T.J. Clark

T.J. Clark taught for many years at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers; Farewell to an Idea, a history of modernism; and Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come. His many pieces for the LRB have included such subjects as Walter Benjamin, Picasso and tragedyCézanne’s ‘strange apprenticeship’ and the work of Lee KrasnerIf These Apples Should Fall: Cézanne and the Present will be reviewed in a future issue of the LRB.

Poem: ‘Clapham in March’

T.J. Clark, 4 April 2024

The island on Eagle Pond is a ruin. The trunk of a long dead treeArches in agony into the water,Not so much hollow as disemboweled.

Six clumps of municipal daffodils struggle for life on earthSterilised by goose shit and particulates.The A24 has no mercy.

South London is not all like this, I hasten to add. Ten minutes walk down Crescent Lane,Past the Catholic primary with its cuddly Virgin, you...

I’m sure Julian Barnes is right that part of Monet’s appeal has to do with his art being cheerful (LRB, 14 December 2023). But is it cheerful à la Wodehouse, or à la Winnie in Happy Days? Or cheerful in the way of Ian Dury, listing his reasons? (‘Going on forty no electric shocks.’) I for one can never decide. I love the fact that the not usually pleasure-seeking poet R.S. Thomas wrote a...

On Mike Davis

T.J. Clark, 17 November 2022

Mike Davis​ was the kind of character who left you with strong, comic memories. One of mine is of midnight on the Boulder Dam, out in the desert south of Las Vegas. (‘Boulder, not Hoover,’ I hear him growling.) The geographer Richard Walker and I had been teaching a seminar at Berkeley on ‘consumer society’ and we were ending term with a field trip to Vegas, and...

A sequence of words substitutes itself for an absent picture, and, if the words are well chosen, the sequence is capable of having the picture’s objects and visual texture – even its visual structure, its tonality – be present on the page. The words tell us what the picture is of. I don’t believe that in the case of pictures of any complexity any such thing is possible.

Expressions, especially ones as charged and impenetrable as this, are for where words fail us, where we’re lost for them. Aesop’s original muteness – the original muteness of each individual, the stumbling of the infant into speech – is part of his power.

T.J. Clark’s definition of modernism draws on an old-school idea of modernity: Max Weber on ‘the disenchantment’ of a rationalised world, Georg Simmel on the ‘indifference’ of a money economy,...

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Unseen Eyes: The Clark Effect

Julian Bell, 7 February 2019

People talk​ of painted eyes in portraits that ‘follow you round the room’. T.J. Clark, in the third of the six essays collected in his new book, Heaven on Earth, strangely inverts...

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Pure Mediterranean: Picasso and Nietzsche

Malcolm Bull, 20 February 2014

‘There are the Alps,’ Basil Bunting wrote on the flyleaf of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, ‘you will have to go a long way round/if you want to avoid them.’ T.J. Clark is an...

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Like many other plutocrats who are now remembered as great collectors, J. Paul Getty began acquiring works of art in a serious way when he began to die – that is to say, in his forties (he...

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In a Dark Mode: Grim Modernism

Lawrence Rainey, 20 January 2000

The grainy photograph shows the doorway of a house, the double door itself scarcely visible, obscured by a row of three huge paintings, all four to five feet in height, which have been carefully...

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Geraniums and the River

Nicholas Penny, 20 March 1986

‘Impressionism became very quickly the house style of the haute bourgeoisie,’ T.J. Clark observes at the close of The Painting of Modern Life. Few seem to have resisted the...

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