Kenneth Clark: Art Writers in Britain

Tate Research Workshop

Kenneth Clark black and white photograph portrait

Kenneth Clarke (undated photograph)
Tate Archive

31 May 2013
Convenor: John-Paul Stonard

This workshop focused on the published and unpublished writings of Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), drawing in particular on the holdings of his papers in the Tate Archive. Clark was a prolific writer who published or contributed to almost seventy books, from The Gothic Revival (1929) to The Art of Humanism (1983); and a similar number of scholarly articles. The extent of his unpublished writings is not known, but certainly vast; his correspondence alone might be estimated to reach around 50,000 items. His contribution to writing about art in Britain has long been established, but only recently become the source of scholarly attention, at a time when a body of secondary literature about his life and work is beginning to emerge.

This workshop explored a number of questions relating to Clark’s writing as an art critic. How did they relate to his work as an art historian? What can his unpublished writings – principally his letters – tell us, and how can we read them? What is the nature of his authorial voice, and to what extent can we read his works as literature? Clark has been aligned with a tradition of art critics in Britain, from Reynolds and Hazlitt to Pater and Fry — what has become of this tradition and what is his legacy?

John-Paul Stonard

See also