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Art of the Western World
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Immediately this DVD set brought back my own personal art history experience of 1960s undergraduate art major days. I discovered this series is closely related to a text "History of Art" by H. W. Janson. That university art history text has been preserved by me now for 43 years and was consulted while viewing this DVD set. A Coordinating Producer for the "Art of the Western World" PBS documentary was Gail Janson. I suspect a connection, book-series. Film is an enhanced way to see a sculpture (all sides), painting (zoom), or architecture (interior and out)-- betters textbook photos.
Episodes are each almost an hour, SUBTITLED, and follow Parts and Chapters of the mentioned "History of Art" text. Text locations indicated in ( ).
1: The Classical Ideal
Greek & Roman impact on the world to follow. (Part 1 Chap. 5,7)
2 A white Garment of Churches: Romanesque and Gothic Art
Pilgrimage, cathedrals & monks manuscripts to Gothic flying buttresses & pointed arches. (Pt 2 Ch 3-4)
3 The Early Renaissance
Florence to Flemish oils (Pt 3 Ch 2)
4 The High Renaissance
Papal patronage & Venice; Leonardo & Michelangelo (Pt 3 Ch 3)
5 Realms of Light: the Baroque
First in Rome, then Austria & Germany; church & royalty; Rubens to Rembrandt (Pt 3 Ch 6-8)
6 An Age of Reason, an Age of Passion
Picturesque landscape & architecture; Rococo; neoclassicism; Romanticism (Pt 4 Ch 1)
7 A Fresh View: Impressionism and Postimpressionism
Manet Monet Degas Renoir, Van Gogh ... (Pt 4 Ch 2-3)
8 Into the 20th Century
Klimt Matisse Picasso Mondrian Frank Lloyd Wright... (Pt 4 Ch 4-5)
9 In Our Own Time
Post-modern Pollock to Warhol to women (text was prior to this time)
Bonus: viewers guide with more interesting information, related to but not repeating the DVDs
Text bios of Michael Wood and major artists; disc 1 Kritias & Nesiotes, Gislebertus, Filippo Brunelleschi, Jan van Eyck; disc 2 Leonardo, Andrea Palladio, Caravaggio, Jacques-Louis David; disc 3 Manet, Picasso, Corbusier, Pollock.
I strongly recommend this to the visual art enthusiast, educator, student, and patron. Regardless of prior knowledge, you will be enlightened, entertained, and enraptured with this intellectual collection. Also take a look at another fantastic art DVD set "Every Picture Tells A Story".
Consider H.W. Janson's "History of Art" text to read while watching PBS's "Art of the Western World."
Wonderful commentary by leading art historians also add to the production.
I was very pleased this was made available on DVD. It has been freely available as a low resolution broadcast on the internet but it's nice to see the full glory of the new digital transfer. It may look dated due to the use of film initially,but it was an exceptional production.
Moreover, even though historian Michael Wood narrates all nine, each episode gives considerable time to individual art historians of particular periods and artists. So, for example, in episode 7, "Impressionism and Postimpressionism", one art historian gives a wonderfully accessible yet deeply informed commentary on Courbet, Manet and the Impressionists. And then another art historian takes over for the Postimpressionists, and gives a less accessible art jargon filled commentary.
In addition, some episodes try to cover too much and therefore move quickly, while others such as the one on the Baroque, the focus is kept on seven artists: Pietro di Cortona, Borromini, Bernini, Caravaggio, Velazquez, Rubens and Rembrandt, giving lots of screen time to the paintings themselves, something I really appreciated.
And finally, the production values seem really dated, even though it is from the late 1980s. The production notes say they filmed in 150 locations in eight countries, at considerable cost. And yet that is woven with other grainy stock footage of scenery.
All in all, though, it was worth watching, and the price is reasonable.
This second episode focuses on the cathedrals and churches constructed in Europe from the tenth century (Romanesque period) to the High Gothic period. It shows how the Middle Age architects used the Roman principles of architecture and engineering, and how they refined Roman building techniques, to create the extraordinary cathedrals and churches of the Middle Ages. This episode not only focuses on the cathedrals of France and Spain, but, also on the Norman spread of Romanesque architecture to England. In appreciating this episode, it helps to have viewed the first episode in the series: The Classical Ideal, but, it is not necessary to view the first episode in order to appreciate this one.
The episode focuses on the development of the High Gothic cathedrals in Chartres and St. Deny (in France) and the perfection of the High Gothic cathedrals in England after the Norman conquest.
The series then continues, in the next episode, to show the extraordinary contributions that Italian artists made to art and architecture during the Early Renaissance period. The Early Renaissance
I really enjoyed watching this series. I own the DVD set, but, found that Amazon's digital download provides better resolution for HD tv's than a progressive scan image from the 1989 DVD set. Art of the Western World
Michael Wood (see below) has taken a unique approach to art history in this program. Instead of telling a story of art with arcane analysis, he presents a series of presentations by art experts that explain Western Art, from the Greeks to present day, in the context of the historical realities in which the Art developed.
This series follows a companion book of the same title (although the book is not necessary for viewing the DVD). ART OF THE WESTERN WORLD From Ancient Greece to Post Modernism
I highly recommend this series as an excellent overview of Art History in the West that allows us to understand, not only Art, but, its origins.
For those of us who have viewed Michael Wood's documentaries, he needs no introduction. For those of us who haven't, here is a brief summary: Wood has produced over 100 documentaries in this thirty year career as a journalist, scholar and broadcaster. Each of them brings history alive. Much of his focus, in his documentaries, is on dispelling myths and misconceptions about history. His documentaries are scholarly, yet fascinating to even the average viewer. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Society of Arts and the Society of Antiquaries. He is a governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a Pro- Chancellor of the University of Staffordshire.
Trivia: Wood's charismatic presence on the screen and his looks are appealing especially to women. He was humorously dubbed "the thinking woman's crumpet" by British newspapers.