Beneath The Surface

Peter Conrad reviews James Stourton’s new biography of Lord Kenneth Clark, the art historian still famous for his epic BBC television series, Civilisation (1969).

Lord Clark was much admired nearly half a century ago for pulling together so many different elements in creating his long, visual tour of Europe’s cultural development.  His work served as the model for Jacob Brownowski’s 1973 series The Ascent of Man, and a host of other documentaries in the 1980s.

Conrad’s review (and, presumably, Stourton’s book) gives us a look at Lord Clark behind the scenes, and the view is not always flattering.  Clark is revealed to be snobby in that uniquely British upper-class way, peckish, deeply put-upon, aggrieved, and more than a little misunderstood.  In other words, more like the millions of people he often wished he could be like than he cared to admit.

Don’t miss Conrad’s review.  Don’t miss Stourton’s biography.  And watch (or re-watch) Lord Clark’s Civilisation with new eyes after digesting the book.  You can pull the series down from YouTube in just a few minutes.


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