The CLARKE Legacy

Black Prayer (self-portrait) by James E. Clarke III

Born in Williamsburg, Va., and raised in Richmond’s West End, James “Sonny” Clarke, III was a self-made artist in an era when minority artists stood outside the mainstream. He came of age in the 1950s and ’60s, and though his parents encouraged his artistic abilities, he received no formal training as a child, instead learning from books, lectures, and area art shows.

He attended the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI, now Virginia Commonwealth University), where a professor told him that because of his talents he was wasting his time taking art classes, so Clarke retreated to self-study.

His work draws inspiration from Dali and Picasso, and his abstract expressionism demonstrates the humiliation of racism and the distress of poverty suffered by a frustrated black America. Renowned for his stylized figures—oversized eyes, enlarged hands and feet, misshapen limbs—Clarke’s paintings are powerful evocations of a tumultuous era.

The Blues by James E. Clarke III

His work was highly in demand, and showed at galleries in New York, Washington D.C., and in Europe. Despite his talents, Clarke was famously modest, and had reservations about showing his work. Independent of demands from the art world, Clarke painted what he wanted, when he wanted, and never accepted an offer for commissioned work.

It is this combination of humility and talent that James Clarke III will be remembered for, and the legacy of his work shows him to be a profound interpreter of the human spirit.

Our Mission

Clarke Art Consulting started in 2008 with the goal of continuing the legacy of James E. Clarke III, thus creating the foundation for the brand of Clarke Art Consulting. Though the 21st century is a world far removed from the Civil Rights era, minority artists continue to face barriers and lack of investment for the self-promotion of their work in the mainstream art market.

The mission of Clarke Art Consulting is to promote art appreciation within the minority community, to inspire and assist with the process of art collection, and to generate resources that support artists’ creative endeavors.

Through art awareness, artist promotion and art procurement—Clarke Art Consulting seeks to assist minority artists and the community at large so that future James Clarkes will have the resources and investments necessary to further their artistic expression and create opportunities to showcase
their works.

Get Involved

Clarke Art Consulting offers part-time internship positions to college students for non-credit. Undergraduates must have completed their freshman year to apply.

We currently offer year round internships to qualified students interested in gaining hands-on
experience and resume-building skills in the following areas:
• curate art exhibitions
• installation and deinstallation of art
• art administration
• marketing and public relations
• artist relations
• blogging (pertaining to visual art)

If you are interested, please fill out an internship application and submit it to Clarke Art Consulting. For questions, please contact us 804.908.1210 or