The Art of talking about Art – 9: F for Films

Maybe not so much for books, but many of us do make time for one of life’s other great artistic pursuits: movies. So try and make time to watch, say, five great films about five great painters. Here are five personal favourites to begin with.

Maybe not so much for books, but many of us do make time for one of life’s other great artistic pursuits: movies. So try and make time to watch, say, five great films about five great painters. Here are five personal favourites to begin with.

Ladies first.

1. Frida

Frida – about Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954), a Mexican painter who is best known for her self-portraits.

Did you know? Picasso always portrayed himself in self-portraits with big eyes that seem to swallow up the beholder, insisting, even as he turns himself into a painted object, that it is he, not you, who does the looking.

Frida was made in 2002. It stars Salma Hayek in her Academy Award-nominated portrayal as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her husband, Diego Rivera. The movie was adapted from the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It was directed by Julie Taymor and won two Academy Awards.

2. Behind The Scream

Edvard Munch(12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century.

One of his most well-known works is The Scream of 1893. One of the lesser-known things about Munch is this intense film that traces the making of the painter who gave us one of the most famous paintings in the history of Art.

Edvard Munch is a 1974 biographical film, written and directed by Peter Watkins. The film covers about thirty years of Munch’s life, focusing on the influences that shaped his art, particularly the prevalence of disease and death in his family and his youthful affair with a married woman. Deeply satisfying on multiple levels, this three-hour long film never feels long even though it takes a fairly encyclopaedic approach to present a detailed probe into the mind of a tortured genius and art icon.

3. Drunk on creativity

Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956), known professionally as Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting.

In 1945, Pollock married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy. He died at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related single-car accident when he was driving.

Drip painting is a form of abstract art in which paint is dripped or poured onto the canvas. This style of action painting was first tried in the first half of the twentieth century by such artists as Francis Picabia, André Masson, and Max Ernst, who used the novel means of painting by swinging a punctured bucket of paint over a horizontal canvas.

Pollock is a 2000 biographical film which tells the life story of American painter Jackson Pollock. It stars Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Jennifer Connelly (the gorgeous Blood Diamond-girl), Robert Knott, Bud Cort, Molly Regan and Sada Thompson, and was directed by Ed Harris. Yeah, you’ve probably watched this one once or twice already. But that’s cool. It’s that good. And, unlike books, which take, like, forever to finish, a film is so much pleasure delivered in so little time.

4. Making eyes

Margaret D. H. Keane (born Peggy Doris Hawkins; September 15, 1927) is an American artist – creator of the “big eyed waifs,” which feature children with large eyes. Keane is famous for drawing paintings with big eyes and mainly paints women, children, and animals in oil or mixed media.

Big Eyes is a 2014 American biographical film directed by Tim Burton, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. The film is about the life of American artist Margaret Keane. It tells the story of Margaret and her husband, Walter Keane, who took credit for Margaret’s phenomenally successful and popular paintings in the 1950s and 1960s, and the lawsuit between Margaret and Walter (after Margaret reveals she is the real artist behind the big eyes paintings).

5. Korea calling

Jang Seung-eop (1843–1897) (commonly known by his pen name Owon), was a painter of the late Joseon Dynasty in Korea. His life was dramatized in the award-winning 2002 film Chi-hwa-seon directed by Im Kwon-taek. He was one of the few painters to hold a position of rank in the Joseon court.

Together with the earlier painters Danwon and Hyewon, Owon is remembered today as one of the “Three Wons” of Joseon-period painting.

History lesson

Also known as Chosn, Choson,Chosun, the Kingdom of Joseon was a Korean kingdom founded by Yi Seonggye that lasted for approximately five centuries, from July 1392 to October 1897. Joseon was the last dynasty of Korea and its longest-ruling Confucian dynasty.

During its reign, Joseon encouraged the entrenchment of Chinese Confucian ideals and doctrines in Korean society. Buddhism was accordingly discouraged and occasionally faced persecutions by the dynasty. Joseon consolidated its effective rule over the territory of current Korea and saw the height of classical Korean culture, trade, science, literature, and technology.

The Joseon period has left a substantial legacy to modern Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and the modern Korean language and its dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon. And that’s a wrap. Thanks everybody.

Previous Editions:

Update: We have compiled the entire series of blog posts on The Art of Talking About Art in one place. To read other editions of the series, click here.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.


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