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Dora Thacker Clarke (1895–1989) was a British sculptor and wood carver who also wrote about, and promoted African art.

Dora Clarke
Born1895 (1895)
Died1989 (aged 93–94)
EducationSlade School of Art
Known forSculpture, wood carving
Spouse(s)Gervase B Middleton


Clarke was born in Harrow in Middlesex. Her father, Joseph T Clarke was an American architect.[1] Clarke won a scholarship that allowed her to attend the Slade School of Fine Art. Aged fifteen, Clarke initially studied at the Slade on a part-time basis for three days each week throughout 1910 and 1911 but during 1915 and 1916 she studied sculpture there as a full-time student.[2] Clarke first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1923 and continued to do so until 1959.[3] In the early 1930s she was a regular exhibitor in group shows at the Goupil Gallery and in March 1937 had her first solo show at the French Gallery.[1] Clarke's works included bronze castings, memorials and wood sculptures, often of African heads. The most notable of her memorials is the panel and medallion tribute to Joseph Conrad at Bishopsbourne in Kent, which was unveiled in 1927.[1] Clarke also wrote about, and promoted African art.[4] Clarke spent a year, between 1927 and 1928 in Kenya, where she made many drawings which when she returned to London she used as the basis for wood carvings and bronzes of tribal figures.[5] Wood carving became her technique of choice, often working with hard woods and, on occasion, sperm whale teeth.[3]

Clarke married Admiral Gervase B Middleton in 1938 but rarely exhibited work under her married name.[1] During World War II, Clarke was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee to produce a portrait medallion depicting a serviceman who had been awarded the George Cross.[6] This proved to be the only portrait medallion acquired for the WAAC collection.[7]

Sculptures by Clarke are held in various museums, including the Ashmolean Museum which also holds a 1936 portrait of her by Orovida Camille Pissarro.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d "Mapping the Practice & Profession of Sculpture in Britain & Ireland 1851-1951". University of Glasgow History of Art / HATII. 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  2. ^ David Buckman (1998). Artists in Britain Since 1945 Vol 1, A to L. Art Dictionaries Ltd. ISBN 0 95326 095 X.
  3. ^ a b Penny Dunford (1990). A Biographical Dictionary of Women Artists in Europe and America since 1850. Harvester Wheatsheaf. ISBN 0 7108 1144 6.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Dora Clarke (April 1935). "Negro Art: Sculpture from West Africa". Journal of the Royal African Society. Oxford University Press / The Royal African Society. 34 (135): 129–137.
  5. ^ Grant M. Waters (1975). Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900-1950. Eastbourne Fine Art.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Imperial War Museum. "Correspondence with Artists, Mrs Middleton (Dora Clarke)". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  7. ^ Brain Foss (2007). War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939-1945. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10890-3.
  8. ^ "Dora Clarke (1936) by Orovida Camille Pissarro". Ashmolean Museum. Retrieved 16 March 2017.