We have all found ourselves in a new world — life around the globe has changed significantly compared to just six weeks ago. Many of us have been doing our part and sheltering in place (much of the M.S. Rau staff included!). I, for one, have been missing my daily dose of art as I walk through the gallery everyday, and with many of our museums and galleries closed around the world, we all may be feeling the loss of art in our lives. Rather than binge-watching Tiger King or the latest season of Ozark, we asked our staff to send us a few of their favorite art-related films and TV series. From the educational to the sensational, here is a list of our top picks:
Loving Vincent is a work of art in and of itself. As the world's first fully painted feature film, it should be enjoyed for both its aesthetics and the remarkable story that it tells about the final years of Vincent van Gogh's life. The film re-imagines over 120 of the artist’s paintings, and each of its 65,000 frames is a hand-painted oil.
The film Mr. Turner focuses on the last 25 years of painter J.M.W. Turner’s life, showing audiences glimpses of his artistic genius as well as his flawed character. Viewers bear witness to the extremes of this artistic giant’s personality, from his passion for light and art to his infidelity. The film even includes the well-known instance when Turner strapped himself to the mast of a ship during a storm so that he could better paint the snow.
Based on a true story, Woman in Gold follows the quest of Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee who fought to reclaim Gustav Klimt's portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was looted from her family during World War II. Alternating between the late 1930s and the present day, it is a turbulent and compelling tale of one of the greatest legal battles in art history.
Another film that deals with the Nazi’s looting of art and artifacts, Monuments Men tells the true story of the scholars, historians, curators and other experts who worked to retrieve as many of the stolen masterpieces as possible. With George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and others among the star-studded cast, it is a fascinating film about how some of art history’s greatest treasures were saved from destruction.
This long-beloved movie starring Scarlett Johannsson and Colin Firth takes its inspiration from Johannes Vermeer’s famous work Girl with a Pearl Earring. Firth plays the artist while Johannson is his muse in this beautifully conceived film about the intimacy between an artist and his model.
Pollock offers a glimpse into the life and art of the great American Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock. The film is drama-packed, dealing with Pollock’s alcoholism, quick rise to fame and tumultuous relationship with his wife, Lee Krasner. For art lovers, it also gives us a fascinating look into Pollock’s highly physical artistic process.
A fascinating look into the life and art of Renoir during his last years, Renoir tells the story of Andree Heuschling, Renoir’s final muse. The model for many of Renoir’s late works of his Bathers series, Heuschling also starred in the film’s of his son, the filmmaker Jean Renoir, whom she would later marry.
Midnight in Paris
Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, is a fantastical story about a man who journeys back in time during a visit to Paris. Each night, he finds himself transported to the 1920s, where he interacts with famous figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas and Ernest Hemingway. A veritable who’s-who of the Parisian intelligentsia, Midnight in Paris feels like a visit with old friends that is a pleasure to watch.
If you love a little architectural grandeur mixed with royal drama, then the television series Versailles is for you. Set during the reign of French King Louis XIV, the series explores the political motivations and machinations behind the construction of one of the most breathtaking palaces in the world.
A true crime series for art lovers, Raiders of the Lost Art is a fascinating docu-series that covers a new art heist each episode. Using archival footage and re-enactments, the show details how each piece disappeared and how it was recovered (though the whereabouts of some remain a mystery!). A staff favorite is the episode on the famous 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa.
While the first season of Genius, which focused on the life of Albert Einstein, is certainly not to be missed, the second season is the one that will most interest art aficionados. Starring Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso, the show does a deep dive into the life and art of one of history’s artistic giants. From his relentless creative drive to his infamous affairs, this season of Genius is as filled with passion and artistic genius as Picasso’s paintings themselves.
It is my guess that few people reading this list haven’t seen Downton Abbey, but if you are one of those few, stop what you’re doing and tune in! The narrative is complex and fascinating, focusing on the changing British aristocracy at the beginning of the 20th century through the story of a landed noble family. For lovers of art and antiques, it is a feast for the eyes as these aristocrats bring out their silver each tea time and stroll past the masterpieces hanging on their walls. Paintings by Joshua Reynolds and William Beechey are among the many that can be spotted in the background of this series’ scenes.
The Joy of Painting
Rounding out our list is a series that brings — for lack of a better work — true JOY to its viewers. The Joy of Painting, hosted by the beloved artist Bob Ross, ran for a remarkable 31 seasons. Each episode began with a blank canvas, upon which Ross worked his magic, instructing viewers along the way who wished to paint along. Its message was simple: everyone can paint, art is for everyone.
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