Monday, September 20, 2010

New BBC Art Programmes this autumn

This is a round-up of what it appears we can expect in the way of programmes about art on BBC television (BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4) this autumn. 

Those of you can access BBC iPlayer will also hopefully be able to see programmes too - if they're marked up as eligible for iPlayer (and not all are).  Commiserations to those who cannot access the programmes as yet!

I wonder when the BBC is going to learn that some people would like to be able to download and pay for its art programmes without waiting to see if BBC America or other local TV stations decide to  transmit them?

There is one caveat.  I get different results to "what art programmes are coming?" depending on how I access the information - and NONE of them actually provide transmission dates!  Does the BBC have a schedule or not one wonders!

BBC One 

It's so nice to see British watercolours at last getting an airing on television.  Looks like we're in for a bit of a "Grand Tour"
A celebration of the rich yet largely untold story of British watercolour. Focusing especially on the work of amateur travelling painters of the 19th Century, Sheila Hancock will look closely at the technique of watercolour painting and the unique strengths of a portable medium as a means of record in the days before photography.

She will travel through the Lake District and other parts of the UK, and through France and Italy to revel in the beauty of Venice and the Tuscany. Sheila will also concentrate on the paintings of famous artists such as Turner and Constable, whose watercolour works are often overlooked.

This programme will be a celebration of an art form at which amateurs excelled but in which leading artists, who boasted of their prowess in oils, often made their most personal and intimate works – thousands of which, to this day, remain hidden in gallery drawers for Sheila Hancock to unearth.
Interestingly, John Thaw and Sheila Hancock knew and stayed with the lady I first stayed with on a painting holiday.  I'm just wondering whether it has any connection....


Now according to the BBC Two schedules for Arts and Music none of this is actually happening!

Impressionism (working title)  I have a feeling this one is not yet "ready to rumble"

This is a reappraisal of impressionism and all the artists who contributed to the movement by Waldemar Januszczak
Impressionism was a conglomeration of different ambitions and styles. The main players of Impressionism – Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Seurat – were crucially important, but there were 31 artists in the first Impressionism exhibition, 90 per cent of whom subsequently slipped out of sight.

Even critical Impressionists, such as Caillebotte and Guillaumin, who were such prominent exhibitors in the movement, are little understood or appreciated these days. Waldemar will seek to shine a light on these "forgotten" artists. He will also explore the fierce revolutionary relationship that the movement had with science including experiments and examinations of optics, paints and techniques relevant to the time and the artists.

Matthew Collings is leading on this project.  I've begun to notice that exhibitions are beginning to focus on how digital technology can help explain art and it's no surprise that television documentaries would find this connection to be a very suitable topic for a television programme.
Spanning 50 years of Renaissance genius, from the early Renaissance of the 15th Century through to the High Renaissance of the early 16th Century, the episodes look at the artists Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Hieronymus Bosch. 

Using digital technology, the series gives a general audience access to the intricacies of technique and delicate details that are normally only seen by conservation experts or the artists themselves. The technique, known as "image mapping", involves knitting together very high resolution images of small areas of the painting so that the camera can move from a wide-shot of the whole painting to close-ups of tiny details which are not visible to the naked eye. 

These close-ups reveal delicate details of technique and in some cases startling details of imagery which are not even apparent when viewing the paintings in a gallery.

BBC Four

Andrew Graham Dixon doing for Germany what he did last year for SpainThis series is part of BBC Four's Germany season
The Art Of Germany takes an in-depth look at the cultural centres of a 500-year-old legacy that rivalled Italy for artistic brilliance during the Renaissance.

Via the great themes of Germanic art, landscape, folk lore and national identity, it explores some of the greatest artists of all time – Durer, Holbein, Caspar David Friedrich, Otto Dix, Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter – who carved out a unique national style that still endures today.

James Fox tells the remarkable story of Cornwall's unique contribution to British art.
For a period in the 20th century, Cornwall was the home of the avant garde, eclipsing London, Paris and New York, as a group of super-talented individuals sought refuge and inspiration in the West Country.

From painter Kit Wood, who brought the surrealist influences of Twenties Paris, to Barbara Hepworth's Modernist sculptures, James traces Cornwall's evolution to the hub of a new international art movement, and explores its sudden fall after the mid-Sixties.

