Author(s): James Stourton
The life of brilliant polymath Kenneth Clark - director of the National Gallery, author, patron of the arts, social lion, who in 1969, achieved international acclaim as the writer, producer, and presenter of the BBC Television series, Civilisation. The book offers a history of the arts in the twentieth century through his astonishing life. Kenneth Clark was the grandest figure in the arts in Britain in the 20th century. Museum director, patron, pioneer of television, cultural panjandrum, he was befriended both by the Queen Mother and Winston Churchill. His closest friendships, however, were amongst writers and artists, men such as John Betjeman, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore and John Piper. Kenneth Clark's 1969 television series 'Civilisation' established him as a globally admired figure. Clark was prescient in making this series: the upheavals of the century, the Second World War and the Cold War among others, convinced him of the power of barbarism and the fragility of culture. Now, drawing on a vast, previously unseen archive, James Stourton reveals the formidable intellect and private man behind the figure who effortlessly dominated the art world for more than half a century: his privileged upbringing, his interest in art history at Oxford, his work with Bernard Berenson at I Tatti. At 27 he was keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean and at 29, the youngest ever director of the National Gallery. During the war, he arranged for the gallery's entire collection to be hidden in slate mines in Wales and organized packed concerts of classical music at the empty gallery to keep up the spirits of Londoners. The war helped shape his belief that art should be brought to the widest possible audience, a social and moral position that would inform the rest of his career. Television became a means for this message when he was appointed first chairman of the Independent Television Authority. Stourton reveals the tortuous state of his marriage during and after the war, his wife's alcoholism and the aspect of his own nature that he worked to keep hidden. No voice has exercised so much power and influence over the arts in Britain. Telling the story of one of the great twentieth century lives, James Stourton's book is both a superb work of biography and a comprehensive view of the arts during the 20th century.
James Stourton graduated from Cambridge Art History Faculty in 1979 and joined Sotheby's Old Master paintings department. Over the next thirty years he organised many famous sales and became Chairman of Sotheby's UK in 2007. Alongside his Sotheby's career James developed an academic interest in Patronage and Collecting, publishing many articles for Apollo, Country Life, the Independent, the Spectator and The Times as well as lecturing to The Art Fund, Cambridge Art History Faculty and Sotheby's Institute. He has published five books including 'Great Collectors of Our Time: Art Collecting since 1945'; 'The British as Art Collectors' (with Charles Sebag-Montefiore) and 'Great Houses of London'. Today he sits on the Panel of the Heritage Memorial Fund and also the Acceptance in Lieu Panel.