Simon Schama on Picasso, Van Gogh, and other famous artists

This video is about Pablo Picasso’s most famous work Guernica.

So named to express his abhorrence about the German terror bombing bombing of the town on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.

Set to the music of Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto De Aranjuez.

From Art for a Change blog in the USA:

Simon Schama’s, The Power of Art

The Power of Art, an engrossing series that takes a close-up look at the life and times of eight master artists, begins its series premiere tonight on PBS (Monday, June 18th, 2007.)

Created by fêted art historian and author, Simon Schama, the broadcasts focus on Mark Rothko, Jacques-Louis David, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Rembrandt van Rijn, Caravaggio [see also here and here and here], Vincent van Gogh, J.M.W. Turner, and Pablo Picasso.

In Schama’s own words, “This is not a series about things that hang on walls; it is not about decor or prettiness, it is a series about the force, the need, the passion of art – the power of art.”

Each one-hour episode examines a masterwork produced by the segment’s featured artist through Schama’s narrative, dramatic recreations, use of historic films and still photos, as well as images of the artist’s works. Tonight’s premiere begins at 9:00 p.m. ET with the story of Vincent van Gogh, followed immediately at 10:00 p.m. by the chronicle of Pablo Picasso. Successive episodes will run each Monday evening through July, 30th, 2007.

Schama’s telling of Picasso’s history begins with one of my favorite anecdotes regarding the radical Spanish painter. The broadcast starts at the artist’s Paris studio in 1941 during the Nazi occupation, just as the fascist secret police conduct a raid on the artist’s Left Bank apartment. While rummaging through Picasso’s things, a Gestapo officer sees a reproduction of the artist’s famous work, Guernica, and asks “Did you do this?” Picasso replied, “No, you did.”

But Simon Schama’s telltale history of Picasso’s famous mural doesn’t play it safe – the history of the Guernica painting is updated to reflect current realities.

The segment ends with Schama reminding us that in 2003, just prior to the American invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials arranged to cover the tapestry version of Guernica hanging in the United Nations so as not to conflict with the pro-war speech given by then secretary of state, Colin L. Powell.

Ironically, on the very day of Mr. Powell’s misleading and transparent UN address advocating war against Iraq, I wrote about the concealing of Picasso’s Guernica:

“The censoring of Picasso’s mural is illustrative of art’s immense power. It is a civilizing force that erases national boundaries and strengthens human solidarity. In particular Picasso’s masterwork continues to aim a laser beam focus on the madness and inhumanity of war, a message that transcends the barbarity suffered by a small Basque village in 1937.

As Picasso himself once said, ‘Art is a lie that tells the truth.’ The artist’s profound mural still speaks the truth to the people of the world, so much so that the powerful feel compelled to censor it.”

4 thoughts on “Simon Schama on Picasso, Van Gogh, and other famous artists

  1. Rome gathers Bernini’s paintings

    Lesser- known aspect of Baroque genius celebrated in new show

    (ANSA) – Rome, October 17 – The less familiar side of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s genius – his skill with the painter’s brush – is being celebrated in a show opening Thursday at the National Gallery of Ancient Art.

    Bernini (1598-1680) first rose to prominence as a sculptor but, like his predecessor Michelangelo, his talent extended to painting and architecture. The general public is mainly familiar with his work at the Vatican, where as chief architect he designed St. Peter’s square and the surrounding colonnade. He is also credited with shaping Rome into a Baroque city by sprinkling it with a number of churches and fountains, including the Triton fountain in Piazza Barberini and the spectacular Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona.

    But Bernini was also an exceptional portrait artist and this aspect is highlighted in the exhibit at Palazzo Barberini which brings together 30 paintings and drawings and a single sculpture which is closely linked to the artist’s personal life.

    The marble bust of his lover Costanza Bonarelli is also notable in that it is the only portrait Bernini ever produced without a commission.

    British art critic Jonathan Jones has said that the bust captures Costanza “mid-glance, mid-conversation, perhaps before or after sex”.

    Bernini’s four authenticated self-portraits, including one that has not been displayed for several decades, feature in the opening section of the exhibit.

    Another three portraits of the artist – not believed to be by the master’s hand – will also flank the others, curator Tomaso Montanari said. These are thought to be copies of lost portraits or possibly painted by Bernini’s pupils under his direction.

    The show is divided into three thematic areas – self-portaits, portraits and sacred art – but these will be further organised into sub-sections which delve into Bernini’s relationship with his pupils, his patrons and his interpretation of the sacred.

    Bernini, born in 1598, spent his formative years learning his craft from his father Pietro, a Florentine sculptor and minor artist who moved to Rome.

    Gian Lorenzo was considered something of a prodigy and by the age of 20 had come to the attention of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a member of the reigning papal family, under whose patronage he carved his first important life-sized sculptural groups.

    By the age of 26, Bernini had been chosen by Pope Urban VIII to work on St. Peter’s tomb inside the basilica in Rome.

    Although some critics categorize the towering Baldacchino (as the Canopy is known) as sculpture, the majority view it as Bernini’s first major work of architecture.

    In his 1998 book, Bernini And The Art Of Architecture, art history professor Tod Marder wrote: “He considered himself an architect and a sculptor. He is the first artist in the history of Western European art to bring these different media – architecture, sculpture and painting – together, to the extent that their very definitions become blurred”.

    This ability to synthesize architecture, sculpture and painting is known as a ‘bel composto’ or beautiful whole, a term first coined by the artist’s son, Domenico, in his biography of Gian Lorenzo.

    The show at Palazzo Barberini opens on October 19 and runs until January 20.


  2. 2008-11-28 15:14
    Caravaggio created firefly ‘photos’
    Traces of photosensitive substances found on his works
    (ANSA) – Rome, November 28 – Caravaggio’s reputation for revolutionary artistic genius has received a further boost following the discovery he may have used fireflies to create primitive ”photographs”.

    Roberta Lapucci, conservation chief at the Florence-based SACI institute, believes the baroque artist created a firefly powder as an essential tool after converting his entire studio into a kind of camera obscura. Writing in the monthly art journal Stile Arte, Lapucci reports Caravaggio filtered light through a purpose-made hole in his ceiling, using a biconvex lens and a concave mirror to reflect the image he planned to paint directly onto the canvas.

    The use of a camera obscura to sketch the subject was not a new technique among artists, having gained prominence thanks to Leonardo da Vinci’s writings. The device works by projecting reverse images of outside objects onto the flat wall of a closed box through a lens in an aperture. By attaching a mirror to the apparatus, artists were able to trace the exact dimensions of the image onto a piece of paper.

    Caravaggio spent months refining his technique, adjusting the light and the size of the models. However, by turning his entire room into a camera obscura, Caravaggio found himself working in the dark.

    Lapucci believes this led him to create his own version of a distilled and dried firefly powder, first written about by the natural philosopher Giovan Battista della Porta in his 1558 work Magiae Naturalis.

    Analysing the content of Caravaggio’s paintings, Lapucci discovered traces of photosensitive substances that react to light.

    She believes the master used a compound of white lead and firefly powder that allowed him to work in the dark, producing an outline on the canvas of the camera obscura image. This produced a short-lived, fluorescent image, similar to a photograph, which he was then able to convert into a permanent sketch that formed the basis of the eventual painting. The many techniques pioneered by Caravaggio (1573-1610) have confirmed his reputation as one of the most revolutionary artist of his time, although he is probably best known for his mastery of chiaroscuro lighting.

    He abandoned the Renaissance focus on the human body and spiritual experiences for more realistic and dramatic atmospheres, mixing street characters with religious subjects.


  3. Pingback: William Turner, Slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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