Copper King art collection on display

Art of Copper King William Andrews Clark on display

MONTANA LIVING — In 1775 Paris, master artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard painted “The Happy Family,” a heartwarming scene focused on a mother, her children and a playful dog.
A century later, the painting was purchased by one of America’s richest men, William A. Clark, the  “Copper King” whose unimaginable wealth was forged in early Montana.
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For years “The Happy Family” painting hung inside Clark’s 121-room Fifth Avenue mansion — the most expensive home ever assembled in New York City.
When the tycoon and former U.S. senator from Montana died in 1925, his art treasures were donated by his family to the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. There “The Happy Family” was displayed for decades in the museum’s Clark Wing until 2014, when severe financial hardship closed the Corcoran and its art was dispersed.
Now, for the first time, an exhibition featuring seven masterpieces from the collection of Sen. William Andrews Clark, will be open June 10 to Aug. 13 at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.
William Clark and the Art of the Gilded Age” is sponsored by Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives and the University of Montana’s Montana Museum of Art and Culture.
The exhibit will include significant paintings from the Baroque to the Industrial Age by European artists, including French painters Jean-Charles Cazin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Jules Dupré, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and the Englishman Thomas Gainsborough.
“Given the great wealth amassed by William A. Clark throughout his mining enterprises in Butte, it seems fitting for the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives to host a selection of his art in 2021,” Ellen Crain, director of the Butte-Silver Bow Archives, said.
In coordination with the exhibit, a series of lectures, architectural tours and book signings will be held in Butte, informing on the collection, the man and the Clark legacy in Butte and across Montana. A full collection of events can be found at


The exhibit can be viewed during the Archives’ normal business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 17 W. Quartz St. in Butte. 

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