My Favorite Art Documentaries

By March 2, 2018 Uncategorized

I have a confession to make, I am a huge nerd. One of my favorite “nerd” activities is watching documentaries. I love all types of documentaries, but my favorite type is art documentaries. So today I’m going to share some of my favorite art documentaries. Many of these documentaries can be found online especially on YouTube.

The Cheeky Nun
Sister Wendy

Sister Wendy

Sister Wendy Beckett was my first introduction to art history. I remember that my mom borrowed one of Sister Wendy’s VHS from the library. Up popped on the screen this very proper English nun with big glasses and an adorable mispronunciation of the letter R. My sister and I were utterly amazed as she proceeded to discuss the breast of a female subject in a painting. I don’t think my sister ever recovered and proceeded to make underwear out of sticky notes for all nudes in my art books. Sister Wendy is in short wonderful and at times terribly cheeky. All her documentaries are an enjoyable educational experience. I am recommending Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting and Sister Wendy’s American Collection. Sister Wendy also has several published books all with lovely glossy photos.

The Value of Art

I am going to group the next three documentaries together as they all have a similar theme of the value of art. They also all have the same presenter, British art critic, Alastair Sooke. The first documentary is called What Makes Art Valuable. If you have ever wondered why paintings can sell for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars then this is the documentary for you. Want to learn about the most expensive paintings ever sold? Then consider watching The Worlds Most Expensive Paintings. Finally, delve into the world of art crime with The World’s Most Expensive Stolen Paintings.

The Series

Helvetica Movie PosterIf you want a slightly different look at the history of art, then BBC’s A History of Art in Three Colours is well worth watching. In this three-part documentary, Dr. James Fox takes on the colors white, blue, and gold. In the programs, Dr. Fox discusses the history of each color and how the color changed art history and our emotional response to art. The episode on blue was my favorite of the series, but they were all excellent and well worth watching.

The Gamechanger

I have never been a huge fan of Frida Kahlo. I didn’t know much about her and found her paintings somewhat unsettling. But then one day I stumbled onto The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. This documentary gave me a whole new perspective on Frida Kahlo. The struggles of Frida’s life and eventual death made me cry. Now when I see a painting by Frida Kahlo, I can understand the context in which it was painted. If you find a piece of art or artist that you dislike, perhaps a documentary like the one I watched will change your mind.

The Font Film
My final documentary is a slightly unusual one. Helvetica is a hour and twenty-minute film about the font family Helvetica. Put that way, it must sound like the most mind-numbing documentary ever. But if you watch this film, you will learn about how and why Helvetica can be the font that is on nearly everything you see. This is also a must-see for graphic designers whether or not you are a Helvetica fan.

I watch so many documentaries that I cannot list all my favorites. I hope you will try to watch at least one documentary as I know they are not to everyone’s taste. Have an art documentary that you think I need to see? Let me know in the comments below!