Kenneth Clark





Kenneth Clark

Author profile


born
in London, The United Kingdom
July 13, 1903

died
May 12, 1983

gender
male

genre


About this author

There is more than one author with this name

Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark, OM, CH, KCB, FBA (13 July 1903 – 21 May 1983) was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and one of the best-known art historians of his generation. In 1969, he achieved an international popular presence as the writer, producer, and presenter of the BBC Television series, Civilisation.


Average rating: 4.17 · 1,513 ratings · 129 reviews · 58 distinct works · Similar authors
Civilisation
4.22 of 5 stars 4.22 avg rating — 750 ratings — published 1969 — 24 editions
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The Nude: A Study in Ideal ...
4.09 of 5 stars 4.09 avg rating — 210 ratings — published 1956 — 16 editions
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Leonardo da Vinci
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 111 ratings — published 1939 — 6 editions
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The Romantic Rebellion: Rom...
4.41 of 5 stars 4.41 avg rating — 39 ratings — published 1973 — 6 editions
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Landscape Into Art
4.23 of 5 stars 4.23 avg rating — 35 ratings — published 1966 — 9 editions
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Looking At Pictures
4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 29 ratings — published 1960 — 2 editions
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What Is a Masterpiece? (Wal...
3.82 of 5 stars 3.82 avg rating — 22 ratings — published 1979 — 2 editions
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An Introduction to Rembrandt
4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 16 ratings — published 1989 — 5 editions
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The Potter's Manual
4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 13 ratings — published 1987 — 3 editions
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The Best Of Aubrey Beardsley
4.42 of 5 stars 4.42 avg rating — 12 ratings2 editions
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More books by Kenneth Clark…
“I believe order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must try to learn from history.”
Kenneth Clark, Civilisation

“At this point I reveal myself in my true colours, as a stick-in-the-mud. I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven't changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves. I also hold one or two beliefs that are more difficult to put shortly. For example, I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people's feelings by satisfying our own egos. And I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their existence possible.”
Kenneth Clark, Civilisation

“What happened?

It took Gibbon six volumes to describe the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, so I shan’t embark on that. But thinking about this almost incredible episode does tell one something about the nature of civilisation.

It shows that however complex and solid it seems, it is actually quite fragile. It can be destroyed.



What are its enemies?


Well, first of all fear — fear of war, fear of invasion, fear of plague and famine, that make it simply not worthwhile constructing things, or planting trees or even planning next year’s crops. And fear of the supernatural, which means that you daren’t question anything or change anything.

The late antique world was full of meaningless rituals, mystery religions, that destroyed self-confidence. And then exhaustion, the feeling of hopelessness which can overtake people even with a high degree of material prosperity. 

There is a poem by the modern Greek poet, Cavafy, in which he imagines the people of an antique town like Alexandria waiting every day for the barbarians to come and sack the city. Finally the barbarians move off somewhere else and the city is saved; but the people are disappointed — it would have been better than nothing.

Of course, civilisation requires a modicum of material prosperity—

What civilization needs:

confidence in the society in which one lives, belief in its philosophy, belief in its laws, and confidence in one’s own mental powers. The way in which the stones of the Pont du Gard are laid is not only a triumph of technical skill, but shows a vigorous belief in law and discipline.

Vigour, energy, vitality: all the civilisations—or civilising epochs—have had a weight of energy behind them.

People sometimes think that civilisation consists in fine sensibilities and good conversations and all that. These can be among the agreeable results of civilisation, but they are not what make a civilisation, and a society can have these amenities and yet be dead and rigid.”
Kenneth Clark, Civilisation