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The Artist's Sketch - A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark

The Artist's Sketch

A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark

By Carolyn J. Brown
Hardcover : 9781496810144, 204 pages, 203 color and 30 b&w illustrations, February 2017

The unexpected story of a painter who flourished then withdrew and a small town’s discovery of a treasure


Artist Kate Freeman Clark (1875–1957) left behind over one thousand paintings now stored at a gallery bearing her name in her hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi. But it was not until after her death in 1957 at the age of eighty-one that citizens even discovered that she was a painter of considerable stature. In her will, Clark left the city her family home, her paintings stored at a warehouse in New York for over forty years, and money to build a gallery, much to the surprise of the Holly Springs community.

As a young woman, Clark studied art in New York and took classes with some of the greatest American artists of the day. From the start Clark approached the study of art with discipline and tenacity. She learned from William Merritt Chase when he opened his own school in 1895. For six consecutive summers at his Shinnecock Summer School of Art in Long Island, she mastered the plein air technique. Chase trained many female students, yet he recognized Clark as “his most talented pupil. ” The book prints, for the first time, excerpts from Clark's delightful journal of the artist's experience at Chase's school, giving readers firsthand reporting of an artist-led school in the early twentieth century.

Clark returned to Holly Springs in 1923. Mysteriously, sadly, she never resumed painting and lived the last years of her life in quietude. The Artist's Sketch shines a light on Clark, finally bringing her out of obscurity. This book also introduces Clark's art to a new generation of readers and highlights current projects and important work being done in Holly Springs by the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery and the Marshall County Historical Museum, the two institutions that, since her death, have worked hard to keep Kate Freeman Clark's legacy alive.


"The Artist's Sketch introduces Clark and her prolific body of work to a new generation and includes not only a full narrative of Clark's life, but, for the first time, dozens of reproductions of her work in full color. "

- Jana Hoops, Hattiesburg American

"Mississippi's most nationally admired artist during her lifetime is not widely known today. Kate Freeman Clark of Holly Springs exhibited her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Corcoran Gallery, The Carnegie Institute, New York School of Art, the Society of American Artists, and other prominent galleries in the Northeast. Cheers for Carolyn J. Brown's well-written, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated biography."

- Patti Carr Black, author of Art in Mississippi, 1720-1980; The Mississippi Story; Early Escapades; and many other works

"Wonderfully illustrated with photographs and reproductions of paintings, Carolyn J. Brown's The Artist's Sketch: A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark is thoroughly researched and provides marvelous new insights about this talented, but often overlooked, southern female painter. Extensive excerpts of writings by Clark--including a fascinating essay about a summer with William Merritt Chase at Shinnecock--brings alive the story of a young and aspiring woman, who at the request of her mother never sold a painting and signed her work 'Freeman Clark.' Brown has done a masterful job of collating primary documents and relating Clark's life story; the accompanying photographs of the artist, chronology, and bibliography contribute significantly to the corpus of scholarship on southern artists."

- Martha R. Severens, curator, Greenville (SC) County Museum of Art 1992-2010; consultant to Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, NC, 2011-2016; and consultant to The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, SC, 2013-2016