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Clarke, Caspar Purdon, Sir

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Clarke, Caspar Purdon, Sir

    Other Names:

    • Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1846

    Date Died: 1911

    Place Born: Richmond, County Dublin, Ireland

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style)


    Second director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1905-10) and the South Kensington Museum. Clarke was the son of Edward Marmaduke Clarke, of Somerset family and Mary Agnes Close. He studied architecture at the National Art Training Schools at South Kensington between 1862-1865. In that year he joined the government office assigned to rebuilding the Houses of Parliament. Clarke married Frances Susannah Collins in 1866. In 1867 he moved to the South Kensington Museum where he oversaw mosaic reproduction. Beginning in 1874, Clarke accepted various foreign assignments as supervising architect to the crown, most notably Tehran. In 1876, Clarke traveled to Turkey, Syria, and Greece and in 1879 to Spain, Italy, and Germany buying artifacts for the Museum. Commissions to design architecture in the Indian style resulted in the Indian hall at Elvedon, Suffolk, 1899 with the architect William Young. In 1880 he installed the Indian collections at the South Kensington Museum. This led to a position special commissioner in India, 1880-82, and in 1883, ultimately to keeper of the India Museum at South Kensington. He was elevated to keeper of all art collections at the Museum in 1892 and, the same year, published a significant catalog of south-Asian carpets, whose other entries included those by Wilhelm Bode and Aloïs Riegl. The following year he was made assistant director of the South Kensington Museum, and, in 1896, director. In 1899 Museum was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum. When Luigi Palma di Cesnola, president and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York died in 1904, the American millionaire and art collector J. P. Morgan (1837-1913) assumed the duties as President of the Museum. In an attempt to raise the nascent Metropolitan Museum to an international level, Morgan, who had dominance of the Board and Museum, hired Clarke to be its second director. Clarke, however, was not able to reform the museum into the efficient type the Victoria & Albert was. In 1905 Clarke hired Edward Robinson, the recently-resigned director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to be his assistant director. Clarke’s physical and perhaps emotional health declined. He returned to England on a leave of absence in 1909 and resigned his as director in 1910. Robinson succeeded him as director. A catalog of Arms and Armour at Sandringham written by him appeared in 1910. He died at home the following year and is buried at Kensal Green cemetery. His son, C. Stanley Clarke, was also an assistant keeper of the Indian section of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    Selected Bibliography

    edited, and Bode, Wilhelm von, and Riegl, Alois, et al. Oriental Carpets. 2 vols. Vienna: österreichisches Handelsmuseum/London: Cousins & Co., 1892; Arms and Armour at Sandringham: the Indian Collection Presented by the Princes, Chiefs and Nobles of India to His Majesty King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales. London: W. Griggs & Sons, 1910.


    Tomkins, Calvin. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2nd. ed. New York: Henry Holt, 1989, pp. 102-103; Lane, John. Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke, kt. New York: J. Lane, 1905; MacBean, Edward. “In memoriam. Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke, W. M., 1899-1900. Born 1846. – Died 1911.” Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge 24 (1911); Konody, P. G., and Murdoch, Tessa. “Clarke, Sir Caspar Purdon.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Clarke, Caspar Purdon, Sir." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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