The book—which was based on the seminal TV series of the same name—was given to me by my dear friends, Henry Kutzko and Jaan Reitav on the occasion of my 21st birthday. Reading it again forty years later, it is clear to me how influential this book has been in the formation of my artistic tastes and my historical perspective.
And how delightful all these years later to look at some of the book's illustrations of paintings, sculpture and architecture and say to myself, “yes! I’ve seen that! It truly is magnificent!”
I did not pursue a study in history at university, other than auditing a course of ancient Greek history at one point. But always stories of the past have nagged at me. They have made up the bulk of my material in my writing, both my dramas and my fiction and, more often than not, I have paid almost obsessive attention to great ‘individuals’ of the past, both mythic and historical.
Like Kenneth Clark, at some fundamental level, I seem to believe in the transcendent power of “genius”.
Clark ends his book with a quote from W.B. Yeats which although written almost century before still sounds startlingly current:
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
In the meantime, plant a tree, hug a friend, and make some art!