Author(s): James Stourton
SUNDAY TIMES ART BOOK OF THE YEARThe astonishing life of Kenneth Clark - the greatest British art historian of his time. As writer and presenter of the 13-part TV series Civilisation he was responsible for the greatest syntheses of art, music, literature and thought ever made - `a contribution to civilisation itself'. Drawing on previously unseen archives, James Stourton reveals the formidable intellect and the complicated private man who wielded enormous influence on all aspects of the arts and drew into his circle a diverse group, many of whom he and his wife Jane would entertain at Saltwood Castle. These included E.M. Forster, Vivien Leigh, Margot Fonteyn, the Queen Mother, Winston Churchill, John Betjeman, Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. Hidden from view, however, was his wife's alcoholism and his own womanising.From his time as Bernard Berenson's protege at I Tatti in Florence to being the Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean aged 27 - by which time he had published The Gothic Revival, the first of his many books - to his appointment as the youngest-ever director of the National Gallery, Clark displayed precocious genius. During the war he arranged for the gallery's entire collection to be hidden in slate mines in Wales, and organised packed concerts of German classical music at the empty gallery to keep up the spirits of Londoners. The war and the Cold War that followed convinced him of the fragility of culture and that, as a potent humanising force, art should be brought to the widest possible audience, a social and moral position that would inform the rest of his career.No voice has exercised so much power and influence over the arts in Britain as Clark's. James Stourton has written a dazzling biography of a towering figure in the art world, a passionate art historian of the Italian Renaissance and a brilliant communicator who, through the many mediums of his work, conveyed the profound beauty and importance of art, architecture and civilisation for generations to come.
`Richly detailed, colourful and astute and it moves at a cracking pace ... a resplendent biography' Sunday Times `Superb ... Stourton, a former chairman of Southeby's, is the ideal choice for Clark's official biographer and has produced an accomplished book that is scholarly, entertaining, beautifully written and sympathetic, while far from uncritical' The Times `Stourton has written a matchless biography. His evocation of his subtle, cool and brilliant subject gives an inspiring and even heroic sense of Clark...The book is a joyous read, with a dashing, stylish pace that disguises formidable but unpretentious erudition' Richard Davenport-Hines, The Oldie `Stourton ... has done this brilliantly, not only exploring [Clark's] gifts as author, lecturer, film-maker and champion of British art but also as public figure ... this assiduous and accomplished biography will bring about a second Great Clark Boom' Spectator `Astutely analyses Clark's emotional and intellectual contradictions' Observer `Delightfully readable and authoritative' Economist `Stourton writes with a blend of passion and coolness perfectly suited to his subject and produces a picture that should satisfy the most pernickety critic' James Naughtie, Mail on Sunday `A lithe, elegant, astute celebration', Richard Davenport-Hines, New Statesman `An elegant and perceptive portrayal of the ultimate arts grandee', Michael Prodger, New Statesman `Outstanding ... Stourton's great achievement is to make a unity of Clark's career ... this exemplary biography combines Clark's strengths of clarity and concision with the quality he so painfully lacked, warmth' Country Life "James Stourton leaves no stone unturned in Kenneth Clark, his magisterial and engrossing biography, which achieves a perfect balance between Clark's complex private world and his hugely successful career."-Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
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.