The World's Greatest Paintings

Watch The World's Greatest Paintings

  • 2020
  • 1 Season

The World's Greatest Paintings is an enlightening art series that allows viewers to discover and appreciate the world's most remarkable paintings with a fresh perspective. The show is produced by BBC Select, a streaming platform that curates thought-provoking documentaries, biographies, and series from around the world.

The show's creators delve into the history of painting and its evolution from ancient times through modern-day. The World's Greatest Paintings is more than just a showcase of famous paintings; it is a voyage through the artistic movements that shaped our world.

Throughout the series, viewers are taken on a journey that explores the artists' methods and techniques, the stories behind their creations, and the social and cultural context in which they were made. The show features commentary from art experts who share their insights on the art and the artists who created them.

The World's Greatest Paintings showcases masterpieces from different periods in history, including the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romanticism. The series takes viewers inside some of the world's most prestigious art galleries such as the Louvre in Paris, The National Gallery in London, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and many others.

The first episode of the series examines the works of the iconic Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci. The episode sheds light on how da Vinci's masterpieces such as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper inspired a new class of artists, fuelling the Italian Renaissance. The episode also goes behind the scenes and explores the techniques used by da Vinci in creating his artworks.

The show's second episode is dedicated to the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer is well known for his meticulous attention to detail in his paintings, and the episode focuses on his most famous painting, 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. The painting is one of the most replicated and reinterpreted artworks in history, and the episode delves into its historical significance and its cultural impact.

The third episode of the series explores the world of the Romanticism movement, which emerged in the late eighteenth century. Romanticism is a broad artistic and intellectual movement that focuses on emotion, individualism, and the celebration of the natural world. The episode familiarizes viewers with three significant romantic painters; Turner, Constable, and Gericault.

The series' fourth episode tells the story of the Spanish Baroque painter, Diego Velazquez. Velazquez was appointed as the official court painter to King Philip IV of Spain, and his artworks became some of the most celebrated and valuable pieces of that period. The series showcases some of his famous works, including 'The Surrender of Breda' and 'Las Embarcaciones'.

The final episode of the series reviews the Pre-Raphaelite movement which emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in England. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of artists that rejected the conventional Victorian art and, instead focused on realism and nature. The episode highlights the works of the most renowned Pre-Raphaelite painters such as John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Overall, The World's Greatest Paintings is an excellent art series that provides a new perspective and appreciation for some of the world's most remarkable paintings. The show's commentary, coupled with stunning visuals and excellent production, provides a comprehensive and engaging tour of art history. The series is a must-watch for anyone who has an appreciation for art and its impact on our world.

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The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
10. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
June 5, 2020
It's a painting so magical that grown men have been said to faint while standing in front of it. The story behind Botticelli's The Birth of Venus is one of a tubby artist and a 15th Century traffic-stopping beauty played out against a backdrop of mind-boggling wealth and religious fanaticism. But over 500 years since its creation, why is this work still so mysterious and compelling?
Ophelia by John Everett Millais
9. Ophelia by John Everett Millais
June 5, 2020
It's one of the most arresting and intriguing visions ever committed to canvas. But the story of John Everett Millais's Ophelia is as dramatic as the Shakespeare heroine portrayed in the picture. This haunting image was once the centerpiece of a radical artistic movement and dismissed by some critics, but is now beloved globally. But how is grave robbing connected to the painting?
The Night Watch by Rembrandt Van Rijn
8. The Night Watch by Rembrandt Van Rijn
June 5, 2020
Nowadays, Rembrandt is considered one of the most masterful painters who ever lived. But after a glittering start to his career, he was buried in a pauper's grave and largely forgotten with his style considered painfully outmoded. How did this great man descend so rapidly, from the heights of his finest, gargantuan work The Night Watch, to the tragedies of poverty and obsolescence?
The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velazquez
7. The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velazquez
June 5, 2020
Seen as a paradigm of female beauty, Velazquez's only nude is considered one of the most erotically charged paintings of any age. In a time when such works were rare, due to the influence of the Inquisition, the painting adorned the secret sin-filled salons of the Spanish elite. But why is it considered so controversial and what drove one woman to attack it with a meat cleaver?
The Hay Wain by John Constable
6. The Hay Wain by John Constable
June 5, 2020
At first glance it appears to be a scene of bucolic splendor. But John Constable's Hay Wain has hidden, radical depths. Now considered one of the most beloved English paintings of all time, it was shunned initially and first found fame in France where it inspired a plethora of young artists. But how is this seemingly serene countryside scene seething with non-conformity?
Waterlilies by Claude Monet
5. Waterlilies by Claude Monet
June 5, 2020
One of the most famous associations in the entire history of art is between Claude Monet and waterlilies. He painted them hundreds of times during the final part of his life. But why was he so obsessed with this singular image? The true tale behind this serene vision of delicate nature reveals deeply personal tragedies, a brutal war and a tormented man with an insatiable passion.
Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso
4. Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso
June 5, 2020
The work, and image, of few artists is so instantly recognizable as Picasso. But what is it about this man that makes his creations so distinctive? Andrew Marr delves into the story behind his harrowing 1937 'barbed-wire face-mask' painting, Weeping Woman, inspired by one of the most heinous war-crimes in history and shot through with the complicated nature of his relationship with women.
The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner
3. The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner
June 5, 2020
This 1838 work by JMW Turner was known as 'my darling' by the British artist who refused to part with it, despite being offered huge sums of money. It was also voted the British nation's favorite painting of all time. So what makes this picture of a ship from the Battle of Trafalgar being towed to the breaker's yard such a potent image and what role did it play in the painter's life?
Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
2. Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
June 5, 2020
The story behind one of the planet's most iconic images is soaked in madness, tragedy and heartbreak. Van Gogh's glorious Sunflowers appear to be an enthusiastic tribute to the wonders of nature and the power of life itself. But the truth is far darker. What torment was the artist, who took his own life soon after the painting's completion, trying to express with this remarkable image?
Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
June 5, 2020
Is it possible for a work of art to be too iconic? That an image is so ubiquitous that it fails to have an impact? If that claim could be made of any painting, then surely it must be Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. But the story behind the work is fascinating, involving radical artistic experimentation, gruesome dissections and one of the most audacious art thefts of the 20th Century.
  • Premiere Date
    June 5, 2020