Sir Kenneth Clark, the art historian and broadcaster best known for the landmark 1969 TV series Civilisation, has today been commemorated with an English Heritage London blue plaque. The plaque marks 30 Portland Place in Marylebone, Clark’s home during the 1930s when he became Director of the National Gallery and was knighted. The Grade II-listed property became a hub for artists and fashionable society during this time, with Sir Kenneth and his wife Jane hosting glittering parties attended by guests including Winston Churchill and Vanessa Bell.
Sir Kenneth Clark headed up several of Britain’s leading cultural organisations including the National Gallery, the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Independent Television Authority. He saved some of the nation’s most valuable pieces of artwork during the Second World War by evacuating over 800 paintings to rural Wales, was responsible for many of the Ministry of Information’s wartime films, and used his position to convince the government to offer wide scale support to the arts. He also sponsored emerging artists including Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland.
Dr Rebecca Preston, Blue Plaques Historian at English Heritage, said, “Sir Kenneth Clark was not only a superb art historian and broadcaster, but also a curator, collector, patron, writer and campaigner. He was a consummate communicator and skilfully used film as a tool of mass communication – most notably in the landmark TV series Civilisation, which demonstrated his firm belief in access to the arts for all. We are delighted to honour him with this blue plaque.”
American filmmaker Michael Maglaras, who first proposed the blue plaque for Sir Kenneth Clark, added, “When I first saw Civilisation more than 50 years ago on American public television, it made an impression on me that I carry with me to this day. Now Lord Clark has been honoured with a Blue Plaque in London…a city where he was a vibrant and impressive reminder of the value of culture and the arts.”