Monday, June 22, 2020

Great Paintings of the World with Andrew Marr

Andrew Marr is currently telling the stories behind some of the world's greatest paintings by famous painters on Channel 5. 
works made with almost supernatural skills, fierce passion and extraordinary brainpower
Andrew Marr
The World's Greatest Paintings with Andrew Marr (on Channel 5)

I'd have missed it altogether if "he who must not be bored" hadn't spotted it and asked me if I was watching the series. On which basis I'm assuming a few other people may also not be aware that this series is currently available to view.

I very much recommend the series. Andrew Marr (who describes himself on Twitter as elderly amateur painter and presenter of the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show) is surprisingly good at both telling both the story and indicating his appreciation of the artwork. You also get to find out all sorts of details you never knew before.

How much of it is Marr and how much of it is research by art history experts is unclear - but the programmes certainly have a distinct Marr flavour to them. He's no stooge for the words of others.

It's also great for all those who will never ever get to the Museums in which you can find these paintings on view 

Great Paintings of the World


You can watch on Channel 5 at 6.15pm - 7.05pm on Saturday evening. If using on demand some are different timings e.g. 8.15pm

Paintings covered to date (plus the link to the episode on Channel 5 on Demand) are:
  • Episode 1: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci (The Louvre) - The story of the portrait that attracts eight million onlookers every year, Da Vinci's the Mona Lisa - which didn't become famous until it was stolen in 1911
It’s hard to imagine Simon Schama devoting a programme to the Mona Lisa. Come on, she’s art’s queen of clichés, a tourist magnet drawing crowds to grab selfies. But snobbery be damned, because Andrew Marr opens his series on great paintings by properly examining why this modest portrait – not even his favourite work by Leonardo da Vinci, he says – has become the most recognisable work of art there is.

He does a good job, too, taking us back to the “culturally swaggering” world of Renaissance Florence, where Leonardo was in his 50s by the time he set about painting the young wife of one of his father’s clients. That sideways pose and direct gaze were revolutionary, we gather; the use of “sfumato” blurring around her mouth was the special effect that brought the about-to-smile half-smile to life; and it wasn’t until 1911 that the painting became a global celebrity – by being stolen. (Radio Times)

Screen capture from Radio Times which is devoting an article to each episode (so far)


With the last one I loved the fact he pointed out all the things wrong with the painting! For example - being painted the wrong way round - because the setting sun should have been on the other side of the painting if it was being towed up the River Thames to Rotherhithe (speaks woman who worked this out a long time ago given the fact she is regularly blinded by sun setting in the west at her home in Bow immediately north of Rotherhithe!)


UPDATE: MY APOLOGIES

Below is what I wrote when I thought the series was 10 programmes - but looking back now at Radio Times they've got it listed as a series of 3 programmes.

I'm now wondering if the discontinuity between the press release material I found (see below) and the reality is down to the Pandemic - and the rest will come later?



A new TV series is set to tell the story behind ten of the greatest painting in the world - but according to a new study, only six per cent of adults can correctly identify them. article about the new series (my bold)
PS They definitely had a trailer for the next episode re Picasso at the end of Episode 3 when I watched!!  Plus as you will realise the opening shots all involve the paintings listed below - strongly suggesting more episodes to come

I'll update again if I find out more.


Next week's episode is going to focus on The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso (Tate Britain) - which is, of course all about Guernica and the model for the painting was Dora Maar who was his mistress between 1938 and 1944.

I'm speculating what the remaining seven "iconic paintings" will be. If the introduction to the series is anything to go by I'm expecting

Andrew Marr sat in the basement of L'Orangerie - viewing one of Monet's great paintings of water lilies

I'm absolutely certain one of the future programmes is going to be about Monet's Water Lilies at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris (because of the pics for the series). These paintings absolutely overwhelmed me and filled my eyes with tears the first time I saw them. I was incredibly lucky to see them for the very first time incredibly early one Saturday morning in the late 80s with nobody else in the room. I'd arrived in Paris on the Motorail from Provence (a service which is no longer available!). My visit to the water lilies was followed by a very nice lunch near the L'Orangerie and my driving out to Giverny to visit Monet's garden - and then to Calais for the ferry and back home to London.

A day I will never ever forget - I've got a very clear visual memory of it even now!

Anyway - back to the topic - I very much recommend this series of programmes and suggest you catch up with the first three episodes and then watch the rest. You won't regret it.

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