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 Kate Freeman Clark  (1875 - 1957)

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Lived/Active: Mississippi/New York      Known for: Plein-aire landscape painting

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Freeman Clark is primarily known as Kate Freeman Clark

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Ad Code: 3
Freeman Clark
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Kate Freeman Clark was the daughter of Edward Clark, an attorney in Vicksburg, Mississippi and Cary Freeman Clark, a descendant of the politically prominent Walthall family of Holly Springs. Shortly after her father's death in 1885, she enrolled in the Gardiner Institute, a finishing school for girls. Exploring the art section of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition* in Chicago played a role in Kate's decision to pursue a career as an artist.

In 1894, she enrolled in the Arts Students League* in New York where she studied under John H. Twachtman, Irving Wiles and William Merritt Chase. In 1896, for the first of six consecutive summers, Kate Freeman Clark, painting en plein aire, attended Chase's outdoor painting classes at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island. Her works exhibited a little of Chase's influence, but she was credited as one of his most successful students and soon developed her own style, and in later years described these years as her happiest and most productive.

At the turn of the century, Clark began submitting her work to important exhibitions using the name "Freeman Clark" in order to hide her gender. For a period of over twenty years Clark had many works accepted into prestigious shows, including The Corcoran Gallery, The Carnegie Institute, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts*, The National Academy of Design* and The New York School of Art*.

William Merritt Chase's death in 1916 and the changing mode of art, introduced by the New York Armory Show* of Cubist* paintings in 1913, took the heart out of her career. After losing her grandmother in 1919 and her mother's passing in 1922, Kate Freeman Clark decided to give up painting and returned to the antebellum Walthall home in Mississippi.  And she chose not to bring back with her the more than one-thousand paintings accumulated during her artistic career, and instead stored them in New York's Lincoln Warehouse.

Even though she built a studio on the second floor of her house in Mississippi, she never painted again.  She exhibited the lifestyle of the proper Southern lady, and adapted herself so skillfully to the social expectations of her day that many of her friends were not aware she had been an accomplished artist during her years in the Northeast.

Having never married, Ms. Clark feared her family name would be forgotten and so she bequeathed to the city of Holly Springs, Mississippi, her family home, her entire collection of paintings and funds to build a museum, known today as The Kate Freeman Clark Gallery. The gallery features over 1,000 of her paintings. It is reputed to be the world's largest collection of paintings by a single artist.

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"Kate Freeman Clark-Antebellum Thinking", June 18, 2010, Charles T. Begnaud Jr.

* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Kate Freeman Clark, born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, was a contemporary of Anne Golthwaite.  She managed to study very successfully in New York with Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase, and was on her way to achieving a notable career.  But on the advice of her mother, who had gone to New York with her, she concealed her sex by signing her paintings "Freeman Clark."  She never sold a work, even though she was given several "one-man" shows. 

After the death of her mother in 1923, she returned to Holly Springs and all but abandoned painting.  At her own death in 1957 at age eighty-three, she bequeathed her art, which had been stored since 1923 in a warehouse in New York, to her unsuspecting community, along with enough funds to establish an art center named after her.  One particularly fine landscape, Summer Afternoon, now at the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in Memphis, calls to mind a comparison with the best of Chase's Shinnecock scenes; it is altogether unfortunate that she cut short her career.

From Painting in the South: 1564-1980,  Virginia Museum, Richmond, p. 110.

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Freeman Clark is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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