Dates: 1943-

Nationality: British

Timothy James Clark (often “T.J. Clark”) was born in 1943 in Bristol, England. He first acquired fame as a Marxist art historian. He holds the George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair as Professor of Modern Art at the University of California, Berkeley. Clark is currently concerned with examining a particular type of pictorial thought, involving notions of human uprightness and the ground plane, which runs throughout the history of painting and which he has termed “ground level painting.” The artists Nicolas Poussin, Pieter Bruegel, and Paolo Veronese figure prominently in his work on the subject.

Clark was educated at Bristol Grammar School, before entering St. John’s College, Cambridge University, where he graduated with first class distinction in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in 1973. He lectured at the University of Essex 1967-1969 and then at Camberwell College of Arts as a senior lecturer, 1970-1974. 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 Ph.D. dissertation which launched his international career as an art historian. The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France, 1848-1851 and Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851 were received as manifestos of the new art history in the English language. In 1974, his visiting professor position at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) turned into an associate professor rank. Clark returned to Britain and Leeds University to be chair of the Fine Art Department in 1976. In 1980 Clark joined the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University, setting off a furor among many traditional and connoisseurship-based faculty. Chief among his Harvard detractors was the Renaissance art historian Sydney Freedberg, with whom he had a public feud. In 1991 Clark was awarded the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. Notable students include Holly Clayson, Thomas E. Crow, Whitney Davis, Serge Guilbaut, Michael Leja, and Jonathan Weinberg. In 1988 he joined the faculty at UC-Berkeley.

In the early 1980s, he wrote 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 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. 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, 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.In 2006, Jontathan Nitzan, a professor of political economy at Canada’s York University and Shimshon Bicher an Israeli professor of economy in several Israeli colleges and universities alleged that Much of Retort’s explanation—including both theory and fact—contained in their book was plagiarized, “cut and pasted, almost as is,” from their several essays and books including “The Weapondollar-Petrodollar Coalition,” a 71-page chapter in their book, The Global Political Economy of Israel (Pluto 2002), as well as “It’s All About Oil” (2003), “Clash of Civilization, or Capital Accumulation?” (2004), “Beyond Neoliberalism” (2004) and “Dominant Capital and the New Wars” (2004). In a long essay titled Scientists and the Church they argued that the reason for Clark and his Retort colleagues theft of their intellectual content was rooted in the ancient clash of science and church. Retort’s plagiarism, they contended was “part of the constant attempt of every organized faith—whether religious or academic, liberal or Leninist, fundamentalist or postist—to disable, block and, if necessary, appropriate creativity and novelty. Creativity and novelty are dangerous. They defy dogma and undermine the conventional creed; they question the dominant ideology and threaten those in power; their very possibility challenges the church’s exclusive hold over truth. And that challenge is a cause for panic—for without this exclusivity, organized religion becomes irrelevant.” Verso, the publisher of Afflicted Powers, never responded to Nitzan and Bichler’s complaint.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘T. J. Clark (historian)’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 November 2010, 20:44 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=T._J._Clark_(historian)&oldid=396770773>

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