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Kenneth Clark

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Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark of Saltwood (also, Sir Kenneth Clark) (July 13 1903May 21 1983) was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and the most famous art historian of his generation.

Clark was born in London, the only child of Kenneth MacKenzie Clark and Margaret Alice, a wealthy Scottish family with roots in the textile trade (the "Clark" in Coats & Clark threading).

He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College, Oxford, where he studied the history of art. In 1927 he married a fellow Oxford student, Elizabeth Jane Martin. The couple had three children: Alan, in 1928, and twins Collete and Colin in 1932.

In 1933, aged only 31, Clark was appointed director of the National Gallery, the youngest person to ever hold the post. The following year he also became Surveyor of the King's Pictures, a post he held until 1945. He was a controversial figure however, in part due to his distaste for much of modern art. In 1946 he resigned his directorship in order to devote more time to writing. Between 1946 and 1950 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford.

He was created Knight Commander of the Bath in 1938, was knighted in 1953, and made a Companion of Honour in 1959. In 1955 he purchased Saltwood castle in Kent.

Already prominent in the art world, in 1966 he began writing and producing Civilisation for the BBC, a television series on the history of Western art that made him internationally famous when it was broadcast in 1969.

He was Chancellor of the University of York from 1967-78 and a trustee of the British Museum. Clark was awarded a life barony in 1969, taking the title Lord Clark of Saltwood (Private Eye nicknamed him Lord Clark of Civilization). He also received the Order of Merit in 1976.

Jane died in 1976 and the following year Clark married Nolwen de Janzé-Rice, former wife of Edward Rice and daughter of the Count of Janzé. He died in Hythe after a short illness in 1983.

His elder son, Alan Clark, became a prominent Conservative MP.

Quotes

  • "People sometimes tell me that they prefer barbarism to civilization. I doubt if they have given it a long enough trial. Like the people of Alexandria, they are bored by civilisation; but all the evidence suggests that the boredom of barbarism is infinitely greater."
  • "It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs."

Books

  • The Gothic Revival (1928)
  • Catalogue of the Windsor Leonardo Drawings (1935)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1939)
  • Piero della Francesca (1951)
  • Landscape into Art (1949)
  • The Nude (1956)
  • Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance (1966)
  • Civilisation (1969)
  • Blake and Visionary Art (1973)
  • Another Part of the Wood (1974)
  • The Other Half (1977)
  • Feminine Beauty (1980)
  • The Romantic Rebellion (1986)
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