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T. J. Clark (historian)

T. J. Clark (historian)

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Timothy James Clark often known as T.J. Clark, is an art historian and writer, born in 1943 in Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


Life and work

Clark attended Bristol Grammar School
Bristol Grammar School
Bristol Grammar School is a co-educational independent school in Clifton, Bristol, England. The school was founded in 1532 by two brothers, Robert and Nicholas Thorne....

. He completed his undergraduate studies at St. John's College
St John's College, Cambridge
St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. The college's alumni include nine Nobel Prize winners, six Prime Ministers, three archbishops, at least two princes, and three Saints....

, Cambridge University, he obtained a first-class honours degree in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art
Courtauld Institute of Art
The Courtauld Institute of Art is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art. The Courtauld is one of the premier centres for the teaching of art history in the world; it was the only History of Art department in the UK to be awarded a top...

, University of London
University of London
-20th century:Shortly after 6 Burlington Gardens was vacated, the University went through a period of rapid expansion. Bedford College, Royal Holloway and the London School of Economics all joined in 1900, Regent's Park College, which had affiliated in 1841 became an official divinity school of the...

 in 1973. He lectured at the University of Essex
University of Essex
The University of Essex is a British campus university whose original and largest campus is near the town of Colchester, England. Established in 1963 and receiving its Royal Charter in 1965...

 1967-1969 and then at Camberwell College of Arts
Camberwell College of Arts
Camberwell College of Arts is a constituent college of the University of the Arts London, and is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost art and design institutions. It is located in Camberwell, South London, England, with two sites situated at Peckham Road and Wilson Road...

 as a senior lecturer, 1970-1974. During this time he was also a member of the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Section of the Situationist International, from which he was expelled along with the other members of the English section. He was also involved in the group King Mob
King Mob
King Mob was a radical group endeavouring to contribute to worldwide proletarian social revolution, based in London during the 1970s.It was a cultural mutation of the Situationists and the anarchist group Motherfuckers. They sought to emphasize the cultural anarchy and disorder being ignored in...


In 1973 he published two books based on his Ph.D. dissertation: The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France, 1848-1851 and Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851. Clark returned to Britain from his position at the University of California, Los Angeles and Leeds University to be chair of the Fine Art
Fine art
Fine art or the fine arts encompass art forms developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than practical application. Art is often a synonym for fine art, as employed in the term "art gallery"....

 Department in 1976. In 1980 Clark joined the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. Chief among his Harvard detractors was the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 art historian Sydney Freedberg, with whom he had a public feud.

In 1988 he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 where he held the George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair as Professor of Modern Art
Modern art
Modern art includes artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of...

 until his retirement in 2010.

In 1991 Clark was awarded the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. Notable students include Brigid Doherty, Holly Clayson, Thomas E. Crow
Thomas E. Crow
Thomas E. Crow is an American art historian and art critic who is best known for his influential writing on the role of art in modern society and culture....

, Whitney Davis, Andre Dombrowski, Serge Guilbaut, Matthew Jackson, Christina Kiaer, Michael Kimmelman, Sabine Kriebel, Michael Leja, John O'Brian
John O'Brian
John O'Brian is a writer, curator, and art historian. He is best known for his books and articles on modern art history and criticism...

, Bibiana Obler, Joshua Shannon, Bridget Alsdorf, Jeremy Melius, and Jonathan Weinberg
Jonathan Weinberg
Jonathan Weinberg is an artist and art historian. He is currently a critic at the Yale School of Art.-Early Life:Weinberg grew up in New York City and attended the Fieldston School. He studied as an undergraduate at Yale with Vincent Scully, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard's Department of Fine...


In the early 1980s, he wrote an essay, "Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg
Clement Greenberg was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century...

's Theory of Art," critical of prevailing Modernist theory, which prompted a notable and pointed exchange with Michael Fried. This exchange defined the debate between Modernist theory and the social history of art. Since that time, a mutually respectful and productive exchange of ideas between Clark and Fried has developed.

Clark's works have provided a new form of art history that take a new direction from traditional preoccupations with style and iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

. His books regard modern paintings as striving to articulate the social and political conditions of modern life.

Clark received an honorary degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2006. He is a member of Retort
Retort collective
The Retort is a radical encounter of about forty writers, teachers, artists, and activists, all opponents of capital and empire, which has been based for the past two decades in the San Francisco Bay Area....

, a Bay Area-based collective of radical intellectuals, with whom he authored the book Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, published by Verso Books.


  • Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. ISBN 0520217454, trad Fr. :Image du peuple: Gustave Courbet et la révolution de 1848, Les Presses du Réeel, 2007. ISBN 2840662140
  • The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France, 1848-1851. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. ISBN 0520217446. trad Fr. :Le Bourgeois Absolu - Les Artistes Et La Politique En France De 1848 À 1851, Art édition, 1992. EAN13 9782905986108, (projet) Presses du réel, ISBN 2840662150.
  • The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985. ISBN 0691009031 Also published at pp. 467–488 of book Tom McDonough (2004) (Editor) Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. The MIT Press
    MIT Press
    The MIT Press is a university press affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts .-History:...

     (April 1, 2004) 514 pages ISBN 0262633000 ISBN 978-0262633000, trad. Fr. :Pourquoi l'art ne peut pas tuer l'internationale situationniste, Egrégores, 2006, ISBN 2952381933
  • Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. ISBN 0300089104
  • Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War. With Iain Boal, Joseph Matthews and Michael Watts. London: Verso, 2005. ISBN 1844670317
  • The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing. Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN 0300137583
  • The Painting of Postmodern Life?. Barcelona: MACBA, 2009. ISSN: 1886-5259

External links