The Art Of Cornwall also covers the work of artists Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and sculptor Naum Gabo.

It appears that the title and content are not quite in synch as it seems that this series is less about the Portrait OF the artist so much as Self Portrait BY the artist.  However I'm looking forward to this one - they've picked four artists who produced memorable self-portraits and the scope sounds very interesting.
In Portrait Of The Artist, art critic Laura Cumming tracks the evolution of the self-portrait across nearly six centuries, taking in work by Dürer, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Warhol. Along the way she explores the real lives behind great self-portraits and how their mirror gaze has, in turn, changed the way we look at ourselves.

Laura explores the work of leading artists whose self-portraits not only defined the genre but helped change how artists saw themselves and their role in the world.

She also investigates the variety of inspiration behind self-portraiture, discovering paintings that have been created to proclaim an artist's genius, to communicate with family after they've died, and to exorcise evil spirits.

I think this is the programme which connects the portrait (above) to sculpture (below)!

Witty, eclectic and deeply insightful, this single film is a journey through the most enduring subject for world sculpture, a journey that carves a path through politics and religion, the ancient and the modern.  Actor David Thewlis has his head sculpted by three different sculptors, while the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, artist Maggi Hambling and art critic Rachel Johnston discuss art's most enduring preoccupation, ourselves.

I think sculpture is becoming more and more popular with the British public as wer beginning to see more and more of it in our everyday surroundings - such as on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square or Gormley's Angel of the North next to the motorway - and it stopped being associated with boring commemorations of illustious people.

In The Story of British Sculpture, Alastair Sooke reveals three golden ages of British sculpture.....

Alastair explores the true stories behind the creation of some of Britain's most iconic artworks, including the monuments of Westminster Abbey, Nelson's Column, the statue known as Eros in Piccadilly Circus and the Angel of the North.

The Story Of British Sculpture explores the work of sculptors past and present, including some of Britain's greatest artists such as Alfred Gilbert, Jacob Epstein and Barbara Hepworth, who have inspired great modern sculptors like Anthony Caro, Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley, who Sooke interviews in the course of this series.

This one sounds as if it could be mildly amusing as well as interesting.  It remind me of the Pete and Dud's "Dagenham Dialogues"  about nudity in art and how a slip of cunningly placed gauze always seemed to arrive in a certain place.
Stephen reveals how the work of Michelangelo fuelled the infamous "Fig Leaf Campaign" – the greatest cover-up in art history; how Bernini turned censorship into a new form of erotica by replacing the fig leaf with the slipping gauze; and how the ingenious machinations of Rodin brought nudity back into the public eye.

In telling this story, Stephen turns many of our deepest prejudices upside down, showing how the Victorians had a far more sophisticated and mature attitude to sexuality than we do today.
In summary:
  • I love the scope
  • I like the presenters who are good at making art accessible while not down-shifting in intellectual terms 
  • I'm puzzled as to whether all will definitely make it to our screens this autumn (or winter) AND
  • I NOW NEED TO KNOW THE DATES for transmission to make sure I don't miss them!
Do please comment below - or if you wish to, comment on the BBC blog - New programmes on BBC Four this autumn


      Claire said...

      i'm just glad the BBC is planning ANY arts programmes!
      according to an article in the guardian a few weeks ago SkyArts were picking up all the 'cultural' stuff and the article was bewailing the demise of the BBC amid all the cuts...
      btw have you seen this currently on iplayer? it's excellent :)

      Making A Mark said...

      Thanks for that Claire - nice one!

      Matt Jones said...

      Great round-up-exciting programmes. Unfortunately i'm moving to SanFrancisco & i-player doesn't work outside the UK :(

      Felicity Grace said...

      My DH is the one who keeps an eye on the schedules as he likes certain shows and I know from him that it's almost impossible to know what's going on! They seem to muck about with the schedules even when series are part way through. So Thank you Katherine for the heads up, I hope I don't miss the watercolour programme. Things have certainly gone downhill since we only had 4 channels to choose from! ;)

      Robyn Sinclair said...

      There's been such great art programming on BBC in recent times. So much of it I've watched at least twice.

      Very frustrating not having diary dates though. Programmers of course are a secretive lot.

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