Blame it on his social life

Nicholas Penny

  • BuyKenneth Clark: Life, Art and ‘Civilisation’ by James Stourton
    William Collins, 478 pp, £30.00, September 2016, ISBN 978 0 00 749341 8

Each and every place in the life of Kenneth Clark has been investigated by James Stourton, from the country house in Suffolk where, as a boy, Clark judged the dresses of female dinner guests, to the château in Normandy belonging to his second wife, Nolwen, where, in his later years, he tried to find ways to communicate with the lovers who had once hoped he would marry them. Stourton is particularly informative about Clark as a schoolboy at Winchester and about his relations with television directors and crews, but he has also discovered new information about Clark’s work at I Tatti, at the Ashmolean, at the National Gallery, at Windsor Castle, for Covent Garden and for the cause of conservation; he documents committees attended and lecture tours undertaken, books written and unwritten, houses bought and sold, acts of charity discreetly performed and romances secretly conducted. Even if we take into account the services of secretaries, chauffeurs and cooks, it is hard to understand how Clark contrived to achieve so much. Stourton has expertly reconstructed the kaleidoscopic variety, and defined with precision the numerous paradoxes, of Clark’s public and private lives.

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