Nicholas Fox Weber gives us the idiosyncratic lives of Sterling and Stephen Clark – two of America’s greatest art collectors, heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune, and for decades enemies of each other. He tells the story, as well, of the two generations that preceded theirs, giving us an intimate portrait of one of the least known of America’s richest families.
He begins with Edward Clark – the brothers’ grandfather, who amassed the Clark fortune in the late-nineteenth century – a man with nerves of steel; a Sunday school teacher who became the business partner of the wild inventor and genius Isaac Merritt Singer. And, by the turn of the twentieth century, the major stockholder of the Singer Manufacturing Company.
We follow Edward’s rise as a real estate wizard making headlines in 1880 when he commissioned Manhattan’s first luxury apartment building, then called Clark’s Folly, today known as the Dakota. We see Clark’s son – Alfred – enigmatic and famously reclusive; at thirty-eight he inherited $50 million and became one of the country’s richest men. An image of propriety – good husband, father of four – in Europe, he led a secret homosexual life. Alfred was a man with a passion for art and charity, which he passed on to his four sons, in particular Sterling and Stephen Clark. Sterling, the second-oldest, buccaneering and controversial, created his own museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts – and shocked his family by marrying an actress from the Comédie Française.
Together the Sterling Clarks collected thousands of paintings and bred racehorses. With authority, insight, and a flair for evoking time and place, Weber examines the depths of the brothers’ passions, the vehemence of their lifelong feud, the great art they acquired, and the profound and lasting impact they had on artistic vision in America.
REVIEWS ON CLARKS OF COOPERSTOWN
“An American dynasty’s pursuit of big money, high living, and fine art…art lovers will be intoxicated by the sheer abundance of masterworks.”
— NY Times Book Review
“It has all the makings of a great novel…but this rich, sprawling volume isn’t made up. It’s the true story of the heirs to [a great] fortune.”
— Philadelphia Inquirer
“Weber’s exquisitely sensitive yet hugely entertaining group portrait of the Clarks is a potent tale of family and wealth, anguish and the solace of art.”
“Weber’s delightfully written study includes much insightful psychological speculation about these larger-than-life men.”
— Publishers Weekly