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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Art and Inspiration in the Movies

I find inspiration in many places, but I enjoy time spent with my family in the evenings watching a movie.  As an artist, I especially enjoy movies that inspire me to grow as an artist.  So, I wanted to share with you a collection of my favorite movies that are not only inspiring for the artist, but great for the family as well.  

Local Color is for everyone who dares to dream. A fantastic movie!  

LocalColor Artist and Director, George Gallo, looks back with loving memories on the summer of his defining year as an artist.  The year in this movie is 1974 in the suburb of Port Chester, New York, as a young, talented, but troubled 18 y/o artist "John Talia" befriends a brilliant and elderly alcoholic Russian painter, Nicoli Seroff.  When Nicoli travels to the countryside in Pennsylvania for the summer, he invites John to go with him to teach him how to paint.  Together, these two give each other a priceless gift of respect and friendship.  John learns to see the world through this master's eyes, and the master, Nicoli, learns to see life through the eyes of innocence once again.  This story is based on a real life experience of artist and director, George Gallo, and is one of the best movies I've seen.  I absolutely loved it.


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Devine Entertainment and HBO, put together The Artist's Specials and I have yet to bore of seeing these movies over and over again.  I love them and find them to be funny and inspiring. Even my kids and Big Bear enjoy seeing them over and over again.  I recommend this collection of movies for every artist.  


This collection includes 6 movies, each about a different master artist:

ArtistSpecialsCollection Degas and the Dancer

Mary Cassatt: American Impressionist

Monet: Shadow and Light

Goya: Awakened in a Dream

Rembrandt: Fathers & Sons, and

Winslow Homer: An American Original

Each of these movies will inspire you and you will enjoy them over and over again.  Here are a few trailers from this collection:

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MaidenHeistMovie The Maiden Heist may not necessarily be inspiring for artists like the movies above, but it sure is funny.   My artist friend, Jeremy Lipking, painted the "Maiden" - the painting that is the subject of this movie, and he did a fantastic job.  The painting is beautiful, but then again, so are all of Jeremy's paintings.  Also in this movie is actor, Marcia Gay Harden, a high school friend of Bob's and mine from Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Maryland who we've watched grow and develop as an academy award winning actress over the years.  Who knew, right? 



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PollocktheMovie Pollock. Artist Jackson Pollock revolutionized American painting in the 1940's with his exciting abstract paintings that used dripped and splattered paint on large canvases, very much like Pablo Picasso revolutionized art in the early 20th century.  While Pollock became a heroic figure in the art world, his private life was nothing to envy, and this biography looks at both his professional triumphs and personal tragedies. This movie also stars actor Marcia Gay Harden as Pollock's wife.  Ed Harris plays the part of artist Jackson Pollock.



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Frida Frida.  This movie is a biographical account of the Mexican surrealist pioneer artist Frida Kahlo, who channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage into her work.  Frida Kahlo is visually stunning, not only in portraying her life but in bringing several of her most famous paintings to life on the screen. Salma Hayek performs beautifully in the title role.  Mostly, I believe this film leaves us with an understanding that we can all overcome pain and tragedy in our own life if we pursue what we are passionate about.


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LustforLifeMovie Lust for Life. 1956 Kirk Douglas plays the archetypical tortured but genius artist, Vincent Van Gogh. His obsession with painting, combined with mental illness, propels him through an unhappy life filled with failures and unrewarding relationships. He fails at being a preacher to coal miners; he fails at his relationships with women; and, he ultimately fails at life itself, but Van Gogh earns respect among his fellow painters, especially Paul Gauguin, even though he does not get along with Gauguin or others. He manages to sell one painting in his lifetime. We learn that the one constant good in Van Gogh's life is his brother Theo, who is unwavering in his moral and financial support.  An excellent movie and a must see for everyone.

This is a film so rich in visual imagery (with a Technicolor 'palette' that attempts to recreate Van Gogh's view of his world), that it demands repeated viewings, just to savor the details. From wheat fields 'aflame' in color, to night skies that nearly writhe in waves of darkness, the elemental nature of the artist's vision is spectacularly captured. In experiencing the world through Van Gogh's eyes, the loving, yet uncomprehending concern of his brother, Theo, played by James Donald, and more hedonistic, shallow patronizing, and gradual disgust of fellow artist Paul Gauguin, played by Anthony Quinn, in his Oscar-winning performance, become elemental 'barriers', as well.  

Kirk Douglas never plunged as deeply into a portrayal as he did, in "Lust for Life," and the experience nearly crushed him, as he related in his autobiography, "Ragman's Son."

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VincentandTheo Vincent and Theo.  Another, more recent movie about Vincent Van Gogh (1990), but this one also focuses on his relationship with his brother, Theo. This movie of the life of Van Gogh is good, unfortunately, the script misses the real drama of this important artist's life. But never mind that. The real art of the film is in two achievements:

Altman frames and colors his shots through Vincent's eyes. This is the most sensitive use of the cinematic palette I've seen, and makes the experience singular. Time Roth interprets Van Gogh wonderfully. If you ignore the lines, which are vapid, and concentrate on his being, it's quite nuanced. He is meek in body, but passionate in expression.


