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Thomas B. Clarke

Merchant/Art Patron

Centurion, 1882–1931

Full Name Thomas Benedict Clarke

Born 11 December 1848 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Died 18 January 1931 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Proposed by Horace W. Robbins and Eastman Johnson

Elected 4 November 1882 at age thirty-three

Century Memorial

To become known as patron of art is usually a costly luxury, in which few have indulged except the kings and titled collectors of an older Europe and, in our own day, the very wealthy commoners to whom the search for rare artistic works was an appealing avocation. Thomas Benedict Clarke brought to the task originally neither a great reputation nor a great fortune, but his judgment of good painting was as highly developed as his patriotic instinct, and the distinction which he won as “friend of American art” was achieved, first by his positive belief in his country’s artistic capabilities at a time when large collectors shrugged their shoulders at the idea, then by his encouragement and practical help to native painters of real merit. That encouragement he gave very personally, often beside the canvas on which the young painter was at work. In the course of time, he came to occupy a conspicuous place in the world both of artists and collectors. His approval of a painting was sufficient to ensure its purchase.

Painting was not his only interest as collector. Greek vases, Russian and Spanish metals, Oriental plaques, Chippendale and Sheraton furniture and, more particularly in his later years, early American portraits, he sought out with equal enthusiasm. His portrait exhibitions in the Century’s gallery during 1925, 1926 and 1928 were among the Club’s memorable achievements of the period. Those who knew Clarke will remember quite as pleasantly the friendly sympathy, the quiet humor, and the interest in every worth-while question of the day that seemed to be part of his personality.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1932 Century Association Yearbook