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 Krasner.

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.

At the Barbican: Jean Dubuffet

T.J. Clark, 29 July 2021

Afewweeks ago, I came across a young poet saying that the book he had been turning to during Covid was Francis Ponge’s Le Parti Pris des choses. (Siding with Things, the translation of the title in the old Faber Selected Poems, is clever, capturing as it does Ponge’s mixture of gentleness and misanthropy.) One of the most winning items in the Barbican’s Jean Dubuffet...

Aboutness: Bosch in Paradise

T.J. Clark, 1 April 2021

Weare on our way to Paradise. Some say we are there already; and it is true that the soft green hill the angels are leading us towards, and the fountain perched on top with its retinue of birds, could well be a Garden of Eden. The angels are forbearing: they know we’re likely to make a slow start. Some of us look to have registered the new light in the sky, and are caught between an...

Strange Apprentice

T.J. Clark, 8 October 2020

Lucien Pissarro​, Camille Pissarro’s eldest son, was barely into his teens in the mid 1870s when Paul Cézanne came to live nearby. Nonetheless he retained strong memories of the time, and many years later his brother Paul-Émile wrote down these sentences at Lucien’s dictation:

Cézanne lived in Auvers, and he used to walk three kilometres to come and work with...

It must​ have been some time in 1966 that I bought a French travel poster of a detail from Delacroix’s Lion Hunt (1855) – the lion triumphant for a moment, claws ripping a fallen rider’s flesh, and a horse with its back broken, blood welling from one nostril. A year or so later I cut off the poster’s caption – I think it said simply ‘Bordeaux’, which...

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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