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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Painting
the Modern Garden
– Monet to Matisse

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2016 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

***1/2

The relationship of Claude Monet’s late water lily paintings to the history of horticulture, along with a few other artists and their gardens – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Tuesday, February 27th

Originally made to coincide with the Royal Academy’s 2016 exhibition of the same name, this basically does what it says on the tin. With Exhibition on Screen’s excellent series of documentaries about art and artists receiving brief cinema outings in recent years, this entry from the back catalogue is given a big screen outing. While the exhibition has long since been and gone, French Impressionist painter Claude Monet is one of those figures from the history of art who is incredibly popular, especially the late garden or water lily paintings, so a documentary about those late paintings ought to be a fairly easy sell.

Those Monet works and the garden he built at his house in Giverny – rented from 1893, owned from 1900 thanks to a loan from his dealer – are very much the spiritual centre of the film, along with Monet’s skill as a horticulturalist, which is explored at quite some length.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Exhibition on Screen:
Klimt & the Kiss

Director – Ali Ray – 2023 – UK – Cert. 12a – 90m

*****

A look at one of the world’s favourite paintings, housed in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, and the wider body of work of the artist who created it – out in UK cinemas on Monday, October 30th for one day only

All lovers of art have their blind spots. That’s partly why we go to exhibitions, to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is one of those images everyone knows, since it’s been widely reproduced as prints, while movie buffs know it from the opening museum sequence of Bad Timing (Nicolas Roeg, 1980) and as a major influence on the visuals of The Thief And The Cobbler (Richard Williams, 1993). Beyond that, however, my knowledge of both Klimt and the painting itself are sparse. This latest entry in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art is therefore most welcome since it proves highly informative about both.

Accompanied by a perfectly judged piano score of sequences of notes rising and falling, it opens on out of focus images of gold surfaces before showing us a detail of the two heads in the painting viewed not, as you might expect, straight on, but from a side angle.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Tokyo Stories

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

*****

Japan generally and Tokyo specifically are viewed through that city’s art and photography – out in UK, Irish and worldwide cinemas on Tuesday, May 23rd

The refreshing thing about this latest entry in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series is that it breaks the mould. Like Vermeer The Greatest Exhibition (David Bickerstaff, 2023), it is centred around a particular art exhibition, in this instance 2022’s Tokyo: Art + Photography show at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. That event sought to give a perspective on the country of Japan generally and the city of Tokyo specifically through its art, both historical and contemporary. The Ashmolean is well-placed to do this, given that it already houses a wide-ranging, historical Japanese collection. Sadly, it means that if this film whets your appetite and makes you want to visit the exhibition, you can’t then do so because it’s been and gone. In a way, though, that’s not so dissimilar from the Vermeer exhibition, which had sold out before the documentary about it appeared.

While the film is swift to acknowledge areas of Japanese culture as diverse as manga (one of the first shots of Tokyo features a giant image of manga and anime favourites Dirty Pair) and traditional Japanese music (a stringed and a woodwind instrument are shown being played by musicians without any explanation or even naming of the instruments), such elements remain largely in the background.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Vermeer
the Greatest Exhibition

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2023 – UK – Cert. PG – 90m

****

A tour around the Rijksmuseum’s current, sold out Closer to Johannes Vermeer exhibition, with comments from museum staff members and an art critic – out in cinemas both in the UK and around the world from Tuesday, April 18th

The latest instalment in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art might be seen as something of a blockbuster: its subject is at once a famous artist and the current unprecedented, likely never to be repeated, comprehensive exhibition of that artist’s work. This allows the film to navigate the painter’s entire career in a chronological journey both through his images and, in a secondary, incidental journey, through the gallery itself. The latter journey is just there, visible but never described. Visitors tends to go to an art gallery to see its contents, or as in this case, a particular exhibition, not the gallery itself.

The blockbuster is the current exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, entitled Closer To Johannes Vermeer, which runs from Friday, February 10th to Sunday, June 4th 2023 and is completely sold out. Vermeer (1632-1675) lived in the Dutch town of Delft, and in his active years as an artist painted only two or three pictures a year.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Mary Cassatt:
Painting
the Modern Woman

Director – Ali Ray – 2023 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

*****

A look at an often overlooked member of the Impressionists, a US-born, female painter and printmaker who moved from Philadelphia to live in France – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Wednesday, March 8th (International Women’s Day)

I had never heard of Mary Cassatt when I came to this documentary. I’m not really sure why not (apart from the obvious reason, the widespread exclusion of numerous women artists from the annals of art history until recently) and feel indebted to this remarkable study for introducing me to her work. It comes as no surprise that the film was produced by Phil Grabsky for his excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art, although what IS a surprise here is that all the interviewees in this instance are women. Nothing at all wrong with that if they have something of value to say, which they clearly do.

One could argue that the piece has a very strong feminist leaning with its emphasis on women being free to live their lives as they choose. It’s tempting to say that one could forget the gender bias here and simply say that all the interviewees have important insights to share and do a good job.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Hopper:
an American Love Story

Director – Phil Grabsky – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

The story of American painter Edward Hopper, and how his artistic career was facilitated by his fellow artist wife Jo – originally out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 18th 2022, now available on home video (see bottom of review)

The latest entry in Grabsky’s generally excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art and artists covers the career of Edward Hopper to tie in with a major Hopper exhibition (Edward Hopper’s New York) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The big (and most welcome) surprise is that it charts not just Hopper’s life and work but also that of fellow artist Josephine Nivison, later his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper, whose career was largely eclipsed by his during his lifetime. To be fair, it doesn’t really go into her life before the point at which she became involved in his.

Hopper was born in 1882 and raised in the Nyack, New York house his parents had built (an enviable state, indicative of their and his time, which must surely influence one’s outlook on life). Religion and church were important to the Hoppers, but theirs was the brand of Christianity unafraid to engage with the outside world which at that time meant vast quantities of books and periodicals; the young Edward acquired a love of books from his avid reader father.… Read the rest