1969 was according to a recent book “the year everything changed”, well it certainly was an important year for me. I finally got accepted into the art school of my choice, St Martins and as the 1960’s came to an end we sat and watched the ridiculous turn into the sublime : Monty Python’s Flying Circus began and an equally remarkable TV series called “Civilisation”.
Presented by the doyen of art historians Kenneth Clark, commissioned by David Attenborough, it was at the time the most ambitious TV series ever produced and it quite simply bowled me over. I had not travelled widely by this point and Clark’s very erudite and beautiful journey through the history and locations of European civilisation made a profound impression on me. It became rightly a worldwide phenomena.
Little did I realise then that I would one day work at the BBC, both with Attenborough and on the media rerelease of the Civilisation series or that I would find myself in the famous library at Saltwood Castle, the Clarks family home, being shown around by his son the MP Alan Clark.
The exhibition of Lord Clark’s massive contribution to the artistic life of Britain currently running at Tate Britain is a timely reminder of the importance of patronage and scholarship at its most persuasive. Whatever his faults, Lord Clark always spoke with great honesty and authority. His prejudice for the idea of genius and preservation of the best art of the past does now look both out of place and absolutely essential!
The BBC are currently looking for a new presenter for an updated series of the same name and there is much speculation as to how this will compare, in our more sceptical, post modern age. I eagerly await. The past always informs the present and time is the final arbiter of everything but just like our planet, civilisation is a precious thing we destroy at our peril.
This week a classically informed Drawing Du Jour and a nod to the man who enlightened us all and who was always known simply as K.