A major 26 part television series in which art historian Tim Marlow takes a fresh look at the most important artworks of some of the greatest artists in history. Shot on location in over 50 galleries, museums, churches and palaces throughout Europe and the United States, this series is a comprehensive survey of the history of Western art. Both intelligent and informative, the series aims to provide an uncomplicated and accessible analysis of the works and artists featured including Giotto, Michelangelo and Raphael.
This episode looks at the life and work of the 15th century Italian artist Piero della Francesca. With only 26 surviving works Piero has been seen as one of the mystery men of western art. But his calm, monumental, often enigmatic images mark an important step in the development of Renaissance art. This fascinating film reveals the man behind the myth, an artist that paved the way for likes of Leonardo and Michelangelo. In his typically enthusiastic and accessible manner Tim Marlow explores works such as the huge fresco cycle The Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo, (made famous in the film The English Patient), the haunting Resurrection and the Baptism of Christ held in the National Gallery in London.
Hans Holbein the Younger has claims to be the greatest portrait painter who ever wielded a brush, a central figure in the spread of the Renaissance in Northern Europe whose deftness and remarkable accuracy captured the spirit and faces of the court of Henry VIII. He made the human individual seem more real and more exposed than any other artists before him and is the father of a tradition of portraiture which continues to this day. In the programme Tim Marlow looks at works such as Holbein’s portraits of Erasmus and Henry VIII, as well as one of the most fascinating paintings in the history of art, The Ambassadors.
Of all the great artists, Caravaggio seems to speak most intensely to the modern world. He lived a brief and tumultuous life, mocking authority and even murdering a man; he spent four years on the run, a fugitive from justice, but he always painted, bringing religious art to life in paintings so powerful and naturalistic that some saw them as miracles in themselves. In the programme Tim Marlow looks at paintings such as The Musicians, a melancholy celebration of music with a slight erotic edge, and as well as The Conversion of St. Paul, an expression of the artist’s deep religious sensibility.
George Stubbs is the greatest painter of horses who ever lived, but so much more than that - a man who literally dissected his subject before he felt able to paint it. But Stubbs was no dispassionate observer instead he brought a weight of feeling to his work that sometimes makes the spine tingle. Stubbs’ great triumph is Whistlejacket, a portrait of a horse without a background that concentrates the eye on the beautifully observed body of the greatest racehorse of the day. Tim Marlow also looks at Stubbs’ lesser known masterpieces, such as his striking depiction of the racehorse, Hambletonian.
Goya has often been described as the last of the great old masters and the first of the new. He painted sublime portraits of the Spanish royal court and celebratory pictures of the good life in Spain. But he also produced some of the most harrowing images of human cruelty ever created, an unflinching vision that set him apart from almost any other painter in history. Tim Marlow explores works such as the Naked Maja, the Disasters of War and Saturn Eating his Children.
David was a revolutionary artist in every sense. He was also fully committed supporter of the French Revolution and Napoleon using his art as a powerful instrument of political propaganda. As the originator of a hard-edged form of neo-classicism, he gave contemporary life something of the grandeur of ancient Rome or Greece. But his involvement in politics at one point almost cost him his life, and in the end forced him into exile. Works featured in this programme include The Oath of the Horatii and The Death of Marat.
There have been few more powerful painters of landscape than John Constable. He brought a scale, ambition and impact to a subject long considered amongst the lowest forms of art. Constable is often celebrated as a nostalgic painter of a lost England but look a little harder, though, and you discover an intense and radical vision at work which changed the course of British art. As well as looking Constable’s most famous works, such as The Haywain and Flatford Mill, Tim Marlow explores lesser known works such as the expressive sketch for The Leaping Horse
Delacroix is France’s greatest romantic painter – an artist who challenged to rigid classicism of the previous generation, injecting a degree of fluidity and unpredictability to his art. He established a taste for the exotic in European art, influenced by his travels in North Africa, as in his famous Women of Algiers in their Apartment. He is often considered to be the last great history painter of European art, producing the iconic Liberty Leading the People, a work which encapsulates the revolutionary turmoil of his day.
Whistler was the first great international American artist, hugely well travelled, a painter and printmaker who bridged the gap between Impressionist Paris and symbolist London. He was an intelligent and original artist who radically proclaimed that art rather than documenting the visual world around us - should be experienced for its own sake. His Arrangement in Grey and Black, a portrait of Whistler’s mother, is one of the great portraits in the history of art, not least for its elusive title. Whilst his Nocturne Black and Gold, was thought so radical that Whistler had to go to court to defend it.
Auguste Rodin redefined the idea of sculpture in European Art liberating it from the constraints of classicism and created three dimensional forms which pulsated with life and energy. His masterpiece, the Gates of Hell, is the greatest public sculpture of the 19th century, a work that obsessed him for almost 40 years, and which acted as a laboratory for Rodin imagination and which produced some of greatest sculptures of his career, works such as the Kiss and the Thinker.
Mary Cassatt is one of only a handful of women artists up to the beginning of the twentieth century who have managed to forge a reputation in the male dominated story of art history. She was an American by birth but lived in France for sixty years and helped to develop the first great movement in Modern art – Impressionism. In works such as The Boating Party, Cassatt articulates her bold, vivid vision.
Egon Schiele has become one of the most celebrated artists of the last hundred years. He was a controversial figure in his own short lifetime who was jailed on an obscenity charge. His work is starkly honest and provocative, intensely powerful images where the human figure is stripped down, both sexually and psychologically. He’s one of the great draftsmen in art history and perhaps the most obsessive painter of the self. In the programme Tim Marlow examines Schiele’s vision in works such as Death and the Maiden and Seated Male Nude.