Stories about copper heiress Huguette Clark (1906–2011) have captivated the news media and public. Though she stayed out of the public eye in her later years, she was a talented artist who held exhibitions of her paintings in both New York and Paris as a young woman. Clark’s artwork is now on view to the public for the first time since 1931 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, presented in collaboration with the Bellosguardo Foundation. “Huguette Marcelle Clark: A Portrait of the Artist” is on exhibit through June 12, 2022. (Note: Huguette is pronounced hyoo-GETT.)
Never before publicly seen images from Clark’s recently rediscovered personal photo album and ephemera from her scrapbooks are also displayed, giving glimpses of her at work in her art studio and from her private life at her Bellosguardo estate and elsewhere in Santa Barbara from the 1910s through the 1940s. For more information, visit www.sbhistorical.org.
“We wanted to show the breadth of Huguette Clark’s talent,” said Dacia Harwood, director of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. “She lived a fascinating life, and we’ve learned more about her time in our community while preparing this exhibition.”
Clark has been the subject of extensive media coverage and several books, including New York Times bestselling “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune” by Bill Dedman.
Clark painted throughout her time in Santa Barbara, first at Meridian Studios on East De la Guerra Street (located next to the current site of the Historical Museum) from 1933 to 1935 while the Bellosguardo estate was being built, and then in her studio in the estate.
As a younger woman Clark evidenced a wide-ranging interest in the arts as a painter, musician, and collector of beauty: decorative and fine art, costumes, exquisitely fashioned dolls, and fine jewels.
Trained by renowned portraitist Tadeusz (Tadé) Styka [pronounced Taa-DEY-uw-sh (Tejd) STY-ka], she built a deep body of work throughout her long life. The exhibition presents self-portraits, portraits, a still life, and images of a Japanese geisha, a ballerina, and a Spanish dancer, among others. Styka’s portrait of Clark is also on view.
As the residual beneficiary of Clark’s estate, the Bellosguardo Foundation received an extensive collection of her paintings. Several of the works selected, all oils, were conserved in anticipation of the exhibition. The Foundation has also shared a selection of personal items from her photo albums and scrapbooks which illustrate her life from her childhood and early life in Santa Barbara.
The 23-acre oceanfront estate Bellosguardo was redesigned and rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake by Anna Clark, widow of Senator William Andrews Clark, and then passed to Huguette. At one time, Senator Clark was the second richest man in America. Following her death in 2011 at age 104, the property was bequeathed to the Bellosguardo Foundation with the goal of transforming it into a focal point for art and culture in Santa Barbara and beyond. Visit www.bellosguardo.org.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is located in downtown Santa Barbara at 136 East de la Guerra Street. Admission is free. Hours are currently Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. Visit www.sbhistorical.org.
The Museum’s mission is to create meaningful connections to Santa Barbara history. The signature installation, The Story of Santa Barbara, traces our community’s story from the Chumash to the mid 20th century. Accessible and diverse community programming along with rotating exhibitions feature dynamic local traditions, art, and historical events. Visitors also experience the Edward Borein Gallery, the Gledhill Research Library, and two historic adobes. Visit www.sbhistorical.org.