A Filmmaker's Review: S1: "Great Artists with Tim Marlow" (Amazon Prime)
4/5 - A stunning effort for TV art documentary
This series of documentaries has been on my watchlist for a while now and so, I gave it a watch since believe it or not - I enjoy watching art documentaries. One of the things I like to see in art documentaries is detail into the art and artists with links between the two and how they evolve through the life of the artist. I know this sounds specific but I think that this is the key thing we need in order to start understanding the artist and their work - we need the growth and the links.
There are pros and cons to each and every art documentary ever made (except for "Treasures of the Louvre", there is nothing negative about that art documentary at all and it is my favourite - so please watch it). But this one I had difficulty rating. Initially, I gave it a five, but then I gave it three and then - finally, I settled on four with the attempt of trying to be fair.
This documentary kind of caught me by surprise because not only had I been meaning to watch it for a long time, I had been putting it off for other art documentaries. This is why it gets a four and not a five. This documentary simply didn't excite me when I started reading about it and watching the first episode. Artists, especially of the times of old, are especially exciting and so - the initial view of the documentary must reflect that and it doesn't and that's why a four has been given here.
I feel like this documentary though it didn't initially excite me, should be given a chance because of its pure detail and attention paid to the artist's work. From my key question, it gives an answer and then some and so, earns itself some marks due to its intense concentration on the life and work of the artist, intertwining them and noticing how they formed through the artist's lifetime.
Check it out, episode by episode in short account:
The episode of Giotto is quite surprising because I have read about Giotto and his works and yet, I have never really seen a documentary so good about him. This documentary takes a really good look into the life of the painter and his major works. It is pretty brilliant. Be that as it may, it is very standard and there is nothing special to make the documentary stand out. And though it is informative - it loses a mark for being initially unsurprising and standard.
What do you expect an episode on Leonardo Da Vinci to be like? It was absolutely incredible and has a great amount of research and narrative on the artist. Even though it is a surface-scraper when it comes to Leonardo, there is definitely a sense of entertainment there and the want to portray the story that most people know what but many don't know why or how.
If you've read about the German Artist, Durer you'll know how different he was to the people of his time and I think that this documentary really explores his difference and the way in which he started off a great concept for the Northern Renaissance.
There aren't many ways to make Michelangelo boring and so, there is a great amount of grandeur in this episode in comparison to the others. I feel like most of this grandeur is based on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and not too much on the somewhat boring life of Michelangelo. And though his life may have been boring, this documentary makes learning about him more and more fun by the minute.
One of my favourite artists of all time and a man I have read more than 15 books about, Raphael Santi's episode was a brilliant celebration of his incredible artwork and his scandalous lifestyle. I think his story was slightly surface again, but it works for those who have never really read about Raphael. It provides the right amount of detail in order to cover the life of Raphael in the episode time and yet, it leaves out the more critical information (which I think is correct for a TV series). It's a brilliant celebration of his work and possibly my favourite episode.
Okay, so I've read quite a bit about Titian and the stuff I've read was always incredible. There's so much and so little known about him and so, when I was watching this episode I was paying close attention to the information given to us. I think that the information was not only very clear but it left out the things that aren't known too well out of the want of not confusing the audience. I believe it did a great job with this episode.
I love Bruegel's works. Often satirical and grotesque he's like a funny Gericault. I think that this documentary episode often concentrates on his grotesqueness and so, I believe that this episode does real justice to a man who was an amazing painter and critique of reality. I think that this is truly one of the only critical episodes in the whole series because it is so important to understanding the works of the artist.
8. El Greco
This episode was pretty good but again, it was too structured especially to depict the life and times of El Greco. I think that it would've been better to make more links between the works of El Greco and the time in which he lived and painted. Though, it was a very good account of some of the greatest works by one of the most philosophical painters of the Renaissance. Yes, I liked it, but I think it could've been deeper and less direct and story-like.
Peter Paul Rubens is brilliant. I've read some books on Rubens and have rightly been shocked by his paintings and their gloriousness. He was a brilliant painter and a great critique of some of the greatest colour schemes ever discovered by painters. Rubens was probably one of the most underrated painters of his time and so, I love learning more about him and this documentary episode really does do him justice.
The episode on Velasquez was brilliant because again, he's one of my favourite painters because he is deeply philosophical almost playing mind games with his audience. Some of his paintings are brilliantly and deliciously salacious in their meaning and so, this documentary has really done Velasquez justice when focusing on his cockiness.
Rembrandt is a very, very famous painter and so it is only right that there be a complex, possibly the most complex episode in the series, critique on his work. It is a brilliant account of the scandals and sicknesses, depressions and faults in character committed and enacted by Rembrandt and, as the most famous painter of his own face - Rembrandt shows us every one of these expressions in the documentary.
Famous for painting "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" this episode on Vermeer also discusses the Dutch Golden Age of art and how Vermeer and Rembrandt added to it. Vermeer's works are discussed in grand detail mostly because how ordinary they look but how extraordinary they are. It is a grand scale episode and possibly one of the most critical on religion and the time in which Vermeer lived.
When I was at school, there was a Turner picture in the Barber Fine Art Gallery (which was the art gallery at university) and I used to go to the gallery and just sit there, looking at the Turner image. It was just a simple image of a ship on the sea and this documentary really captures the captivity you get when you see a Turner image. This sense of hypnotism comes over you when you search for the quintessential meaning. The image I'm talking about is right there...