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VanGoghBrushwithGenius Van Gogh: A Brush with Genius
.  Dive into the heart of Van Gogh's paintings. For the first time, discover in IMAX the fantastic colors and passionate brushwork of a great genius as they take on a new life before our eyes. Relive Vincent's life journey through his letters, see the places that inspired him, and the paintings. The film retraces the artist's footsteps, leading us through the painter's subject matter and sources of inspiration. From the Netherlands, to Arles, to Saint Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise, we rediscover the places and landscapes that have inspired some of the most essential works in art history. From the dazzling yellow of the cornfields to the deep blue of the sky, the entire palette of one of our most flamboyant painters explodes to light up the screen.


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GeorgiaOKeeffe Georgia O'Keeffe
.  Star-studded movie about the famous artist, Georgia O'Keeffe. Celebrated photographer and art impresario Alfred Steiglitz (Jeremy Irons) is shocked to learn that the extraordinary drawings he has recently discovered were rendered by a woman. Deciding to display the work of then-unknown artist Georgia O’Keeffe (Joan Allen) in his gallery without her knowledge, the fiercely private artist orders him to remove the collection. Once Alfred convinces her to allow him to become her benefactor and to champion her artistry, their relationship evolves as they fall deeply in love. Alfred leaves his wife for Georgia, but soon finds her rising star is poised to eclipse his light. As their relationship suffers, Alfred finds twisted ways to emotionally wound her, including taking a younger lover. Georgia’s search for solace moves her west, where she finds new inspiration for her paintings – and ultimately her own voice – in the New Mexico landscape.

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Modigliani Modigliani.  This is a work of fiction based on real artist Amedeo Modigliani who was a painter and a sculptor.  Andy Garcia stars as the painter Modigliani, an Italian Jew, who has fallen in love with Jeanne, a beautiful Catholic girl. The couple have an illegitimate child, and Jeanne's bigoted parents send the baby to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns. Modigliani is distraught and needs money to rescue and raise his child. The answer arrives in Paris' annual art competition. Prize money and a guaranteed career await the winner. Modigliani and his dearest friend and rival Pablo Picasso believe that competitions are beneath true artists like themselves, but with the welfare of his child on the line, Modigliani signs up. Picasso follows suit and soon Paris is aflutter with excitement over the outcome. 

In real life, Modigliani bounced between France and his native Italy as his ever deteriorating health dictated, the deterioration of his health caused by a life of bad choices. Andy Garcia does an outstanding job playing the part of Modigliani and really throws himself and his years of experience into this role and brings his character to life. Elsa Zylberstein who plays the love in Modigliani's life, Jeanne, does equally as well in telling her characters story.  A great movie.


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GirlwithPearlEarring Girl with a Pearl Earring.  You wouldn't think a movie could look like a Vermeer painting, but Girl with a Pearl Earring is filmed with an amazing range of luminous glows that evoke the Dutch artist's masterworks. Of course, it helps that much of the movie centers on Scarlett Johansson who plays Griet, the maid with the Pearl earring who poses for Vermeer (played by Colin Firth) in his household.  Griet finds herself in a web of jealousy, artistic inspiration, and social machinations. Though the pace is slow, Girl with a Pearl Earring genuinely conveys some sense of this artist's process, as well as offering many chaste yet sensual moments between Firth and Johansson. Also featuring Essie Davis as Vermeer's bitter wife and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) as a wealthy patron with eyes for Griet.  A very good movie about the inspiration for Vermeer's famous painting.

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SurvivingPicasso Surviving Picasso. Directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, the same two who gave us "Howard's End". This story tells of Picasso's (Anthony Hopkins) relationship with his mistress Francoise Gilot (Natasha McElhone), who was the mother to two of Picasso's children. The movie also introduces us to a number of the other women who encircled Picasso's life during the time of their relationship, including Olga Picasso (Jane Lapotaire), Dora Maar (Julianne Moore), Marie-theses Walter(Susannah Harker), and Jacquueline Rogue (Diane Verona), and some of his artist friends, such as Henri Matisse. The movie is an intimate and believable account of Picasso's life right down to details of the artist's paintings and the moments where he is creating his works of art. The producers may have had a great deal of trouble getting any rights to show Picasso's paintings but it doesn't show except for the fact that his more famous works are not illustrated. Great care was taken to show believable works of art as well as the artist's studio and life.


This should keep you busy for a while!

If you want to buy any of these movies, all you have to do is click on the images of the video's above and it will take you directly to Amazon.com where you can get the best price. 

I love a good movie, and curling up with hot cocoa, a blanket, and the kids for movie night is something that Big Bear and I enjoy very much.  

Let me know if you see any of these movies!  Also, if you have any other movies about art or artists that you would like to share, please let me know in the comments below!



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