Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation
Kenneth Clark’s autobiography was immortalized by the introduction, “My parents belonged to a section of society known as ’the idle rich’ and although in that golden age many people were richer, there can have been fewer who were idler.” Clark’s tireless work, through a series of commitments over more than half a century, directly contradict this heritage. The lines become the launch pad for a compelling biography of a figure whose years atop an intellectual pinnacle glowed even brighter with the advent of his television triumph.
Clark achieved extraordinary knowledge of the history of Western art through Cambridge University and the luminary Bernard Berenson, and he offered several books and numerous lectures, all complemented by his high-profile positions in the art world. Clark’s directorship of the National Gallery, cataloging of the Royal collection at Windsor Castle, and chairmanship of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee were intertwined with further high-profile positions. The initial broadcast of his thirteen-week BBC series Civilisation led him to become an international celebrity decades before the word achieved notoriety as well as fame.
While his professional life merited a halo, his long and intimate marriage and the personal affairs often conducted through correspondence added a human touch to his reputation as a cold and arrogant man. So James Stourton’s tribute, while redolent with admiration, is perhaps not wholly a labor of affection.