The Clark Art Institute, as a New England venue, is doing more than cheering onNew England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowlagainst the Seattle Seahawks. It is betting one of its most famous pieces of artwork in a wager with the Seattle Art Museum.
If the Patriots lose, the Clark will send its Winslow Homer masterpiece, “West Point, Prout’s Neck,” for a three-month stay to the Seattle museum. A win, which the Clark staff confidently expects, means the Homer stays at home and the Seattle museum’s “Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast,” by Albert Bierstadt, comes East for three months at the Clark.
Ironically, both artists have ties to Massachusetts: The German born Bierstadt was raised in New Bedford, and Homer was born in Boston, though he eventually preferred the solitude of Maine’s Prout’s Neck, where he died. He is buried in Cambridge. Bierstadt, who is buried in New Bedford, had a special love for the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He traveled across the country in the mid-1800s, taking many photographs from which he painted his famous canvas landscapes
“Their director contact our director and asked if we wanted to do this, and we said sure,” said Clark spokeswoman Sally Morse Majewski, about the exchange between Clark director Michael Conforti and Seattle’s Kimerly Rorschach.
The paintings selected for wager highlight the nature of the Northwest and the Northeast. Clark owns other works by Homer, but Majewski described “West Point, Prout’s Neck,” painted in 1900, as a “really great painting.”
A joint museum release about the painting says the artist considered it “one of his greatest seascapes, the culmination of his intense study of the coast of Maine where he spent his last years as an artist.
“Waves crash against massive rocks as bands of brilliant color stretch across the horizon, casting a rosy glow over the ocean,” the release notes. It quotes Homer as saying,’The picture is painted 15 minutes after sunset — not one minute before,” and only possible after “many days of careful observation.”
The release describes the Bierstadt as “one of the most novel subjects of his career: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast.”
“This spectacular, eight-foot-wide view of Puget Sound resulted from newly reawakened interest in a region the artist had visited only briefly seven years before,” the release notes.
“This painting is more than just a landscape painting. It is also a historical work, a narrative of an ancient maritime people, and a rumination on the ages-old mountains, basaltic rocks, dense woods, glacial rivers, and surf-pounded shores that have given the Northwest its look and also shaped its culture.”
In the release, Rorschach, said he is sure the “beautiful Homer painting will be coming to Seattle after our Seahawks defeat the Patriots for another Super Bowl win.” The Clark’s Conforti said a new building on the museum’s campus has “just the right spot to show this remarkable Bierstadt and know our visitors will love the chance to see it.”
All shipping and expenses will be paid by the losing museum, something Majewski said the Clark won’t be paying for “because the Patriots are going to win.” Asked what she will celebrate first, a Patriots’ win or the loan of the Bierstadt, Majewski paused before saying, “Well, I have been a Patriots fan for a long time.”