This film is part of Free

Pieter Brueghel the Elder

A pre-Civilisation Kenneth Clark fronts this impressive early arts broadcast on the great Flemish painter.

1959 28 mins


Kenneth Clark waxes intellectual about the Flemish master Pieter Breugel in this fascinating slice of early arts TV. Ten years before the genre reached majestic maturity with Clark's series Civilisation, it may seem bare-bones basic. But Clark is already camera-fluent and visibly on a journey: taking the familiar format of educational lecture by expert to layman and rethinking it for a new medium.

This programme was part of an ATV series, broadcast live, which also featured Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Goya and Van Gogh. As Clark astutely observes, Breugel's paintings are "not to be looked at but looked into" and TV technology enables exactly that. The camera's measured movements and detailed close-ups are timed to Clark's close discussion of great paintings like The Peasant Wedding and The Tower of Babel. There's one unavoidable drawback, though: it's 1959 so the show's in black and white. Seeing Breugel's great masterpiece The Hunters in the Snow completely drained of its muted colours is instructive - but heartbreaking.