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9 October 2008
... There was a moment in the senate When the orator and the administrator Stood a few inches apart, their cheeks puffed From the previous power point scoring, Suddenly grey and tired. This was because The shadow of hopelessness (the debate had been about Aid percentages, rules for slaughter and United Fruit) Had slipped into the room, as it often did at this time, And stood between them panting ...

At Sils-Maria

T.J. Clark

26 April 2012
... The mountains are still there, monotonously changeable, And the men in the sky with their slices of melon Are managing their ennui – at least until teatime, Till the dim philosopher comes to persuade them Of the pathos of distance and the pessimism of strength. On the cupboards for dogshit along the trails There are faces of spaniels with snouts like Nietzsche’s, And his weeping moustaches, done in sourdough plaster, Are preserved on a bed in his holiday home ...
3 February 2011
... There look to be two small monks in Campin’s mirror, One no more than a boy. They seem To have stopped in the doorway, maybe afraid Of the first soft touch from the Virgin’s force field Or just thinking the checkerboard tiles (That the mirror makes into a wilderness) Too slick and clean from the midwife’s broom For people like them to cross. There is a buzz In the door behind them, a greenness, a lack of air, As if a box hedge had sprung up next to the manger With small birds and flies sniffing its private parts ...
31 March 2005
... In which all outstanding problems of art history are settled to everyone’s satisfaction. What mattered more for Manet and Monet, That Manet had money or Monet had manners? Mattered to what, pray? Mattered to whom? To Monet’s manner, or just Manet’s mother? And what do you mean by that bad-mannered ‘just’? What matters more to a man than his mother? What matters more to a manner than money? We know Monet’s manner was dependent on Manet, Maybe even his manners; and his manners meant marriage, And money for Manets and many things more ...
19 March 2015
... Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,and the little churchyard with lamenting names …                 time and again we go out two together,under the old trees … Rainer Maria Rilke Not time and again, but – this being Ruby, my daughter aged six – just once. One typical Norfolk afternoon, as I recall it, In early summer, so that the oaks creaking in the hedgerows Were still mostly black against the sky, and the wheat and barley grey-green ...

Three Poems

T.J. Clark: Three Poussin Poems

22 January 2004
... On the Steps of the National Gallery I am on my way in to destroy Poussin’s Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake. I know what I am doing, believe me. When it has ceased to be part of our world We shall go without tragedy, and forget why we followed In the running man’s footsteps day after day, round the corner to the light. Once it is over There will be no more choking and spluttering in the black stream, Feeling the creature’s glistening inner tube tightening at our throats; No more soft explosions of hair in water – Diderot’s electric, scintillating extension of self, His thread of atoms glittering with static! – All senseless and endless as we are shown it, top heavy, twisted in fetters, Dragged along in the current squeezed sentimentally from the rock ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Goya’s Witches

8 April 2015
... It’s hard​ to pick a single image to stand for Goya’s Album D, whose sad totality – a triumph of reconstitution, gathered from collections across the world – is the centrepiece of the exhibition Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album (at the Courtauld until 25 May).* Repetition – a wild piling of imbecility on imbecility – is part of the Goya effect ...

At the Courtauld

T.J. Clark: Symptoms of Cézannoia

2 December 2010
... Cézanne, whose work was the touchstone for critical thinking and writing on art for more than a century, cannot be written about any more. After a few minutes in the exhibition at the Courtauld (until 16 January), surrounded by Card Players and Smokers, one understands why. The mixture of seriousness and sensuousness in the paintings – I am tempted to say, in the best, of lugubriousness and euphoria – is remote from the temper of our times ...

At Dulwich

T.J. Clark: Poussin and Twombly

25 August 2011
... extracted from its slightly overbearing series. Its combination of savage stroke-play and fruit-juice colour hits home. The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus is another. Aesthetic intensity in Twombly, to state the obvious, is bound up with haphazardness – the search for a moment at which the mind’s faltering, inattentiveness and whimsicality ...

At Tate Modern

T.J. Clark: Gabriel Orozco

17 February 2011
... with Serra-type aluminium puddles – like precious charred fragments from Teotihuacan. Orozco might justifiably round on me and ask if what I want instead is a cliché rehash of Godard’s Weekend or Kaprow’s bouncy castle. The answer is no. But I still think it possible to avoid Beuys-type portentousness and not end up making trash tasteful. I’m not ...

At the V&A

T.J. Clark: ‘The Cult of Beauty’

19 May 2011
... Towards the end of The Cult of Beauty, the V&A’s tremendous survey of the Aesthetic Movement in England (until 17 July), you gradually become aware of low voices issuing from a speaker on the gallery ceiling. ‘They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,/Love and desire and hate,’ says one; and the other: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams ...

At the Barbican

T.J. Clark: Lee Krasner

15 August 2019
... old-fashioned. Krasner was never up to date. Three in Two, for example, evokes explicitly, and not just in its title, the savage Jungian splitting and swapping of genders that Pollock had gone in for a decade earlier, during the time of Two and Male and Female. Behind those paintings lay Picasso, specifically Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Krasner was ...

Unseen Eyes

Julian Bell: The Clark Effect

7 February 2019
Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come 
by T.J. Clark.
Thames & Hudson, 288 pp., £24.95, October 2018, 978 0 500 02138 5
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... 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 this. Studying the hall depicted in Poussin’s Sacrament of Marriage (now in Edinburgh), he senses that a painted figure’s eyes – eyes that are out of sight – are moving across the space, their attention straying sideways ...

At Tate Modern

T.J. Clark: Paul Klee

9 January 2014
... There was a time within living memory when a survey of Klee’s painting like the one at Tate Modern – 17 rooms, 130 works – would have been the event of the season (it’s on until 9 March). I remember even scoffing a little in the 1960s at London’s appetite for shows of the ‘tragic comedian’, antidote to Picasso’s vehemence or Matisse’s fundamental coldness ...

High-Step with a Bull

T.J. Clark: Picasso, The Vollard Suite

2 August 2012
Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite 
British MuseumShow More
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... There is no harm in that, and Picasso is the last artist to be uneasy or apologetic about just showing his stuff. He would have agreed with Matisse, who was asked in 1929 what he thought he was doing re-creating his world of odalisques and Moroccan back bedrooms each day, in a Europe on the road to hell. ‘Je fais des Odalisques pour faire du ...

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