My great uncle, Alson Skinner Clark, was born in 1876, and he arrived with the first wave of Clarks in 1883. He entered the “professional” art market by the age of nine. He had an uncommon ability to produce drawings for the freehand art class, and his fellow students who were in need of his services were willing to meet his price of fifty cents per drawing. This is a vote for those who believe that some gifted individuals are destined to follow a path for which they have a flare and talent.
Most of his paintings are either oil on canvas or oil on board. He traveled and painted extensively in Europe and also did a series of paintings documenting the building of the Panama Canal. In some cases he took his easel and paints right into the canal excavation sites to capture the subject he had in mind. His later works included scenes from Mexico and California where he was a noted member of the plein air movement.
I have favored Impressionist painting for as long as I can remember, and I consider it no coincidence that I grew up surrounded by artwork expertly produced by a family member in this style. I like the fact that it is not an exact representation of the subject, but rather an interpretation of the subject by the artist. I find that I gain my greatest appreciation of such a work when I back up a few steps.
He was responsible for all of the murals and most of the artwork found throughout the house. Murals over the downstairs fireplace and in the dining room added to the sense I had on my first visit of walking into a museum. The Oriental theme became popular with many artists following Commodore Matthew Perry’s visit to Japan in 1853-1854. Comfort Island was strongly influenced by this theme including grass matting that can still be found on some sections of floor. In 1961, most of the floor was covered with this material.
Many of his paintings on the first floor were stunning. Hundreds of times I walked in the front door to be greeted by a painting of two trees by the river. The painting hangs over the piano, and without taking into account the frame it is more than three feet high and four feet wide. A full-grown pine tree stands a few feet apart from a maple of slightly shorter stature as they embrace with intertwined limbs. Several red maple leaves suggest fall is on the way. The foreground is dominated by the gray granite outcropping and wisps of summer...