Romantics and Realists Boxed Set / Goya, Whistler, Courbet, Friedrich, Rossetti, Delacroix

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The Great Artists chronicles the lives, times and works of the men whose genius has captivated the art world for generations. Informative and entertaining, the series highlights important events in each artist’s life, explores their stylistic trademarks, and provides detailed explanations of their techniques. The Great Artists also features expert commentary and analyses from leading authorities, art historians and scholars, new location footage and atmospheric re-creat… More >>

Romantics and Realists Boxed Set / Goya, Whistler, Courbet, Friedrich, Rossetti, Delacroix

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  1. Once again Kultur disappoints us with lousey production values. In an area where DVD should shine, the graphic fine arts, we get production values more suited to a tabloid newspaper. Come on Kultur it’s time to shape up.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  2. This set is produced under the name of KULTUR. Well, its sort of pseudo Kultur. The narrative does not follow the illustrations, and the experts comments are really too brief to make a point. They seemed more concerned in getting something on the market than producing something educational.

    Still, it is a good outline or introduction for a beginner. The quality of the pictures is pretty good. After viewing this, where does it get you? You won’t be able to talk about these subjects at a party nor pass any test, But you will have a wide base on which to continue your studies.

    If you are taking your trip, these will not help as they do not disclose where the paintings are on display. If you are a student, there are some tidbits that might add interest to your essay exam.

    Then again, you can put in these CDs, let them run and leave the room. Amazon carries many of these boxed sets, and I have purchased several of them, knowing what they are. I use them as beginning steps of my study.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  3. This box-set comprises six DVDs of fifty minutes each in length and in 4:3 (TV format), covering the lives and works of Delacroix, Rossetti, Friedrich, Goya, Whistler and Courbet. They are the kind of documentaries that you would expect on public service or arts-orientated television channels. They are not sumptuous, but they are professionally produced. They are good examples of general introductions to the artists concerned – the fifty minutes length given to each artist allows for some generous detail to be given to their lives and works – but overall there is preciously little imagination used in the production. The quality of the pictures on the screen is generally good.

    The DVD set boasts four particular features to persuade you to part with your money: –

    1. “All new location footage”: Well, barely. For instance, in Paris we have standard shots of the Paris skyline, interiors of cafes, the Tuileries, the Champs Elysees, but no attempt seems to have been made to track down and film the actual buildings in which these artists lived and worked and displayed the fruit of their labours.

    2. “Recreations and reconstructions”: No, there isn’t really – and thankfully too, since in my opinion these have been the bane of documentaries for the last twenty years, turning them into the dreaded and appalling `docu-drama’ concept. Instead, what we have is standard footage of events such as Napoleonic troops marching, a lonely man walking through Victorian London, wine being poured into a glass, and brushes being washed in water. Many of these are formatted by applying a watercolour wash to the film.

    3. “Studies of the great works”: Yes!

    4. “Commentary and analysis from leading authorities”: Most certainly! And, what is refreshing is that such commentary is clearly enthusiastic and unscripted. These authorities (all British) include three professors of art, four university doctors, and a smattering of artists, art historians, and curators of galleries. It is unfortunate that they are not stood next to the pictures that they refer to when they enthuse about their chosen artists, but are instead filmed in their own homes and offices.

    There is no Simon Schama or Andrew Graham-Dixon declaiming before the paintings, pointing out the features of each painting upon which we should focus; there is no Joseph Koerner or Matthew Collings walking in the footsteps of the artists between town and city, house and gallery. Instead, we have Mike Leighton narrating in a somewhat dull, but clear and objective English accent as if reading from a textbook. The narration is often accompanied by extracts from pieces of classical music (Beethoven, Dvorak, Grieg, Holst, Schubert) that are sometimes appropriate and sometime not.

    There are a small number of factual errors – for example, William Morris’s Kelmscott Manor is in Oxfordshire, not Gloucestershire – and some of the narrative is confusing. For instance, in the programme on Whistler, we are told that on the death of his father in 1849, the family returned to the USA, where Whistler entered the West Point Military Academy for three years before moving to Paris in 1855 and then on to London. There he painted “At the Piano” in 1859, but the `talking head’ (a curator at a Scottish gallery) on the DVD describes its melancholy as being due to Whistler’s recently deceased father! The talking head then confuses things even further by referring to Whistler’s sister as his sister-in-law. But, thankfully, these instances are few-and-far-between. The vast majority of the information relayed to the viewer is factually correct or objectively valid.

    Overall, then, this set is a reasonable introduction to the artists concerned. Of course, we can argue until the cows come home whether this series of six DVDs have chosen the right artists to portray in their Romantics and Realists selection. But there is much to learn about those that have been selected, and some good insights are provided. However, do not expect an overly-vigorous analysis or incisive presentation.
    Rating: 3 / 5

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