Simon Schama's Power of Art

Watch Simon Schama's Power of Art

  • 2006
  • 1 Season
  • 8.5  (1,139)

Simon Schama's Power of Art is an impressive and enlightening documentary series from the BBC, starring Simon Schama, Allan Corduner, and Paul Popplewell. The series first premiered in 2006 and has since become a landmark cultural documentary, delving into the life and work of some of the most renowned artists of all time.

Each episode of Power of Art features an in-depth exploration of a particular artist, focusing on one of their most famous masterpieces. Through expert analysis, historical context, and interviews with contemporary artists, Schama brings each piece to life, revealing its impact on the world of art and the artist's own personal journey.

The series covers a range of artists from an array of mediums and styles, including such famous names as Caravaggio, Bernini, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko. Each episode guides the viewer through the artistic process from inspiration to creation, highlighting the underlying motives, themes, and techniques.

In the first episode, Schama explores the life and work of Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio, known for his dramatic use of light and shadow. Through interviews with historians, artists, and art enthusiasts, Schama uncovers Caravaggio's complicated personal life and the vibrant, sometimes scandalous, society of 17th-century Rome. Schama also delves into the technical nuances of Caravaggio's art, revealing his preference for painting from live models and his use of stark contrasts to elicit emotional reactions.

Another episode focuses on the life and work of romantic painter JMW Turner. Schama takes the viewer on a journey through England's countryside, following Turner's footsteps and tracing the evolution of his style from traditional representational art to more abstract and emotive forms. Along the way, Schama uncovers Turner's deep-rooted love for the natural world and the way he channeled that passion into his art.

Whether it's exploring the emotional intensity of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" or the political messages encoded in Picasso's "Guernica," Schama's approach to art analysis is both academic and deeply personal. His passion for the subject is evident in his enthusiastic delivery, and his insights are both accessible and enlightening.

The show does not shy away from the darker aspects of art history, including an episode on Vincent Van Gogh's struggles with mental illness and another on Mark Rothko's untimely death by suicide. While not sensationalizing these tragic realities, Schama acknowledges that they are often intertwined with the artistic process, informing and shaping the work in profound ways.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Power of Art is the way it blends detailed analysis with broad cultural context. Schama seamlessly weaves historical events, social mores, and even contemporary popular culture into each episode, making the art feel alive and relevant in a way that is sometimes lacking in more traditional art documentaries.

The show's production values are also top-notch, with breathtaking cinematography that captures the beauty and complexity of each artwork. The soundtrack is equally impressive, with a score that complements and enhances the emotional tenor of each piece.

Overall, Simon Schama's Power of Art is a must-see for any art lover or cultural enthusiast. It offers a fascinating, informative, and deeply personal look at some of the most significant works of art in history, and the talented artists who created them.

Simon Schama's Power of Art is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (8 episodes). The series first aired on October 19, 2006.

Simon Schama's Power of Art
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8. Rothko
December 7, 2006
Do paintings need to have human forms in them to represent humanity? Mark Rothko didn't think so. In fact, he felt the people in paintings got in the way and that connection should be through a completely new language. He certainly achieved this with his masterful Seagram murals, a commission that was never delivered. Art historian Simon Schama tries to make sense of Rothko's vision.
7. Picasso
November 30, 2006
You can almost feel the anger, the shock and the sheer disbelief pouring off the canvas of Picasso's Guernica. Painted with ordinary house paints mainly in black and white, it's the artist's furious response to the Nazi bombing of civilians. It became a sensation, touring the world and bringing the Spanish Civil War to global attention. Art historian Simon Schama digs into this masterpiece.
Van Gogh
6. Van Gogh
November 23, 2006
It may have been his final painting. Certainly it was created in the last days of his life. But how much can be read into Van Gogh's masterpiece, Wheat Field with Crows? He wrote of feeling like a bird trapped in a cage. But the painting also harnesses the rush of life that so many of his later works possessed. Art expert Simon Schama weighs up the despair and triumph contained in the painting.
5. Turner
November 16, 2006
JMW Turner painted from the heart. Though his paintings, both the technique and subject matter, often confounded critics, the sheer passion and quality of his work meant it could never be ignored. One of his most powerful works, The Slave Ship, was supposed to highlight American hypocrisy towards slavery, but instead portrayed British barbarism. Simon Schama recounts its creation and criticism.
4. David
November 9, 2006
Jacques Louis David's Death of Marat is the defining image of the French Revolution. But for decades it was hidden away, ignored and almost feared. The painting was unsaleable and the painter reviled. What made this brutal work so dangerous? And where does art end and propaganda begin? Acclaimed art historian Simon Schama tells the story of an artist, an artwork and a bloody revolution.
3. Rembrandt
November 2, 2006
Rembrandt needed a break. His career was on the skids, but a new, important commission was set to redeem him. The painting that became known as Claudius Civilis was supposed to be triumphant, but instead the painter made it ugly and vindictive. It practically ended his career, and the canvas was destroyed by Rembrandt's own hand. Art expert Simon Schama tries to unravel the mystery behind it.
2. Bernini
October 26, 2006
The meeting of Heaven and Earth is illustrated by what can only be described as orgasmic bliss. For centuries, many tried to ignore the obvious sensual overtones of Bernini's masterpiece, The Ecstasy of St Theresa. But one glimpse of the sculpture, and in particular the sainted nun's facial expression, gives the game away. Art expert Simon Schama explores this wild mixture of sex and the sacred.
1. Caravaggio
October 19, 2006
Caravaggio didn't just confine drama to his remarkable, shadowy masterpieces. His whole life was drama. He spent years on the run after killing someone during a duel, trying to paint his way out of trouble. And this passion for life spills out on to the canvas in his spellbinding, breathtaking works. Art expert Simon Schama explains how the great man changed the way the divine was witnessed.
Where to Watch Simon Schama's Power of Art
Simon Schama's Power of Art is available for streaming on the BBC Select website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Simon Schama's Power of Art on demand at Apple TV Channels and Amazon Prime.
  • Premiere Date
    October 19, 2006
  • IMDB Rating
    8.5  (1,139)