Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation After a Half Century

Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Museum in Florence, Italy. (Max Rossi/Reuters)
The 1960s series on art and literature through the ages remains a brilliant (and popular) masterwork, a celebration with a tragic edge.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T he 13 one-hour TV films in which English art historian, arts administrator, and writer Kenneth Clark historically narrates a “personal view” of the history of Western civilization were first shown in Britain and the U.S. 50 years ago as the series Civilisation. Their amazing popularity began immediately and has continued unabated since 1969, with translation into several languages and publication of the text and many of its illustrations as a book that has never been out of print. The films continue to be bought and shown and looked at again and again all over the world. Guides to the series’

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M. D. Aeschliman (Ph.D., Columbia) has written for National Review since 1984 and has taught at universities in the United States, Switzerland, and Italy. His father, Adrien R. Aeschliman, saw frontline combat against the Japanese in 1944–45 in New Guinea and the Philippines in the 32nd Infantry Division, one of the most battle-hardened divisions of the U.S. Army in any theater of operations in World War II.

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