After all your hard work entertaining, cooking and putting up with varying levels of dysfunction and joy, you’ll surely be in need of a much deserved break. Here’s a list of some of my favourite films about artists, which you may want to watch as an antidote to all the holiday excess. Be prepared to be taken on some passionate and turbulent journeys which explore the transformative power of art, and often seem to end in some form of madness. What is it with art and madness anyway? Not all of these are suitable for children, but some are definitely worth sharing with them. Happy viewing and Happy Holidays!
Waste Land (2010)
A beautiful, touching documentary about Brazilian artist Victor Muniz, and the relationship he develops with the catadores (garbage pickers) of Rio de Janeiro, who become both subjects and participants in his latest project. This documentary is described as uplifting, but it also offers a good dose of realism, making it a very emotional journey. The art he creates with recycled goods is also very cool.
Here’s another beautifully told story about the self-taught French painter Séraphine Louis who lived in poverty, working as a housekeeper by day and painting by night. She definitely had some weird and wonderful ways of collecting her pigments. Her work was accidentally discovered by a German art collector, and through his support, she received some level of success as a naive painter. Sadly, the little voices in her head took over, and Séraphine ended her days in an asylum.
An interesting film about the life of well known surrealist Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. Despite the physical and emotional pain she endures throughout her life, Frida does not go mad. Instead, she paints.
Camille Claudel (1988)
Camille Claudel was a 19th century french sculptor, and Auguste Rodin’s student and mistress. This film focusses on their relationship and Camille’s eventual descent into, well, madness of course. Gorgeous visuals and fabulous acting.
This film is set in the early to mid 17th century, and every shot manages to look breathtakingly beautiful. It chronicles the early life of Artemisia Gentileschi and her struggles to gain recognition as a female artist in a very male-dominated world. She initially learns to paint in the supportive environment of her father’s workshop, and goes on to become a highly respected and successful artist.
Georgia O’Keefe (2009)
The story of American artist Georgia O’Keefe and her rise to fame, as well as her relationship with Alfred Stieglitz who plays an important role in her success. She ends up in New Mexico, where the incredible landscape influences her future work, and whose beauty surely prevents her from going mad.
The artist Jean-Michel Basquiat began his life as a precocious child, whose first foray into art was as a graffiti artist in New York City. His graffiti drew media attention and eventual interest from Andy Warhol and his entourage. This led to a meteoric rise to fame and coupled with a troubled upbringing, was more than he could handle. He eventually dealt with his troubles by committing suicide. Madness wins again.
My Kid Could Paint That (2007)
A documentary which follows the highs and lows of a family coping with their young daughter’s unexpected fame as an abstract artist. We’re talking 4 years old! Highly entertaining and tough to decide if there’s some intervention occurring on the part of the parents, or if this girl is truly a child prodigy, and her parents are just greedy opportunists. No madness here yet, but if the media circus continues and the pressure to create doesn’t ease up, it will surely come.
Love Is The Devil (1998)
This film delves into the dark world of British painter Francis Bacon, and in particular, his relationship with burglar boyfriend, George Dyer. It’s an interesting look at one of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists. Whether or not he’s mad is debatable.
Although I haven’t had a chance to see any of these films they sound promising, so you might want to check them out:
Vincent and Theo (1990)
Goya’s Ghost (2006)
How To Draw A Bunny (2002)
Van Gogh (1991)
Quince Tree Of The Sun (1992)
La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
Edvard Munch (1974)