Like dance, music and theatre, cinema is, at least some of the time, an art form. While you might not catch too many reviewers labelling the latest Chipmunks movie a work of artistic genius, there are countless films that have enjoyed just as much critical acclaim for the quality of their craft as a painting or sculpture in a gallery. In many ways this makes perfect sense. After all, painting and drawing led to the development of photography, which in turn brought about cinema – which, when you think about it, makes Rembrandt one of the grandfathers of modern cinema..
But what about when filmmakers turn their cameras back on the world of art? How easy is it to convey the unique pressures and passions of being a painter or sculptor? And how many filmmakers have truly done the subject justice? We took a look at some of the greatest art-themed films of the past few decades, and compiled a list that covers eight must-see movies.
Mr. Turner (2014)
Much-loved British thespian Timothy Spall won Best Actor at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his turn in this biopic from Mike Leigh. Mr. Turner focuses upon the last 25 years of the life of J. M. W. Turner, the English painter who was most famous for his impressionistic, stormy seascapes. A lot of the drama here stems from Turner’s relationships with his lovesick housekeeper and his landlady, but the film is unmissable for its exquisite take on the painter’s passion for his art. In one memorable sequence, Turner has himself lashed to a ship’s mast during a snowstorm so he can paint the scene. As well as being a true story, it’s also an excellent piece of cinema.
He may have been most famous for his distinctive style (vast canvases spattered liberally with streaks of paint), but Jackson Pollock was also notorious in the art world for his difficult personality and life-long battles with alcoholism and mental illness. In his famed drama Pollock, director and star Ed Harris does a brave and compelling job of depicting this challenging, talented man and the tragically short life that he led (Pollock died aged 44 in a car accident).
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
You’ve probably heard of the film My Left Foot, for which Daniel Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar in 1990. What you might not know is that it follows the true story of talented artist Christy Brown, an Irish man born with cerebral palsy who only had control of one foot. Undeterred by this disadvantage, Brown slowly developed the use of his left foot and began painting with it. The film is worth seeing just for the performances of Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker, who plays his mother.
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
If you want to go a little old school, you could do a lot worse than the big screen adaptation of Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. The film stars Charlton Heston as world-famous painter and sculptor Michelangelo, who is commissioned to paint the interior of the Sistine Chapel by Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). The film lost money upon its release and didn’t win any major awards, but it is enjoyable viewing for anyone who has ever marvelled at the wonderful artworks inside the Vatican.
Salma Hayek gives one of her best performances in the 2002 biopic Frida. Directed by Julie Taymor, the film focuses on two key aspects of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s life; her troubled marriage to mural painter Diego Rivera, and the crippling pain she suffered after a serious accident at the age of 18. Upon release, Taymor’s film was widely praised for its striking visuals and the strong central performances of Hayek and Alfred Molina, who plays Rivera.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Though well known, this 2003 film probably isn’t quite as famous as the painting which inspired it. Girl with a Pearl Earring follows the exploits of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and his interactions with a young girl (Scarlett Johansson) who becomes the inspiration for his most famous painting. Though fictional, the film is a must-see for art fans, because of the way it so tenderly depicts the relationship between the artist and his muse.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
This film got everyone talking when it came out, largely because no one could decide whether or not it was real or just a Banksy hoax. Exit Through the Gift Shop follows the story of Thierry Guetta, a French man living in LA who is obsessed with street art. Guetta keeps a video diary of his daily exploits and, soon enough, comes into contact with the notoriously secretive artist Banksy. The two become friends and Banksy helps Guetta develop his own art career – all the while staying anonymous on the other side of the camera. Whether or not you believe that the documentary is real or not, it’s hard not to enjoy the visuals, energy and bravado on display here.
Lust for Life (1956)
If you’re a Vincent van Gogh fan, then this is the film for you. Lust for Life is based upon a novel of the same name by Irving Stone (the same man who wrote The Agony and the Ecstasy) and is possibly the most famous art biopic in cinematic history. It stars Kirk Douglas as the famously troubled Van Gogh, and was shot in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Critics praised its use of colour, along with the central performances – in fact, Anthony Quinn, who played Van Gogh’s friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin, won an Oscar for his portrayal.
If any of those films have got you in the artistic mood, don’t forget that you can turn your home into your own private gallery of photos, prints and film posters with the help of EzeFrame. We offer a whole range of affordable, custom-built frames and mounts (including multi aperture picture frames), and what’s more – you can order everything online. Presenting art has never been this easy!