Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: UNDERSTANDING ART: HIDDEN LIVES OF MASTERPIECES
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Masters' pieces critiqued, inspected like never before. Once private footage is now made available to all art lovers. A fascinating look that only elite experts are typically awarded. An in-depth study of Louvre paintings filmed for the first time. A must-view-must-own for every student, scholar, art school library, or practitioner of the visual art media. A true revealing of master artist codes in painting. It provides mind-boggling teaching of historical practices, restorations, and production methods of masterpieces. You'll watch this DVD repeatedly. Simple animations, sometimes humorous, enhance educational moments of the discussion of the specialists allowed to "look close, without frames and protective glass.

SDH SUBTITLES and audio English translation provided in this series of "study days" provided by Le Musée du Louvre. Episodes identify some, not all, paintings discussed.
Each episode is about 52 min, perfect for HS to university classrooms.
___1 RAPHAEL 1483-1520
Restoration methods exposed with preservation means.
"Baldassare Castiglione" (perfection)
"Self-Portrait with a Friend" (rare Raphael canvas)
"Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan" (rare signed work)

___2 REMBRANDT 1606-1669
Many Rembrandt paints reattributed in modern times. 500 dis-attributed, or non-Rembrandts.
"Bathsheba at Her Bath" 1654 (reduced format)
"Philosopher in Meditation"
"The Slaughtered Ox" (most famous) 1655

___3 POUSSIN 1594-1665
Episode filmed in a Lyon museum, not the Louvre, which owns a vast Poussin collection. This episode centers on newly acquired "The Flight into Egypt." It has a colorful provenance. But wait--there are 2 paintings.

___4 WATTEAU 1684-1721
Louvre owns 12 unsigned, undated, with painting titles created posthumously.
"Pierrot (Gilles)" 1718-19
"Pilgrim to Cythera" 1717

___5 LEONARDO 1452-1519
Louvre owns 7 of 15 known paintings. An intellectual & emotional review.
"La Belle Ferronniere" (Portrait of a Woman)
"The Virgin of the Rocks" (one of Leonardo's first)
"Mona Lisa"
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on May 31, 2014
This series provides an unique perspective on great western artists. Each episode (about an hour) focuses on the private showings of many pictures by a master, each unframed and not behind glass, to a set of experts. The video quality is extremely good and you get to see how the masterpieces are old worn objects that have been preserved and inadvertently defaced over time. The vast majority of each episode focuses on the art and the facts regarding their care but sections do devolve into experts arguing and speculating. Setting aside that complaint, this is a very good series which, while showing beautiful images, discusses the cultural morays and the mechanics of painting, as well as preservation,
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on April 14, 2014
When one considers the flood of titles available on DVD for consumers to buy, it would be logical to surmise that the most commercial programs have the most value. In terms of making money for the distributor that may well be true, but in terms of aesthetic, artistic, educational and historical value, programs like UNDERSTANDING ART: HIDDEN LIVES OF MASTERPIECES are hard to beat. Of course the appeal of the subject matter is limited, but that in no way limits any measure of its importance.

What makes a painting (or any work of art) great? Its ability to inspire, provoke, elicit a variety of responses from awe and wonder to frustration and debate are a few things which come to mind. The premise of this five part series certainly builds on the theory that great art should inspire discussion. Bringing together a large group of art “experts” is, for the most part, a fascinating exercise to observe. Occasionally some of the people in the know come across as precious and arrogant, but that is to be expected in such a specialized field where large egos are to be found in abundance. For the most part, the comments and debate are spirited, interesting and fun.

The irony, of course, is that not a single one of the assembled guests has a fraction of the talent of any of the five featured artists. It is amusing to hear some of the theories put forth as to the artist’s original intention, or the evolution of such and such a painting (a bit of the canvas trimmed here, a repair made there). True, there is great intellect on display but it amounts to nothing in the presence of the timeless beauty of the art itself.

Do we really need the collective wisdom of the curators, historians, restorers and scientists before we can appreciate a great painting for what it is? No, we don’t. But the insight of experts can sometimes assist in helping us to maximize our appreciation. It’s a question of discernment. One might look at a painting of Rembrandt’s and decide “I like this,” but not be able to articulate why. This is where the perspective of one with a trained eye might help. Bearing this in mind may provide just the right amount of objectivity needed to enjoy this program for what it is: a journey of discovery.

Unquestionably the highlight of this series is part five. The genius of Leonardo Da Vinci cannot be encapsulated in a single painting because his talents were not contained to a single medium. Inventor, scientist, designer–anything artistic and Leonardo was master. Watching his paintings discussed and details of his life (the little that’s known) elevate this exercise in artistic appreciation to a new level.

The series is not so high brow as to exclude the less artistically informed. For example, the clever use of animation and the accompanying booklet all contribute to the producers’ worthwhile intention of educating the viewer in an accessible and entertaining fashion. Further, the animation references great art of another kind by using a crooked arm image borrowed from the great Saul Bass’ credit sequence for Otto Preminger’s film The Man With The Golden Arm.

Yes, this is specialized material, but by no means is it exclusive. And it is a wonderful reminder that any painting (or work of art) has a lot more to it than meets the eye.
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on February 11, 2016
This is an excellent selection for anyone who is serious about art. Educators, curators, artists, art historians and others
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on April 22, 2015
This was not what I was expecting. It was still interesting though. I just found it too long. After the third or fourth painting, watching and listening to art experts examine several unframed masterpieces and discuss them became somewhat monotonous. I'm sure some art geeks will find this documentary more interesting than I did.
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on July 20, 2013
This video is a very different approach to the subject of art through out history and how it has been cared for
0Comment|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 8, 2014
Excellent.
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