.  Artists also often used the reverse sides of their works to do sketches or make notes about their piece.  These markings and small bits of information can help viewers learn more about things like the historical context in which a piece was created, the previous homes and/or owners of the piece, and the materials used by the artist.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is offering a special new exhibit, Backstories: The Other Side of Art, focused on these hidden stories!  On view between December 22nd, 2012 and April 21st, 2013, the exhibit is filled with works displayed non-traditionally so that viewers can inspect both sides of the story – literally!  Visitors can inspect the back sides of paintings, see interesting double-sided portraits, view preliminary sketches on the back of beautiful drawings, and examine all 360 degrees of a silver milk jug engraved with the names of all of its owners (including Benjamin Franklin!).

Exploring this exhibit with your family or students (or on your own!) can provide a powerful learning experience – youth of all ages can learn about the importance of looking at art within its historical context, offering exposure to basic skills in identifying art techniques, historical relationships, and time periods.  It can get them thinking about the backstory of other pieces of art too … maybe even spark an interest in researching the history behind other great works of art!

If your children or students have read and enjoyed E.L. Konigsburg’s book,  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, they love this real-life explorations of the backstories of art!  This title would be great to pair with a visit to Backstories.

For more information visit www.clarkart.edu or call the Clark Institute at 413-458-2303.  The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, MA.  Admission to the exhibit is included with regular museum admission ($).

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