Friday, January 25, 2013

Simon Schama's Power of Art Documentary Series

My kids and I have been watching a documentary series about art history on DVD called Simon Schama's Power of Art (2007) and produced by BBC. I stumbled upon this in the library stacks.

This is a serious and interesting look at famous artists which includes a telling of the place and time and how the artist interacted with that world and how the culture and politics influenced and shaped their work. Another element is the psychological side of the artist suggesting that the great artists with extraordinary works were usually passionate people, sometimes dealing with problems such as terrible tempers, rages that sometimes led them to murder, or mental illness. Of course we also learn why this artist was significant for their time and why their work still enthralls us today.

The three DVD set covers eight artists: Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko, and toals 400 minutes of viewing. This is serious stuff. It is engaging to watch as portions are dramatized with actors playing the part of the artist, usually without speaking parts, but narrated instead. Scenes of the places are shown, where they lived and so forth, so we get a taste for what they may have seen and experienced in their lifetime. There are the wheat fields and sunflower fields that Van Gogh painted. There is the seashore that Turner painted.

This series is for adults and it goes deep. I will be honest to say my sons sometimes yawned and said this was too much information. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that a fraction of this content sticks to my kid's memory which will be good enough.

The DVD series has a white cover with swirls of red paint.

There is a companion book to the series (red cover) which I have not seen (yet).

Today I noticed some of the episodes are on YouTube for free viewing. You really should treat yourself to a high quality video viewing of this if you are interested in art history and history.

1 comment:

Kay said...

It is a great set. I own it but didn't know about the companion book. Thanks for the head's up.