Let's start a list of our favorite films about artists and art!


Here are some films about artists and art that I can recommend.  I've included the link to imdb so you can check it out more if you want...


Feature films that are essentially artist biographies:

  1. Frida - starring Selma Hayek as Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter. Released in 2002.
  2. Surviving Picasso - starring Anthony Hopkins as Pablo Picasso. Released in 1996.
  3. Pollock - starring Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock. Released in 2000.
  4. Basquiat - starring Jeffrey Wright as Jean Michel Basquiat. Released in 1996.
  5. My Left Foot - starring Daniel Day Lewis as Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy who paints with his left foot.  Lewis won an Academy Award for this role. Released in 1989.
  6. Lust for Life - starring Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh and Anthony Quinn as Paul Gaugin. Released in 1956.


Beautiful documentaries:

  1. Rivers & Tides - about the work of Andy Goldsworthy, who makes art from nature. A peaceful, beautiful documentary. Released in 2001.
  2. Cave of Forgotten Dreams - 3-D documentary about the oldest known cave art, in southern France. Directed by Werner Herzog. Released in 2010.


Also worth mentioning:

  1. Art School Confidential - quirky film about art school and the contemporary art world. John Malkovich plays a role as an art professor. Made in 2006.


Do you have any others to share?  What are your favorite films/documentaries about artists and art?

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I dont watch a lot of films and rarely see any on TV relating to artists. However, I did see Lust for Life which was amazing.I read more than watch films and the life of Toulouse Lautrec is a fantastic read!

Thanks for this discussion.  I'm going to put the mentioned movies into my Netflix queue if they are available!

The most recent film documentary I watched last week which I found interesting is The Cats of Mirikitani.  I enjoyed learning about this unique man's life journey.

Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Georgia - Great idea to mention books!  I've started a new thread for books about art and artists: http://community.art-is-fun.com/forum/topics/books-about-artists


Susan - The Cats of Mirikitanki sounds really good!  Thanks for mentioning it - I'll keep an eye out for it.


Btw, did anyone see "Work of Art" on Bravo last year?  It was a reality show about artists, produced by Sarah Jessica Parker.  I only caught a few episodes.  Here's a review of the show in Time magazine - http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2008102,00.html

I don't watch much tv, and missed "Work of Art" reality show.  I've never heard of it. 

I watched "My Left Foot" last night and really enjoyed it (Thank you Netflix).

I couldn't put "lust for life" in my Netflix queue because it's only available DVD, so I am ordering it.:)

I spelled The name of the "Cats of" movie wrong...it's Mirikitani.  It is worth the watch.

I just thought of 2 more documentaries:

  • Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? - Someone buys a $5 thrift store painting and later finds out it 'looks like' a Jackson Pollock. Is it really one of his long-lost pieces?  Some art experts say it is, while other say it isn't.  You can read a more thorough synopsis of the documentary on its Wikipedia page.  Released in 2006.
  • My Kid Could Paint That - A documentary about a (then) four-year old girl whose paintings have sold for thousands of dollars each. The big question is: did she create those paintings all by herself, or did she receive any adult 'help'?  Released in 2007.
One of my favorite films is the PBS documentary: The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo, March 2005. Another great PBS series: Landscapes Through Time,  a 13 episode trip through time with historian and artist David Dunlop. He sets up his easel where the artists had set theirs, illustrates their techniques – from choices of primer, brush, and palette – and loosely replicating their efforts. This fantastic show available on Dvd takes viewers on a sweeping historical tour of European and American locations that served as sources of inspiration to some of the world’s most influential artists. It's as close as we will come to being there.

Another PBS series that had a powerful impact on me was Simon Schama's Power of Art. It is available on Dvd and is well worth owning. The Power of Art is a collection of hour-long films on eight seminal artists and their groundbreaking works, which originally aired on British television. This boxed set is as entertaining as it is enlightening, with Schama doing for Western art what, say, Steve Irwin did for Australian natural history. Eight artists are featured--Caravaggio, Bernini, Rembrandt, David, Turner, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rothko--and each portrait of the artist weaves biography and historical context to help explain the true power of his works.

I have been lucky enough to see a number of the works of art explored in this documentary and have been so grateful to have the background of history and a sense of the importance of what was happening when the works were created. There is nothing like it.

Thanks so much for letting us know about these documentaries, Suzanne.  They sound fantastic! 


I think I've seen a big book on Simon Schama's Power of Art at Borders, which was based on the series.  I remember thinking the book looked good, so I can imagine the series must have been good as well.

Yes, there is a book as well. The series is such a powerful experience...it's like you get to be there with the artist, experiencing their point of view. I share the DVDs with my students and friends all the time. Everyone who sees it is blown away by how well it's done. This is why I recommend owning it! Great to revist and to share.

I recently saw the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop about street art / graffiti.  Even though I'm not "into" graffiti, the documentary was well-made and interesting because the focus of the documentary shifted from initially showing how a Frenchman followed and filmed a variety of graffiti artists, culminating in his meeting and friendship with Banksy (probably the most famous street artist in the world), to focusing on the unexpected art career of the filmmaker himself.  It raised questions about the contemporary art world, in terms of what passes for art these days, as well as how art is made, publicized and sold.  Here's the description from the Sundance Film Festival:

The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work. Written by Sundance Film Festival

Graffiti art fascinates me. I will have to check this out. Thanks for telling us about it!
Some great suggestions to add to the list Grace! I haven't seen the Paul Klee movie. Maybe there is a member who has?

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