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Civilisation Paperback – August 15, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd (August 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719568447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719568442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #910,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Kenneth Clark has used his masterly knowledge and understanding of the arts of Western Civilisation to describe and appraise its creative achievements. Times Literary Supplement 'He convincingly makes the case for the development of European art and architecture since the end of the Roman Empire as the foundations on which modern Western society rests' Lloyd's List Combines great learning with a shrewd mind, a wonderful eye and an admirable generosity of taste ... again and again he compels us to look at some more or less familiar work of art and see it afresh. Observer He is without equal The Listener One of the too few living authors who tempt me to use superlatives, and also the best for making his profound feeling for the arts contagious. The book glows with excitement for us general readers. Sunday Times 'The most famous art historian of his generation' The Herald magazine 'Civilisation is an improving text, even after 35 years' Paul Lay, BBC History

About the Author

Kenneth Clark was born in 1903 and was educated at the University of Oxford. Aged 30, he was appointed Director of the National Gallery - he remained there until 1945. He has been Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, Chairman of the Arts Council and Chairman of the Independent Television Authority. He was knighted in 1938 and made a Life Peer in 1969. In 1976 he was awarded the Order of Merit. He is widely known for his television programmes on art, as well as for his writing.

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Customer Reviews

My fourth reading--and it gets better with every re-reading.
Edward D. Booth
To realize the author's uncanny perception and insight, manifested throughout the book, is a riveting and mind altering experience.
Jay Ellis
Kenneth Clark was probably the most quotable art historian/appreciator ever.
Robert J. Murawski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Critic on May 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, which appeared about 1969, was a truly wonderful book. This 2005 paperback reproduces the text but has no illustrations, making it just about worthless. The buyer should be careful to get the 1969 hardback. I can't imagine what the 2005 publisher had in mind.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If I had to chose 5 books for eternity, this would be one. I first read it as a recent college grad when it was published in the early '70's. It helped estabish my view of western civilization and art. I have scoured used book stores for copies to give to others and I am pleased it is again available. I treasure this volume and would be lost without it.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Chardino on June 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book, which is perhaps the finest summary of western art and culture available anywhere for both freshman and sage alike, has been rendered useless by the complete absence of illustrations. Do not buy this edition; buy instead a used hard-cover for four dollars. It will have all the same text, plus the usual excellent colorplates and black-and-whites, which are absolutely necessary to understand the writing. I feel almost as if these publishers are playing a trick.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Daryl Broussard on October 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Starting with chapter 1, "The Skin of Our Teeth" (covering ground more recently trod by Thomas Cahill's HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION), and culminating with chapter 13's "Heroic Materialism", Clark produces a joyful, sometimes wary look at the painting, architecture, sculpture, philosophy, music, science, and even engineering that have contributed to the evolution of Western Civilization.
Clark's writing most definitely does not fall into the dry, verbally bloated academic style (which never fails to give me the heebie-jeebies), but instead, his words issue a warmth, an inviting, conversational tone, and his thoughts are timeless, which is fortunate, as CIVILISATION is just over 30 years old.
Worthwhile? Yep.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a very civilized survey of the highlights of Western art and architecture. Lord Clark an art- historian by profession writes with skill, taste and humor. In the opening of the book he quotes Ruskin as saying that " great nations write their autobigraphies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood without reading the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last" This is the line that Lord Clark adopts as he focuses primarily on the art works and the architecture. But his survey is at all points learned insightful cultured and a pleasure to read.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tom Gillis on June 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is not really an overview of western Civilization, but, rather, a history of western art and architecture for the past 1500 years (furthermore, the first 1/2 millenium is handled in the first of 13 chapters, and the last 100 years really aren't discussed -- so the book really covers primarily the high middle ages to the late 19th century in Europe). The text is a transcript of the successful television series (which I never saw): I suspect that the book suffers (relative to the TV series) due to the lack of music. On a broad level, what the author's survey of "civilization" is most lacking is any attempt at explaining causation: why was great art found first here (e.g., Italy), then there (e.g., Netherlands and North Germany). More attention to economic (and military) matters would have made this a much stronger history book. As it is, it is an extremely enjoyable (great illustrations!) and thought-provoking cultural history survey. [I read the folio Society 1999 hardcover edition.]
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By David Roger Allen on June 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Lord Kenneth Clark (1903-1983), English art historian and past director of the British National Gallery in London (1934-1945) reacted to the ominous signs of world cultural and political revolution which characterized the 1960's by writing scripts for, narrating, and personally appearing in a 13 hour British Broadcasting Corporation produced-for-television documentary series titled simply CIVILISATION (1969). The television documentary series he created was actually intended to discourage revolutionary thought and activity (Lord Clark's final pontifical message delivered at the very end of the final episode of the series), and thus could and should be regarded as a predictable bit of [...] delivered by one of the then high priests of the British Establishment defending property and privilege of the monied classes.
Even so, a curious and wonderful side effect resulted from Clark's effort.
Clark's very effective tactic in lending grave authority to his final anti-revolution message was to summarize in considerable detail great efforts of civilized peoples over roughly 1500 years of European history as reflected and demonstrated by works of great art and architecture. He guides us from the "dark" part of the middle ages to the present (1960's) and offers his considerable expertise and familiarity with high points of "civilisation" reflected by great works of art, and in so doing creates himself, in a low key, charming British way, as an authority on his overall subject.
When his final message discouraging revolutionary thought and activity is delivered gravely during the last 10 minutes of the 13 hour documentary film effort, the implicit point is that all the great creators of art seen in the previous 13 hours would agree with Kenneth Clark's anti-revolutionary sentiments.
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