Simon Schama's Power of Art
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Explore the dramatic moments behind the creation of eight masterpieces of painting, sculpture and design.
Audio Commentaries with Simon Schama, Clare Beavan, David Belton & Andy Serkis
Interview with Simon Schama
The segment on Van Gogh is, as expected, emotional, yet Schama convincingly portrays Van Gogh as not consumed by madness, but fighting off the episodes with painting. Van Gogh painted one of his most evocative works, Wheat Field With Crows, which even his brother, Theo, recognized was about to put his brother on the artistic map. Yet, as Schama points out, within weeks, Van Gogh had killed himself. "Now why would he want to do that?" Schama muses--and then proceeds to narrate the tormented tale of the answer. Along the way, the viewer gains new appreciation for Van Gogh's signature works, including his famous sunflowers. "Technically, these are still lives," Schama says, "but there's nothing still about them... the sunflowers [seem to be] organisms landing violently from a burning sun." If the reenactments of the artists' lives are a bit overdone, it's forgivable, since the cumulative effect, in an hour, is a new appreciation of the work and the man.
Extras include frank and very funny commentaries by Schama and his co-producer, and lots of behind-the-scenes dish on how certain scenes were achieved. The teeming French opera scene in the "David" episode, for instance, was cast using just 20 French extras and then the rest created by CGI--"the scene works better, really, than [the film] King Kong," Schama says with delight. --A.T. Hurley
Top Customer Reviews
In the next disc, one of the artists examined is William Turner. I had always associated Turner with wonderful use of light, color, and the birth of English impressionism. But Simon Schama shows us the dark side of
Turner...artworks like a limp Death riding a Pale Horse. The key artwork we are to contemplate is a painting of a slave ship...a deeply disturbing work of an infamous scandal in British history where slaves were thrown overboard alive into the churning shark filled sea. What Schama explains is that Turner's mother had gone insane after losing her daughter and been transformed into a screaming hysteric. Only after this film did I start to notice screaming heads in Turner's sunsets, vapors, and white clouds. Without the historical reconstruction, I would never have understood this side of the painter's work.
In the last disc, we confront Picasso and his greatest (political) masterpiece, "Guernica." We are taken on a tour of Picasso's interior life and witness his change: He grows from seeking liberation for creative art into seeking liberation of all people from aggressive power and fascism.Read more ›
The most important aspect of this documentary, in my opinion, is connected to the fact that Simon Schama is not all too concerned with styles or techniques but with historical context and its impact in the work of each artist he selected. Each work is presented as a reaction to the events of the time. Simon Schama also goes deep into the lives of each artist and provides us with a better understanding of their motivations and personal relationships. These artists become very human and for that reason very much like us. The combination of these factors result in the creation of amazing works of art that are a universal manifestations of human nature and emotion. It is because the message of each piece is so human, so universal, that the art becomes memorable. It is for this reason that these masterpieces continue to talk to us beyond the limitations of time. This is the real power of art!
As an art history teacher, I truly enjoyed Simon Schama's approach to art history. I tend to teach in very similar lines. For those who are not necessarily interested in art (find that hard to believe) this documentary would provide a great deal of information tnat is exciting and entertaining.
For this series, Schama has specially selected eight key artists to make his underlying point that art is indeed powerful, and all one need do is examine some of these personages and their key works to be convinced of just that point. Schama easily makes his case, but takes us on a riveting eight-hour journey from Caravaggio to Rothko in doing so. Our trip leads us to meet each of the artists (Caravaggio, Bernini, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Rothko), peer into the oftentimes emotion-charged lives in which they practiced their art, and survey of some of the major accomplishments of each, all flouted across the screen in high-resolution digital beauty. And yet, this is not really Schama's point at all: the point which he wants us to understand, to believe, to accept, to embrace, is that art can be powerful, often IS powerful, and that these eight people served as spectacular conduits of that power into their created works.
And so, for each of our eight personal witnesses called to the stand to defend Schama's thesis, we hear an often tormented roar of testimony, each of them having a unique story to tell in how art was powerful to them, and how that power impacted their and succeeding generations. Sometimes the power is, in Schama's words, a "lie" (for example, "Death of Marat" by David), and sometimes it is the power of guilt and redemption (Caravaggio's "David with the head of Goliath").Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My favorite episode, Picasso's "Guernica" arrived damaged. does not play well.Published 3 months ago by David G. Wilson
The camera effects really achieve the master style, and the art and the film come together to form a powerful creation. The filmography is art in its own right.Published 4 months ago by Erik Ramirez
This is the best art book, even with black and white photos that you will every buy. For me the history of art work and the artist is what makes painting, sculpture, etc. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Maria Tissing
The subtitle to this extraordinary series is "Eight Works That Exploded on to an Unsuspecting World. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Happy Reader
Thank you Simon Schama for another educational and inspiring film = masterpiece = work of art!Published 6 months ago by Yolanda
Love the Scham, with his idiosyncratic delivery style and eye for the odd detail. A great series, and a great gift for anyone traveling to Europe.Published 7 months ago by Mary Baldwin
Wonderful series. Simon Schama has the ability to make the artists and times come alive. Highly recommend for artists of all type and art historians.Published 10 months ago by Patricia Solari