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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2002
Kate Freeman Clark’s surprise art exhibition opens Sunday, runs through September

July 18, 2002


'Untitled Landscape' is among hundreds of accomplished works by Kate Freeman Clark, whose life remains shrouded in mystery.

OXFORD, Miss. — Kate Freeman Clark left her family’s antebellum mansion in Holly Springs to become an accomplished painter in New York City, then traded it all for the life of a small-town spinster back home in Mississippi.

When the 81-year-old Clark died in 1957, her neighbors were amazed by the news that she had bequeathed hundreds of paintings to the city of Holly Springs, said Bea Green, curator of the Kate Freeman Clark Art Gallery there.

Selections from Clark’s work are featured at the University of Mississippi Museums through Sept. 15, shown in conjunction with the 29th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference July 21-26. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

“A contemporary of William Faulkner, Kate Freeman Clark is an artist rediscovered,” said Deborah Freeland, UM Museums project coordinator. “She has a very interesting history, and there is a lot of interest in her work and the mystery that surrounds her.”

Most of the oil-on-canvas paintings were created from 1894 to 1914. They reflect Clark’s style of “alternating, surprisingly, between dark traditional portraiture and the bright plein air concept of painting spontaneously on location,” Freeland said.

Clark’s quest began when her widowed mother moved them to Memphis so that Kate could take art lessons. In 1894, she began studying with the noted William Merritt Chase at the Art Student League in New York. Chase eventually opened his own school, and Clark was among the many students who followed him.

Thirty-five years before her death, Clark suffered a series of personal losses, which caused her to close the door on being an artist. She returned to Holly Springs and left behind in a New York warehouse many of her belongings and all of her paintings. Apparently she never again picked up her brushes and assumed the socially-expected role of an unmarried woman.

Upon Clark’s death, “a few friends faintly remembered that she had studied art in the North years before, but no one realized how accomplished an artist she had become,” Green said.

For more information about Clark’s exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museums or to inquire about assistance due to a disability, contact Deborah Freeland at (662) 915-7028 or dfreelan@olemiss.edu.


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