Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Art on BBC iPlayer - January 2015

The only channel on British television which does programmes about art and artists on a regular basis - using people who are credible commentators is the BBC. In other programmes about art that are educational and informative and not just "entertainment".

It's one very big reason why the BBC must remain a public broadcaster and NOT become commercial.

Art documentaries on BBCiPlayer

So - what can be accessed via iPlayer at present? You'd be surprised. The archive includes documentary films going back to the 1960s!
  • First the recent programmes being shown or recently show on BBC. Then at the end, other programmes still available to view via BBC iPlayer.

The Story of Scottish Art

Lachlan Goudie reprises his documentary  about The Story of Scottish Art - in 4 episodes - on BBC4 tonight - starting at 8pm.

See my earlier blog post Art on Television - The Story of Scottish Art for more about this programme
The catalogue of the current exhibition of
Arthur Melville - Adventures in Colour
on display at the Scottish National Gallery
until 17th January 2016
I got my copy as a Christmas present!
Also available on iPlayer right now are:

Art Crime - The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings

Presented by Alistair Sooke

The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings (60 minutes) was broadcast last night and contained more than a few surprises. Such as:
  • art thieves are not specialists - they are career thieves who specialise in robbery and who probably know very little about art - which accounts for why they broke in to the van Gogh Museum and stole the first two paintings in the catalogue and ignored the really valuable ones
  • art theft is not glamorous - forget the Thomas Crown Affair (they don't look like film actors either if they ones appearing in this programme are anything to go by!)
  • thieves are not stealing to order according to the man who set up the specialist unit in the Metropolitan Police
  • thieves like coming in through the roof!
You have 29 days to left to watch it

More about Art Crime soon!

Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia

You have 27 days left to watch Michael Palin's Quest for Artemisia - the story of 17th-century Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi.

I commented on the film in my post Artemisia Gentileschi on BBC4 and iPlayer and provided links to more information about this famous woman artist.

Secrets of the Mona Lisa

You have three days left to watch Secrets of the Mona Lisa (59 minutes)

Andrew Graham-Dixon presented this fascinating programme about how many Mona Lisa paintings da Vinci painted and how many are in the Louvre!
this landmark film uses new evidence to investigate the truth behind her identity and where she lived. It decodes centuries-old documents and uses state-of-the-art technology that could unlock the long-hidden truths of history's most iconic work of art.
It got a lot of publicity when it aired last month. Here are some of the articles about the subject of this documentary

The BBC Archive

The BBC Archive includes a number of programmes about art and artists - but it's not that easy finding them.  They are however typically available for over a year.
They include:



  • Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice (90 minutes) - A look at how mankind's struggle with winter has been reflected in western art throughout the ages, with contributions from Grayson Perry, Will Self, Don McCullin and others. Available for the next 13 days


A good drawing consists of the right mark in the right place according to Maggi Hambling, who compares her life-drawing sessions to a musician practising scales. 


one of the world's most exciting graphic artists, whose drawings still retain their power to fascinate, to amuse and to shock.


We used to think of artists working with paint and brush, or stone and chisel. But the new generation are using radical new methods and tools to produce art. 
Francis Bacon's paintings have been called sick and corrupt. He has also been hailed as the greatest British painter since Turner. 
  • Barbara Hepworth (33 minutes) - A film made in 1961 which examines how Cornish landscapes have influenced Barbara Hepworth's work. She takes us through the planning stages in the creation of her sculptures.


  1. And then there is the USA public TV art programming, current and past available on PBS stations: [crickets chirping] Nada. Zero. Zilch. Unless you are looking for reruns of very old and extremely cheesy "how-to" videos along the lines of Bob Ross style "here's how you paint happy little trees!" :(

  2. Unfortunately the BBC iplayer only works in the UK, unless you download an app like Hola. I'd love to see these programmes.

  3. In the USA our PBS has already gone commercial. They are shown between programs and are supposed to be 'tasteful' and brief. Beside the point! They now have a foot in the door. I blame the people who watch PBS and never bother to contribute money. Everything is so expensive and equipment has to be updated and programming has to be bought. (none of us are willing to give up the British imports) It's only a matter of time before the commercials take over. Another loss.


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