One of the largest projects I have worked on at Tate Archive was the cataloguing of the papers of the writer, critic, and curator David Sylvester. Visitors to the Archive have often mentioned to me how much Sylvester’s work meant to them, reminding me how important writers and broadcasters are to our enjoyment and understanding of art. One who reached an extremely broad audience was Kenneth Clark, whose television series Civilisation is still referred to today, long after it was first shown. I have chosen this manuscript for the first episode of Civilisation from among the Archive acquisitions for 1988. First broadcast in 1969,Civilisation is one of the BBC’s landmark television series. Written and presented by Kenneth Clark, the series gave his personal view of Western art and architecture. Commissioned by David Attenborough,Civilisation was one of the first programmes to be broadcast in colour by the BBC. The series was hugely popular, and made Clark a household name. The Kenneth Clark collection at Tate Archive holds material covering much of his long career, including his work at the Ashmolean, Oxford, the National Gallery, London, where he became director aged only thirty-one, the Arts Council, and the Independent Television Authority. His writing is also well represented, with notes and drafts for many of his well-known books, lectures, and broadcasts. Clark is one of the many writers represented in Tate Archive, including such figures as Roger Fry, Adrian Stokes, David Sylvester, and Barbara Reise. The Archive also holds material relating to artists whose work Clark collected and who became his friends, such as Graham Sutherland and John Piper. Civilisation is still remembered 40 years after it was broadcast, and has been re-issued on DVD. Do you think that any of today’s programmes on art have such an impact?
Written by John Langdon