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BBC Documentaries: Season 2009

2009x37 What is Beauty?

  • 2009-11-14T22:00:00+01:00 on BBC
  • 60 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary, Special Interest

Documentary in which artist and writer Matthew Collings explores the concept of beauty in art. Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder, or is there something more universal we can say about it? Collings takes the viewer on a sumptuously illustrated tour of 10 of his favourite beauty experiences from the history of art. The works of art he chooses each illustrate one of the timeless principles which he believes underpin and explain the rush of pleasure we get from beautiful art. They are all art experiences which he has loved for many years, but in this film he explores with each artwork what it is that is making their particular kind of beauty happen. Collings's personal list inspires some big questions about why art matters to us, and aims to get viewers thinking and arguing about what their own personal Top 10 might look like. The 10 art experiences range right across history, from the prehistoric cave art of the Dordogne to the hi-tech super-modernity of a Norman Foster-designed bridge in southern France, and from some of the indisputable masterpieces of the Renaissance to the much more debatable pleasures of contemporary art. Collings leaps fearlessly across history, making unexpected and revelatory comparisons between the art of different eras, and helping us to see the principles that underlie them. Collings's list includes works by Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Magritte, Gauguin and American artist Robert Rauschenberg, amongst others.