Claude Clark
American visual artist



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Claude Clark
American visual artist
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Birth Date

November 11, 1915

Death Date

April 21, 2001

Works by Claude Clark

mmarcure's picture


Claude Clark took a palette knife to the art world, mixing education and social activism into his paint and ink.

Born in Georgia where his father worked in the fields as a tenant farmer, his family moved north to Pennsylvania when he was only seven. There, Clark spent a lot of his time in school learning about art. He studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art before receiving a grant for research at the Barnes Foundation in 1939. According to Clark himself, he spent those two years studying the works of Renoir, which the foundation had a rich collection of. Then, after helping develop an arts education department at Talladega College in Alabama, he moved with his wife to California where he continued studying. Clark first received a degree from Sacramento State College and then a masters from UC Berkeley in 1962. Nearly twenty years of formal academic study, no big deal.

Clark settled in Oakland where he not only taught at Merritt College (now a part of the Peralta Community College District in the East bay) but helped develop the Oakland art scene. Clark never rested, apparently. During the civil rights era, the Black Panthers asked him to write curriculum which he called A Black Perspective: A Black Teacher’s Guide to a Black Visual Art Curriculum.

His painting style was unique in that he used the palette knife rather than a paintbrush, imbuing many of his works with a sharply impressionistic style that is immediately recognizable, along with his keen eye for social realism. His focus was always the African-American experience, even early in his career when the art world was still infected by a culture of segregation. 

Claude Clark was part of the Great Migration and a product of the Harlem Renaissance. Like any renaissance figure, he left quite the legacy behind him.



  1. Clark, Claude. "Resting." Smithsonian American Art Museum. Accessed February 2019.
  2. Driskell, David C., Camille O. Cosby, Bill Cosby, and René Hanks. The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2001.
  3. Booker, Robert. "Empowerment - with Moderator and Host Robert Booker." YouTube. December 25, 2014. Accessed February 2019.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Claude Clark

Claude Clark (November 11, 1915 - April 21, 2001) was an American painter, printmaker and art educator. Clark’s subject matter was the diaspora of African American culture, including dance scenes, street urchins, marine life, landscapes, and religious and political satire images executed primarily with a palette knife.

Early life

Claude Clark was born on a tenant farm in Rockingham, Georgia November 11, 1915. In early August 1923, Clark’s parents left the south for a better life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Great Migration. Clark attended Roxborough High School where he wrote poetry but also discovered a talent for painting. His Sunday School teacher encouraged him to exhibit in Sunday school class and at church.

Clark studied at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1935-1939) following high school graduation. He applied to and was eventually accepted to the Barnes Foundation in 1939.

In 1941, Claude met the daughter of an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister, Effie May Lockhart from California. They married in June 1943 and formed a dynamic “power” partnership in art, education and philosophy. He continued his paint studies at The Barnes Foundation while teaching art in the Philadelphia Public School system during the early years of their marriage. The couple moved to Alabama and finally California while continuing their careers.

During the Great Depression Clark contacted the Artists Union for work through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). He worked with the WPA from 1939 – 1942. Clark joined the graphics art shop where he worked with Raymond Seth and Dox Thrash.

Clark was the subject of many articles and publications. He also was the author of A Black Art Perspective, a Black Teachers Guide to a Black Visual Arts Curriculum, Merritt Press 1970. As a member of the Black West Coast Arts Movement he co-developed the first African American Studies curriculum. He also mentored and supported many young emerging scholars and artists.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Claude Clark.