Artists on Film: Films on Artists

Film has always had a complex relationship with art. On the one hand films are moving pictures. On the other they present a narrative. In this mini-season we explore how filmmakers have presented the lives and works of artists with a combination of fiction and documentary films from across Europe and covering a wide range of painters and styles.

Rembrandt’s J’Accuse

Peter Greenaway | Netherlands/Germany/Finland | 2008 | 86 minutes

In this unusual documentary Peter Greenaway subjects Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (which he had earlier made a fiction film about) to rigorous analysis and suggests that the 34 characters within it are conspirators in the crime of murder.

Goya – or the Hard Way to Enlightenment/Goya – oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis

Konrad Wolf | East Germany | 1971 | 136 minutes

As a painter in the court of King Carlos IV, Goya has attained wealth and reputation. He believes in King and Church, but also dearly loves the Spanish people, a combination that puts him in an awkward position. Based on the biography by Lion Feuchtwanger.


Giorgi Shengelaya | USSR | 1969 | 105 minutes

A biopic about the life of the Georgian naïve artist Nico Pirosmani, with director Shengelaya modelling many of his shots on the artist’s paintings.

Edvard Munch

Peter Watkins | Sweden/Norway | 1974 | 210 minutes

Peter Watkins’s biopic, made for Scandinavian television and later shown theatrically, spans approximately ten years in Munch’s life, as he developed the style that would later become known as Expressionism.

NB: On account of the film’s length, this screening will start at 6:30 rather than 7pm.

The Mystery of Picasso/Le mystère Picasso

Henri-Georges Clouzot | France | 1956 | 78 minutes

In this illuminating documentary director Henri-George Clouzot films Pablo Picasso as he paints a number of canvases for the camera.

Francis Bacon’s Arena

Adam Low | UK | 2006 | 95 minutes

Profile of artist Francis Bacon, the scandalously decadent figure with a well-documented penchant for alcohol and addiction to roulette, whose paintings are among the most vivid and disturbing in art history. The creator of Screaming Popes and numerous images of apocalyptic horror, he was renowned as England’s first rebel superstar by the 1950s. The film charts the committed relationships he held with six contrasting men, including the tragic tale of his lover George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist’s Paris retrospective in 1971. Featuring contributions from Bacon’s sister Ianthe Knott, relatives of his lovers, critics and collectors, as well as archive footage of the man himself.