Art House, a mansion located near Fifth Avenue in New York, opened in 1891 as the showroom for Thomas B. Clarke's [1848-1931] activies as an art dealer and collector. Born into a well connected New York family, Thomas Benedict Clarke made his fortune as a manufacturer of collars and cuffs. As early as 1872 Clarke began his art collecting activities. His initial interests were in contemporary American artists, including Inness, Harnett, and Eastman Johnson, and in Oriental porcelains. By 1879 Clarke had begun to share his collection through loans to exhibitions held at a variety of institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design, and the New York City Colombian Celebration, as well as many other galleries, museums, and clubs. In 1884 Clarke initiated an annual prize at the National Academy of Design. By 1891, at age forty-two, he had made enough money in his business pursuits to be able to pursue other interests. While Clarke initially limited direct sales of paintings at Art House to those of George Inness, he acted as a private dealer for a number of other artists. Clarke also sold works through auctions at the American Art Association in New York. The 1899 the sale was monumental, consisting of 372 items grossing almost $235,000. Thereafter Clarke turned his attentions to works by or of famous Americans, perhaps with an eye to establishing a national portrait gallery. Clarke spent the next thirty years developing his collection. He died 18 January 1931; his will provided for the disposal of some 175 American historical portraits, the most important collection of its kind ever made. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]
Towner, Wesley. The Elegant Auctioneers. New York, 1970: 149-151.