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Provocative Talks of Art that Invades Your Soul
on July 20, 2007
Everyone interested in Western art will WANT to own this disc...we are confronted with the art works that make our brains spin and our hearts leap out. Simon Schama begins his discussion with Caravaggio's "David and Goliath." Rather than depict the artist as the heroic figure, Caravaggio astounds us by portraying himself as the severed head of the monster, the enemy. The film technique used by the director is to explore the biography of the artist, earlier works that lead up to this one, and the cultural moment to understand WHY the artist sees himself in this light.
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.
In summary, after having my "mind blown" by Schama's penetrating analysis of one work of art, I couldn't wait to see the next episode. Because the discussions, reconstructions, and art masterpieces themselves are very graphic, even disturbing, wait until your children are ready to show them this series...indeed, that is the point - the Power of Art - to move us.