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Andre de Nesnera
I was a young man in my impressionable early-20s, when Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" made its appearance on American television. I recall, at the time, thinking what ambition to entitle a program so. Public Broadcasting had not been around for many years, and I expected a stodgy, pompous, supercilious approach to the subject of art and civilization, especially as it was coming from Britain. Surely, this was a program for the elite, the snobs of the art world, the aristocrats of Europe who had access to such treasures. Kenneth Clark truly changed those first impressions, presenting in a gentle, understandable way some of the great treasures of the human species. These pieces were no longer remote, mysterious objects stuffed away in some dusty museum or moldering palace. He clearly taught about each of his choices, seeming to enjoy the opportunity to pass on to the viewer his love and admiration for these works and their meaning, as they related to the modern world and to the world long past in which they were created. He was humorous and wise, and the photography was stunning. I immediately changed my major in college to art history and, although I never became wealthy from the education, I have always appreciated what I did learn, beginning with the inspiration provided by Kenneth Clark and "Civilisation." Mr. Clark became one of those people with whom I wish I could have spent an afternoon, just listening. I haven't seen the program in many years, though it was re-run often after its first showing. I would like to see this back on television, or on DVD. I do believe it was the inspiration for many similar, and more famous programs to follow and was part of that exceptional time in television when the UK sent us its best - "Civilisation", "The First Churchills", "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", "Elizabeth R", and "I, Claudius."
If "Civilisation" ever reappears, do yourself a favor. Sit back in an easy chair, tone down the distractions, have a good hot coffee, and enjoy the story of your past. It's shared by all of us, and Kenneth Clark will introduce you to yourself.
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