Francis Maere Fine Arts proudly presents the Pierre Clerk Early Works solo focusing on paintings between 1950 and 1969. In making the selection for our first Pierre Clerk show in 2020 with more recent work, we discovered and rediscovered a pile of canvases that hadn’t seen the light for many years. We were amazed and caught by surprise by their freshness and “contemporary” look. These canvases were made between 1950 and 1960, a decisive period for the artist, then in the beginning of his twenties. One sees an original mix of different styles and cultures all put together in a harmonious feel.
Born in Atlanta in 1928 of Canadian parents with European roots (his mother was French-Canadian) having some illustrious Scottish ancestors dealing in art in the 17th Century, one’s destiny was strongly outlined. He left Canada in 1952 for Europe and after a brief stop in London, moved to Paris. It’s Paris in its great days with the galleries of Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Denise René, Michel Tapie and Pierre Loeb representing the work of Riopelle, Sam Francis, Hans Hartung, Poliakoff, Giacometti, Miro, Picasso and many others. The haydays of the Lyrical Abstraction movement. Paul Klee died some 10 years earlier, but his work continued to influence the artworld and had its impact on Pierre’s work. It probably was the mediterranean climate and the smooth Italian way of life that brought Pierre Clerk to Firenze, the cradle of the Renaissance, the city of Donatello and Giotto, but also the city where Fiamma Vigo opened her famous avant-garde gallery Numero in 1951. Abstract art was her credo and she became a great defender of Giuseppe Capogrossi, Èmilio Vedova and later on Gio Pomodoro and ... Pierre Clerk. She had the guts to show a group of abstract oils by this unknown American/Canadian artist In 1954 and not without success.
Other shows followed in Milan (Gallery Totti) Ascona (Beno Gallery) and at Carlo Cardazzo’s Gallery Il Cavallino in Venice where he was shown amongst the work of Fontana, Miro, Morandi, Capogrossi and Marino Marini. Pierre Clerk was also present at the Biennales in Venice in 1956 and 1958 the Worlds Fair in Brussels 1958 and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, PA in 1959. Meantime he got back to the States and participated in the New Talent Show at the MOMA New York in 1956.
One of his paintings caught the eye of Alfred Barr, the famous art critic, author and first director of the MOMA, who purchased it for the permanent collection. This was the start of a rising career in the US with sales to the Guggenheim Museum through his good friend the director James Johnson Sweeney, The Brooklyn Museum NYC, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Quebec Musée National des Beaux-Arts in Canada. Illustrious private collectors such as Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Margaret Brown and Seth Siegelaub, both art dealers, encouraged this young talent. It is odd to realize that after all those years the name Pierre Clerk is hardly known in Europe. He then decided to concentrate his career in New York having his studio in the famous Soho area, which he later sold to Marina Abramovic. It was the decision to spent the summers in France that brought this great talent back in Europe and I am very happy and honoured to be part of this rediscovery process and I am sure that this show won’t be the last, considering the energy, the enthusiasm and the vitality of this wonderful couple Pierre and Linda.