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Series: Power of Art
Caravaggio's approach to painting was unconventional. He avoided the standard method of making copies of old sculptures and instead took the more direct approach of painting directly onto canvas without drawing first. He also used people from the street as his models. His dramatic painting was enhanced with intense and theatrical lighting. Caravaggio's fate was sealed when he killed a man in a duel in 1606. He fled to Naples where he attempted to paint his way out of trouble, he became a Knight, but was then imprisoned in Malta and then finally moved to Sicily. He was pardoned for murder in 1610, but died of a fever when attempting to return to Rome. For me the power of Caravaggio's art is the power of truth, not least the truth about ourselves. If we are ever to hope for redemption we have to start from the recognition that the Goliath competes with the David in all of us."
Born in Naples, Bernini was an exceptional talent from an early age and went on to dominate the art world of 17th century Rome. His work epitomised the Baroque style and his sculpture, church interiors and exteriors and town planning could be seen everywhere. Bernini worked under successive Popes; Pope Gregory XV made him a knight and Pope Urban VIII made him as his best friend. He was revered in his time until a jealous rage caused him to have the face of his mistress slashed after discovering her romance with his brother. His reputation fell further after his bell towers for the Cathedral of St Peter's started cracking in 1641. He redeemed himself and kick started his career again with what is arguably his most famous work, The Ecstasy of St Theresa, in 1652.
Rembrandt's success in his early years was as a portrait painter to the rich denizens of Amsterdam at a time when the city was being transformed from a small nondescript port into the economic capital of the world. His historical and religious paintings also gave him wide acclaim. Despite being known as a portrait painter Rembrandt used his talent to push the boundaries of painting. This direction made him unpopular in the later years of his career as he shifted from being the talk of the town to becoming adrift in the Amsterdam art scene and criticised by his peers.
Painting became an important means of communication for David since his face was slashed during a sword fight and his speech became impeded by a benign tumour that developed from the wound, leading him to stammer. He was interested in painting in a new classical style that departed from the frivolity of the Rococo period and reflected the moral and austere climate before the French Revolution. David became closely aligned with the republican government and his work was increasingly used as propaganda with the Death of Marat proving his most controversial work.
One of Britain's most celebrated artists, Turner showed exceptional artistic talent from an early age and entered the Royal Academy aged fourteen. His English landscapes made his name but there was a darker side to his paintings that was difficult for the critics to swallow, both in the increasingly informal use of paint and the subject matter that was critical of the romanticised vision of Britain in the late nineteenth century.
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