Sitting in a small cottage in north Wales, we only have access to a few, elderly DVDs. One is Disc Two of Clark’s Civilisation, so we watched the fifth episode THE HERO AS ARTIST on Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo. Of course, it is easy to disparage the pre-war, affected, Wykehamical enunciation, the posh suits, the de haut en bas of the delivery; but I was overwhelmingly admiring of the clarity with which he expounds the nature and character of the High Renaissance, the role of Pope Julius II, the iconography of the Sistine Chapel, the historical importance of Raphael, and the fertile curiosity of Leonardo. When he says that he has been studying Raphael’s Stanze for forty years, one believes him. And by the standards of modern presenters, he is in some ways, relatively tentative and unobtrusive, presenting what he described as ‘A Personal View’. Given that the programmes were so successful and introduced so many people to the close study of art, it’s odd that they have been, and still are, so vilified.


4 thoughts on “Civilisation

  1. I watched Kenneth Clark’s CIVILISATION last Easter in preparation for the BBC’s new CIVILISATIONS. I hadn’t seen it since it was made and was very impressed by it, and by him. His knowledge of religion and architecture was hugely impressive and you soon adjusted to his patrician voice, rather as we adjust to the Queen’s voice at the time pf her Coronation.

    But the original weaknesses were there – no mention of Spain, or Russia, or anything of China. Indeed Clark says that Spain contributed nothing, writing off Goya and Velasquez!

    • bendorgrosvenor says:

      Hi Mark, now that I have finally registered to leave comments, I can point out in KC’s defence that his initial working title and brief was ‘Western Civilisation’. The BBC axed the ‘Western’ bit of the title shortly before transmission – leaving Clark open to unwarranted attack ever since! Though of course, as you say, he didn’t care much for Spain’s contribution. Or indeed much of the Northern School.

  2. Have you seen Renaissance unchained, also from the BBC there’re on YouTube 4 Episodes. Avery different approach of what I have seen, including Mannerism.
    Happy Holidays!

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