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What Hath Man Wrought?

During my annual winter break excursion to the North Shore (of Lake Superior, that is), the Mrs. and I rented the last four tapes of the seven tape series entitled, "Civilisation: A Personal View" by Lord Kenneth Clark. I had heard of them through the lectures on spiritual theology by Fr. Paul Murray, OP during my time in Rome. He seemed to be quite taken with them, and explained that after Lord Clark had produced these documentaries, he became a Catholic himself after realizing that the Church was the main civilizing force through history.

I was not disappointed by the movies. Despite only having the last four tapes (episodes 7-13) that covered the era from the Roman Baroque to the present age of "heroic materialism," Lord Clark's tour of the art, philosophy, and music of the various ages, sprinkled with his own stinging commentary, was a wonderful tour and reflection on Western cultural brilliance and decay.

Clark is decidedly anti-modernist, even if he does show an appreciation for some of the sentiments that led to Romanticism. Even though the movies were made in late 1960s, Clark covers relatively little after the end of the nineteenth century. One wonders if this is subtle commentary on the (lack of) civilization since World War I. He speaks often of Western man descending into barbarism.

Lord Clark published a companion book to add commentary to the videos. Along with Paul Johnson's new book Art: A New History, these are brilliant introductions to the history of Western Culture, especially since the fall of Rome.

Here is his biography:

Clark, Kenneth Mackenzie, Baron (1903-1983). British art historian and critic. Educated at Oxford, he worked with Bernard Berebson in Florence for two years, and became Director of the National Gallery London, 1935-1945. He was Slade professor of Fine Arts at Oxford university 1946-50 and 1961-62. He was chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain 1953-60 and chairman of the Independent Television Authority 1954-57. His books included Leonardo da Vinci(1939), Landscape into Art (1949), Piero della Francesca(1951), The Nude (1956) and Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance(1966). His television series and subsequent book Civilisation (1969) were extremely popular. He received a KCB in 1938, the CH in 1959, a peerage in 1969 and the OM in 1976. His son Alan Kenneth Mackenzie Clark (1928-) was a controversial military historian and diarist, Conservative MP 1974-93 and a junior minister.


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Comments (1)


If my husband referred to me as "the Mrs", he just might find out what "What Woman Hath Wrought".

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