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Kenneth Clark – Looking for Civilisation
Tate Britain: Exhibition
20 May 10 August 2014

Adult £11.00 (without donation £10.00)
Concession £9.50 (without donation £8.60)
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Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian) 

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  • John Constable, 'Sketch for 'Hadleigh Castle'' circa 1828-9

    John Constable
    Sketch for 'Hadleigh Castle' circa 1828-9
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1226 x 1673 mm frame: 1507 x 1951 x 153 mm
    Purchased 1935

    View the main page for this artwork

  • John Piper, 'Seaton Delaval' 1941

    John Piper
    Seaton Delaval 1941
    Oil on canvas laid on wood
    support: 711 x 883 mm frame: 942 x 1117 x 83 mm
    Presented by Sir Kenneth Clark (later Lord Clark of Saltwood) through the Contemporary Art Society 1946 Tate

    View the main page for this artwork

  • John Piper's painting of Gordale Scar 1943

    John Piper, Gordale Scar 1943

    © The Piper Estate
    Private Collection
    Photo: Marcus Leigh & Andrew Dunkley/ Tate photography

  • Graham Bell Suffolk Landscape 1937, green landscape watercolour

    Graham Bell Suffolk Landscape 1937 

    Private Collection
    Photo: Marcus Leith and Andrew Dunkley/Tate Photography 

  • statue of Auguste Rodin Eve, showing a naked female figure clutching her torso

    Auguste Rodin Eve 1881

    Private Collection
    Photo: Marcus Leith & Andrew Dunkley/Tate Photography

  • Painted portrait of Angelica as a Russian Princess, wearing a fur coat and extravagant Russian hat

    Vanessa Bell Portrait of Angelica as a Russian Princess 

    Private Collection

  • Kenneth Clark in front of Renoir’s La Baigneuse Blonde (pl.1), c.1933

    Kenneth Clark in front of Renoir’s La Baigneuse Blonde (pl.1), c.1933

    Private collection

  • Georges Seurat, The Forest at Pontaubert 1881

    Georges Seurat, The Forest at Pontaubert 1881

    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This exhibition explores the impact of art historian, public servant and broadcaster Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), widely seen as one of the most influential figures in British art of the twentieth century. The exhibition examines Clark’s role as a patron and collector, art historian, public servant and broadcaster, and celebrates his contribution to bringing art in the twentieth century to a more popular audience.

The exhibition focuses predominantly on Clark’s activities in the 1930s and 1940s when he was a leading supporter and promoter of contemporary British art and artists. Using his own wealth to help artists, Clark would not only buy works from those he admired but also provides financial support to allow them to work freely, offered commissions, and worked to ensure artists’ works entered prestigious collections. Believing that a crisis in patronage had led artists to become too detached from the rest of society, Clark promoted a representational art that was both modern and rooted in tradition. The artists he favoured included the Bloomsbury Group, the painters of the Euston Road School, and leading figures Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Clark’s private patronage became a state project when he instigated the War Artists Advisory Committee to employ artists to record the war. Through the commissioning of such iconic works as Moore’s Shelter Drawings and Sutherland’s and Piper’s images of the Blitz he ensured that the neo-Romantic spirit that those artists’ work embodied became the dominant art of the period.

Examining his multifaceted role in the art world from patron and collector to art historian, as well as his role as a public servant and broadcaster, the exhibition will tell the story of Clark’s life through his diverse and cherished collection.

Kenneth Clark is curated by Chris Stephens, Curator (Modern British Art) and Head of Displays, Tate Britain, and John-Paul Stonard, independent scholar, with John Wyver, University of Westminster, and Inga Fraser, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain.