The traveling show of Sterling Clark’s art collection gives the opportunity for scholars to examine his market habits as a collector, as the Independent points out here. Priced out of the Old Master market, Clark became a forward-looking buyer:
Old Masters were his first love, but he soon discovered that French paintings could be acquired at much more modest prices. He acquired not only the works by Impressionists, but paintings by those who had gone before them, and had helped to shape their vision and their practice as artists. […] But in other respects he was quite forward-looking for the time in which he was buying, keen to show an “advanced” interest in Renoir, for example, and to acquire works directly from Degas’ atelier sales. Buying art enabled him to pursue an art education dictated by his own predilections, and to observe for himself how prices in the moderns were rising – though not to the extent of the Old Masters – which was, of course, a very good reason to gamble on the rising reputations of the artists of the recent past.
Several of the rooms at the Royal Academy contain cabinets in which you can examine invoices from the dealers who were acquiring the works we can see hanging on these walls. In 1923 he bought Manet’s late Moss Roses in a Vase for $5,000. At 2010 prices, that would be the equivalent of $63,800 – the painting might be worth one hundred times as much if sold today.
French Art: The Collector Who Left a Lasting Impression (Independent)