T. J. Clark (art historian)

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T. J. Clark
Born Timothy James Clark
(1943-04-12) 12 April 1943 (age 71)
Bristol, England
Occupation Art historian
Language English
Notable works The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers.
Spouse Anne Wagner

Timothy James Clark, often known as T. J. Clark, is an art historian and writer, born on 12 April 1943 in Bristol, England. He taught art history in a number of universities in England and the United States, including Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. He has been influential in developing the field of art history, examining modern paintings as an articulation of the social and political conditions of modern life. His orientation is distinctly leftist, and he has often referred to himself as a Marxist.[1][2]

Life and work[edit]

University of California, Berkeley, where Clark was a professor until his retirement in 2010.

Clark attended Bristol Grammar School. He completed his undergraduate studies at St John's College, Cambridge, he obtained a first-class honours degree in 1964. He received his PhD in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in 1973. He lectured at the University of Essex 1967–69 and then at Camberwell College of Arts as a senior lecturer, 1970–74. During this time he was also a member of the British 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.

In 1973 he published two books based on his PhD 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. He taught at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1974–76. In 1976, he became a founding member of the Caucus for Marxism and Art of the College Art Association.

Clark returned to Britain in 1976 when he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Fine Art at the University of Leeds. In 1980 Clark joined the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University, which angered some of the more conservative, connoisseurship-oriented faculty members, especially the Renaissance art historian Sydney Freedberg, with whom he had a public feud.

In 1982 he published an essay, "Clement Greenberg's Theory of Art," critical of prevailing Modernist theory, which prompted a notable and pointed exchange with Michael Fried. This exchange contributed to the debate between formalist and social histories of art.

Clark's works have taken art history in a new direction, away from traditional preoccupations with style and iconography. His books regard modern paintings as expressions of sociopolitical conditions in modern life.

In 1988 he joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he held the George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair as Professor of Modern Art until his retirement.

In 1991 Clark was awarded the College Art Association's Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. Notable students include Brigid Doherty, Hollis Clayson, Thomas E. Crow, Margaret Werth, Nancy Locke, Christina Kiaer, Michael Kimmelman, Michael Leja, John O'Brian, Bridget Alsdorf, Matthew Jackson, Joshua Shannon, and Jonathan Weinberg.

As a member of Retort, a Bay Area-based collective of radical intellectuals, he co-authored the book Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, published by Verso Books in 2005.[3]

In 2005 Clark received a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award.[4] In 2006 he received an honorary degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art. He and his wife Anne Wagner, who also taught art history at Berkeley, retired in 2010 and moved to London. He continues to be active as a guest lecturer, author, and now as a poet.[5] His forthcoming book, Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica, is based on his Mellon Lectures in Fine Art delivered in Spring 2009.[6]

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