Saturday, August 29, 2009


"I am standing on the Pont des arts in Paris. On one side of the Seine is the harmonious, reasonable facade of the Institute de France, built as a college in about 1670. On the other bank is the Louvre, built continuously from the Middles Ages to the nineteenth century: classical architecture at its most splendid and assured. Just visible upstream is the Cathedral of Notre Dame - not perhaps the most lovable of cathedrals, but the most rigorously intellectual facade in the whole of Gothic art. The houses that line the banks of the river are also a humane and reasonable solution of what town architecture should be, and in front of them, under the trees, are the open bookstalls where generations of students have found intellectual nourishment and generations of amateurs have indulged in the civilised pastime of book collecting. Across this bridge, for the last one hundred and fifty years, students from the art schools of Paris have hurried to the Louvre to study the works of art that it contains, and then back to their studios to talk and dream of doing something worthy of the great tradition. (...) What is civilization? I don't know. I can't define it in abstract terms - yet. But I think I can recognise it when I see it; and I am looking at it now." [Kenneth Clark, Civilisation, p.1]


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