Press Office

Friday 11 Jul 2014

Press Release

Landmark arts series Civilisation to be shown in HD for the first time

Kenneth Clark's landmark series tracing the development of civilisation is to be shown in stunning high definition for the first time this February on the BBC HD Channel.

The critically acclaimed 13-part series was first shown on BBC Two in 1969 and swiftly became one of the most important arts series of its time.

Last shown in its entirety on the BBC in 2005, the repeat is part of the BBC's wider commitment to the arts through showcasing the jewels of its arts archive to new audiences and providing the biggest depth and range of original arts programming.

The series was originally shot on 35mm film to ensure the highest possible quality, which has enabled it to be remastered for HD.

Danielle Nagler, Head of HD and 3D at the BBC, says: "Kenneth Clark's Civilisation defined a new gold standard for arts programming when it was first broadcast. Watching it now, the programme is clearly of its time but the production quality still shows through. I'm delighted that BBC HD has been able to remaster the original from an archive copy into HD, to give viewers the chance to see this broadcasting landmark for the first time in all its glory."

Mark Bell, BBC arts commissioning editor, says: "One of the first series ever filmed in colour for BBC Two, Civilisation has cast a long shadow, and even now people still talk about it. This is an opportunity to celebrate the richness of the European Renaissance and also that of the BBC's Archive, which in itself is a treasure worth preserving, celebrating and making available for future generations."

This year BBC Two focuses on literature including a major new series celebrating the power of the British novel with Sebastian Faulks and a forthcoming evening devoted to books in partnership with World Book Night on 5 March. And, over on BBC Four a series of new programmes shine a light on one of the oldest and most undervalued art forms, sculpture, alongside a free friday night screening programme which showcases the very best of the BBC's sculpture archive in association with The Royal Academy.

Civilisation (13x50min) is being shown weekly on the award-winning BBC HD channel from Wednesday 9 February at 10pm.

The BBC HD Channel is available through Freesat channel 109, Freeview channel 54, Sky channel 169 and Virgin Media channel 187.

Notes to Editors

Episode Synopsis

1. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH – Travelling from Byzantine Ravenna to the Celtic Hebrides, from the Norway of the Vikings to Charlemagne's chapel at Aachen, Kenneth Clark illuminates the Dark Ages, the six centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire (AD400 to AD1000).

2. THE GREAT THAW –The sudden reawakening of European civilisation in the 12th Century is traced, from the first manifestations at the Abbey of Cluny to its high point – the building of the cathedral at Chartres.

3. ROMANCE AND REALITY – Kenneth journeys from a château on the Loire, through the hills of Tuscany and Umbria, to the cathedral baptistry at Pisa, as he explores the aspirations and achievements of the Gothic world of the later Middle Ages in France and Italy.

4. MAN: THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS – Kenneth Clark visits Florence, where European thought enjoyed new impetus by rediscovery of its classical past. He also journeys to the palaces at Urbino and Mantua, centres of Renaissance civilisation.

5. THE HERO AS AN ARTIST – Papal Rome in the 16th Century, where Christianity and antiquity begin to converge, provides the focus for this look at Michelangelo, Raphael, and da Vinci. Join Kenneth Clark as he explores the courtyards of the Vatican, the rooms decorated for the Pope by Raphael, and the Sistine Chapel.

6. PROTEST AND COMMUNICATION – Kenneth explores the Reformation, travelling through the Germany of Albrecht Dürer and Martin Luther, the world of Erasmus, the France of Montaigne, and visiting Shakespeare’s England in the reign of Tudor Queen Elizabeth I.

7. GRANDEUR AND OBEDIENCE – Kenneth visits the Rome of the Counter-Reformation, when Michelangelo, Bernini and Giacomo della Porta produced their masterpieces. The Catholic Church, in its fight against the Protestant North, developed a new splendour symbolised by the glory of St Peter’s.

8. THE LIGHT OF EXPERIENCE – The telescope and microscope revealed new worlds in space and in a drop of water. The realism found in Dutch painting took the observation of human character to a new stage of development.

9. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – The harmonious flow and complex symmetry of 18th-century music – the compositions of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart – are reflected in the best rococo architecture of that period, as seen in the churches and palaces of Bavaria.

10. THE SMILE OF REASON – Polite talk in the elegant salons of 18th-century Paris became the precursor of revolutionary politics. This theme takes Kenneth Clark from the great European palaces, such as Blenheim and Versailles, to Jefferson's Monticello.

11. THE WORSHIP OF NATURE – The belief in the divinity of nature usurped Christianity's position as the chief creative force in Western civilisation, ushering in the Romantic movement. Examining this force, Kenneth takes us to Tintern Abbey, the Swiss Alps, and the landscapes of Turner and Constable.

12. THE FALLACIES OF HOPE – The French Revolution led to the dicatorship of Napoleon and the dreary bureaucracies of the 19th Century. The disillusionment of the Romantic artists is traced through the music of Beethoven, the poetry of Byron, the paintings of Delacroix, and the sculptures of Rodin.

13. HEROIC MATERIALISM – Kenneth Clark's thoughts on the materialism and humanitarianism of the past 100 years take him from the English industrial landscape of the 19th century to the towering skyscrapers of New York City in the 20th.


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