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Clarke, Caspar Purdon (DNB12)

CLARKE, Sir CASPAR PURDON (1846–1911), architect, archaeologist, and museum director, born at Richmond, co. Dublin, on 21 Dec. 1846, was second son of Edward Marmaduke Clarke, of an old Somerset family, who married Mary Agnes, daughter of James Close of Armagh. Caspar was educated at Gaultier's School, Sydenham, and at a private school in Boulogne. In 1862 he entered the National Art Training Schools at South Kensington, and was trained for the profession of an architect. Leaving the schools in 1865, he entered H.M. office of works, where he distinguished himself in work connected with the Houses of Parliament. Two years later he was transferred to the works department of the South Kensington Museum. In 1869 he was sent by the museum to superintend the reproduction of mosaics in Venice, Florence, and Rome, and in 1872 he went to Alexandria to supervise the decorative work at St. Mark's Church. In 1874 he was appointed H.M. superintendent of works for the consular buildings in Teheran, where he spent the following two years, completing during this time the Roman catholic church of St. Mary's.

Having returned to London in 1876, he was sent on a purchasing tour through Turkey, Syria, and Greece, where he acquired many valuable objects for the South Kensington Museum. A similar mission took him in 1879 to Spain, Italy, and Germany, after having acted in the preceding year as architect of the Indian section and commercial agent to the Indian government at the Paris Exhibition. In 1880 he arranged the Indian collections at South Kensington, and after spending two years as special commissioner in India, became keeper of the India Museum at South Kensington in 1883. In that capacity he displayed splendid gifts as an organiser, and was consequently appointed keeper of the art collections at South Kensington Museum in 1892, assistant director in 1893, and director in 1896. He also filled the posts of royal commissioner at the Paris Exhibition in 1900, and at St. Louis in 1904. In 1905 he resigned his directorship of the South Kensington Museum (renamed in 1899 Victoria and Albert Museum) and accepted the post of director of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, from which he retired on a year's leave of absence on account of ill-health in 1909, when he returned to England. He resigned his directorship in 1910, but remained European correspondent of the museum. He died in London on 29 Mar. 1911, and was buried at Kensal Green.

Clarke's strenuous official duties did not prevent him from notable work in other directions. He organised and conducted evening art classes for artisans in Soho, Lambeth, and Clerkenwell in 1870; and among the buildings which he designed and built were Cotherstone Church,Durham, (1876); Alexandra House, Kensington (for students at the Royal College of Music) (1886); the National School of Cookery (1887); Lord Brassey's Indian Museum, Park Lane (1887); and the Indian Palace, Paris Exhibition (1889). He visited America to study the housing of female students at Boston in 1884; edited a work on Oriental carpets for the Austrian government in 1892; and besides lecturing, contributed numerous papers on architecture, Eastern arts and crafts, and arms and armour to the 'Society of Arts Journal,' the 'Journal of Indian Art,' the 'Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects,' and other publications. He was made chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1878, in which year he also received silver and bronze medals at the Paris Exhibition, which were followed by a gold medal in 1889. He was elected F.S.A. on 4 May 1893. He was created C.I.E. in 1883, and knighted in 1902. He was also given the commander's cross of the Order of the Crown of Germany.

Clarke married on 20 Nov. 1866 Frances Susannah, daughter of Charles Collins. Of their eight children three sons and five daughters the eldest son, C. Stanley Clarke, became assistant-keeper of the Indian section of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which owes its present form to his father's organising genius.

A portrait of Clarke by George Burroughes Torry was presented by the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Another portrait was painted in New York by Wilhelm Funk.

[The Critic and Literary World, Sept. 1905; Sir Caspar Purdon Clarke, with a Note on the Arts and Crafts of America, by John Lane, 1905; private information.]

P. G. K.