The Clark Art Institute landed a huge donation yesterday, one of the largest in the museum’s history, valued at somewhere around $90 million. In addition to a whopping $50 million in endowment money for the Clark’s research and academic programs (cha-ching!), the gift includes a priceless haul of British art including big-time paintings and drawings from Turner, Constable and Gainsborough.

The AP (via the Transcript) and the NYT (scroll down in article) report the sugar daddy is the Manton Foundation, the legacy of AIG honcho Sir Edwin Manton. Manton, a British expat, was a power in British art collecting and the second-biggest donor to the Tate after, well, ol’ Tate himself. He had other reasons for donating to a sleepy museum in Williamstown.

“The family knew the Clark,” said Michael Conforti, its director. “They had one daughter, Diana Morton, who was raised in America and who heads the foundation. She realized the gift would make a significant addition to what was a very thin area of our collection.”

In recognition of the gift the Clark will name the building housing its research and academic program the Sir Edwin and Lady Manton Research Center. It will have a gallery dedicated to British art that will show both the Manton gift and other works from the Clark’s collection.

The collection went on display today. Quite a fine development for Williams art historians, not to mention anyone who attends the Clark.

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