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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Artists' Specials Series


When I find something educational and entertaining, I'll be the first to share it with you here.  After yesterday's post, I had several readers ask about a Winslow Homer movie after a reply I had made to my friend Beth in the comments.  We have a set of movies called The Artists' Specials Series that we have enjoyed time and time again.  Whenever I want inspiration, I pull out one or two of the movies.  I originally saw these specials on HBO about 4 years ago and immediately went online to purchase the movies.  They were that good.  Here are the movies that are in the Artists' Specials Series ... 


Monet, Light & Shadow; 

The story of Claude Monet starts at the very beginning of the Impressionist movement, in 1869. In a small town on the banks of the Seine outside Paris, Monet is experimenting with his revolutionary new painting style. He is passionate about color, light, and nature, and he and his friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir spend long days perfecting their canvasses as shimmering reflections of the local landscapes.

Monet has little success selling his works, but he remains an optimist. He is also very proud and extremely committed to his art, so much so that his rich father cuts him off from his only source of income, a family allowance.   Luckily Monet has a friend in an aspiring young artist Daniel, who is the son of his landlady.   Daniel also has mixed feelings about his own father, who he believes has run off to Avignon to paint.  Monet gradually becomes both a mentor and father-figure in the boy's life, as Daniel will even skip school to accompany Monet on his painting excursions.  This greatly dismays the boy's mother, who has just evicted Monet from the inn with great fanfare, but when Daniel finally learns the truth—that his father has abandoned him—Monet is the only one who can reach through to him.  Though they both feel like giving up, together they see through these difficult times and in doing so they teach each other the importance of holding on to goals and dreams.

54 minutes, Color


Mary Cassatt American Impressionist; 

This story is of American painter Mary Cassatt during her time in Paris in the last century.  She was one of the first female Impressionists and an American.  She became a close friend of the great artist Edgar Degas and this movie tells a tale of how they might have met in Paris.


Cassatt is an intelligent, charming and fiercely independent artist with an orderly life in Paris, until her brother and his wife arrive unexpectedly with their three unruly children. Though at first dreading the presence of the children, Cassatt soon finds herself inspired by them and even uses them as models. Her teenage niece Katherine, who believes that getting married is essential to positioning oneself in society, plays matchmaker between Cassatt and Edgar Degas. Though the match is not meant to be, Cassatt's feminist ideals greatly influence Katherine and change her life forever and for the better. Likewise, the influence of the children softens Cassatt and inspires her to renew stronger contact with her family back home in America

Many of her paintings were influenced by her nieces and nephews and children though she had none of her own.

56 minutes, Color


Degas and the Dancer; 

The story finds the great painter Edgar Degas in a time of crisis following the death of his father.  Saddled with debt and struggling to survive, he derives unexpected inspiration from an aspiring young ballerina named Marie.


Degas helps Marie tap into the incredible talent she doesn't believe she has, especially when compared to her beautiful and confident sister Pauline, who is also a ballerina.  At the same time, Marie convinces Degas to persevere in the face of relentless criticism from the Parisian art establishment.  In the hours they spend together as artist and model, they become friends and confidantes, finding in each other what they most need to move forward and follow their dreams.

I absolutely love this movie, and this one is probably my favorite of them all.

55 minutes, Color


Goya Awakened in a Dream; 

The story opens with young Rosarita helping her mother, Leocadia, find a new home where she can work as a housekeeper. A run-in with the artist Francisco de Goya at the local church turns out to be a blessing. Enchanted by Rosarita's artistic talent, Goya agrees to hire Leocadia.


When Goya turns gravely ill, it is Rosarita who has the most faith. Just when it seems that the great artist no longer has the strength to continue, she convinces him to keep fighting. Recovered and with new found inspiration, Goya begins an ambitious work directly on the walls of his dining room, a series of fourteen works collectively known as The Black Paintings.

55 minutes, Color


Winslow Homer an American Original;

The film is set in 1874, by which time Winslow Homer had seen and recorded enough of the horrors of the Civil War. Leaving the battlefield and his post as illustrator for Harpers' Weekly behind, he is at Houghton Farm to be alone, refocus, and paint. Breathing in the fresh air, he sets up his easel at the nearby river, but he is soon discovered by two young children. The children are fascinated with Homer and his art and he has no choice but to show them his studio, reluctantly.  Homer asks them to be his models. The two youngsters together with Homer eventually share the truth about their lives and what the war has done to their families, and to themselves. Through their ability to share their feelings, and to escape the fear and shadows of the Civil War, all three of them discover that the present has more to offer than the ghosts of their past.

49 minutes, Color


Rembrandt Fathers and Sons.  

The film is set in 1614, when Rembrandt is the portrait painter of choice for Amsterdam's bourgeoisie, thanks in part to his well-connected and beautiful young wife Saskia. However, he soon finds himself caught up in the trials of his young neighbor Samuel, who is locked in a fierce adolescent rebellion against his father, the respected Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel. Samuel refuses to become a scholar like his father, so as a compromise, Rembrandt and the pregnant Saskia, propose that Samuel become a studio apprentice. The arrangement brings an unexpected surprise when Rembrandt learns that the boy's true talent lies in the art of printing.   Through his friendship with Rembrandt, Samuel has found his future vocation and the courage to accept his family heritage. Samuel's struggle reveals to Rembrandt just how much he feels constrained by artistic conventions and leads him to follow his heart and alter the history of painting with his magnificent works.

53 minutes, Color

All of these movies were created for the benefit of children that they might witness the genius that came before them, and inspire them to be great in their lifetime.  Although these movies were created with children in mind, each story depicts how a child influenced the greatness of each master based on what we know of each of the masters, and each movie is a joy to watch as a family.

I fell in love with Degas and laughed out loud at his grappling with a ballet dancer and his assistant.  I was moved by Mary Cassatt's strength and determination to be recognized as a serious impressionist.  I was surprised by the darkness of Goya's work, and I laughed at Monet's attempts to sidestep his landlord so he could paint. 

We even have the movies of the Inventors' Specials and the children love watching them with me too. 


I recommend that anyone who loves the masters, homeschools their children, or just wants some wonderful family movies that also offer a great educational benefit, to get this new box DVD set that is available through Amazon.  Just click on the image above.

You'll enjoy every moment.  Promise.




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