T. J. Clark was born in Bristol, England in 1943, took a B.A. in Modern History at Cambridge, and a Ph.D. in Art History at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. He has taught at various places in England and the USA, and, since 1988, at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair Emeritus. He now lives in London.
Clark is the author of a series of books on the social character and formal dynamics of modern art, including The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France 1848-1851 (1973), Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution (1973), The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers (1984), and Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (1999). In Spring 2005 Verso published a polemical analysis of the present crisis in world politics, written by him jointly with Iain Boal, Joseph Matthews, and Michael Watts (a.k.a. "Retort"), entitled Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War. Clark's last book was The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing (Yale University Press, 2006), a study of two landscape paintings by Nicolas Poussin and a reflection on the nature of looking repeatedly over time.
He is in the process of turning his Mellon Lectures on Fine Art, delivered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in Spring 2009, into a book entitled Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica.
T J Clark says of his current research and teaching interests on the Berkeley website: "Living in a world increasingly invaded by regimes of high-speed visualization, I find my art history more and more directed to keeping alive - and trying to describe more fully - past paradigms of complexity and depth in visual communication... Much of my recent teaching has focused on problems of effective writing in art history - looking for ways to describe pictorial structures that do not treat them simply as extensions or expressions of a universe of texts. Lately I have lectured on Cézanne as an object of art-historical interest in the 20th century, and given seminars on Picasso in the 1920's and 30's. I hope to turn my Tanner Lectures, delivered in 2002, into a book dealing with certain painters' concern for the uprightness and bipedalism of the human animal, especially the nature of its contact with the ground..."