Art

Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors

TIMOTHY J. CLARK
APRIL 21, 2003

Renowned art historian T. J. Clark, George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair at the University of California-Berkeley, lectured on "Bruegel's Consumers" as a Stephen Ostrow Distinguished Visitor in the Visual Arts. T. J. Clark is the author of books that include Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (1999), The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers (1984), and The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France 1848-1851 (1973), as well as articles and interviews in many books and journals. Clark was born in Bristol, England, in 1943; he earned a B.A. in modern history at Cambridge and a Ph.D. in art history at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. He has taught at the Universities of Leeds and Essex, the Camberwell School of Art, UCLA, and Harvard. Clark has won many honors, among them an Award for Criticism from the PEN Center USA West, a fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and two research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; in 2000 and 2001 he was named a Getty Scholar by the Getty Research Institute. He is currently working on a book about two paintings by Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with a Calm and Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake, and on a book about the depiction of ground level in painting, which will include his work on Bruegel.

Introduction by William Diebold, Professor of Art History:

Professor Clark comes to the College as a Steven E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitor in the Visual Arts. The Ostrow Distinguished Visitors program was established in 1988 by an exceptionally generous gift to Reed from long-time friends of the College Ed and Sue Cooley and John and Betty Gray. (And I'd like to add here a special note of remembrance for Betty Gray who, as many of you know, died just a few weeks ago--she was truly a great friend of the College and of the Art Department, which has benefited immeasurably from her generosity--we will certainly miss her).

The Ostrow Distinguished Visitors program honors Steven Ostrow, a former director of the Portland Art Museum and the recently retired chief of the prints and drawings division of the Library of Congress, as a tribute to his career and out of respect for his advisory role in the formulation of the Cooley-Gray gift to Reed, a gift that fundamentally altered the teaching of art history and humanities here. The Ostrow program is meant to bring to the College "individuals who are distinguished in their fields, whose contribution primarily resides in their creativity, and who will provide a forum for conceptual exploration, challenge, and discovery." There can be little doubt that tonight's speaker, Tim Clark, fits that bill to a tee and, indeed, many of us have already been privileged to see his talents at work in the classroom here at Reed.

T. J. Clark studied history as an undergraduate at St. John's College, Cambridge, before going on to take a PhD in art history at the University of London's Courtauld Institute of Art. Since his PhD, he has had a long and varied teaching career in both England and the United States, having held positions at the Camberwell School of Art in London, the University of California at Los Angeles, Leeds University, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley, where he has been professor of art history since 1987.

Professor Clark has garnered a formidable array of academic honors and awards: he has had fellowships from, among others, the Centre nationale de la recherche scientifique in Paris, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Getty Research Institute and twice from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the British Academy. He has also been awarded the College Art Association's distinguished teaching award, a recognition that his many interactions with students on his visit to Reed have shown was well deserved.

As an institution that values teaching, that last achievement of Professor Clark, the teaching award, is one that is particularly important and significant to us. As an institution that values bringing the best possible scholarship to its students, so too are Professor Clark's writings. A number of you will be familiar with his 1985 book The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers, which has long been a mainstay of the Humanities 220 syllabus. That text was preceded by a pair of books from 1973, Image of the People and The Absolute Bourgeois, the twin fruits of his dissertation on the art of the Second French Republic. More recently, in 1999, T. J. Clark published Farewell to an Idera: Episodes from a History of Modernism.

So much for a list of achievements. Given the range and extent of Professor Clark's work, it would be impossible for me to summarize his contribution to art history in a brief introduction such as this. So I will mention only what for me is his greatest contribution. The introductory chapter to his 1973 book on Courbet is entitled "On the Social History of Art." This was not a text I ever read as undergraduate, although I am of an age where such a reading would have been possible. By contrast, there have been few students who have passed through my classes Reed in the past 15 years who have not read "On the Social History of Art." And that, I think, is very much to their advantage. For there Clark lays out what still seems to me be an unmatched account of what the goals of the discipline of art history should be as well as a program to achieve those goals. He writes: "What I want to explain are the connecting links between artistic form, the available systems of visual representation, the current theories of art, other ideologies, social classes, and more general historical structures and processes." In part because of such lapidary and trenchant formulations, this chapter of Clark's book has become one of the most read, most influential statements about the modern practice of art history, a crucial document for the introduction and eventual success of what is widely called "the new art history."

Clark's conclusion to "On the Social History of Art" is lapidary: "I have been saying that there can be no art history apart from other kinds of history." I couldn't agree more. Perhaps more important, it seems to me that that claim about the centrality of history to art history fits in perfectly with the intentions of the Cooleys, the Grays, and Steven Ostrow, in designing and endowing the Ostrow Distinguished Visitor Program. It thus gives me the greatest pleasure to introduce T. J. Clark, who will be speaking to us tonight on "Bruegel's Colnsumers."

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