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  • Writer's pictureJemima Tor

A Pick of our 5 Favourite Short Films About Artists on the BFI Player

The BFI (British Film Institute) player is a real treasure trove of obscure and wonderful film footage which covers a wide array of subjects. Film footage is available to buy and rent but there are also some excellent pieces of film available completely free!

We've gone through the site and found some of the most intriguing and fascinating free films about the arts, so you don't have to!

LS Lowry - The Industrial Artist, Released 1973, Length 17 Minutes

Known as the painter of 'matchstick men', Lowry dedicated his artistic life to depicting scenes of the UK city of Manchester's gritty, northern industrial scene, resolving to do so after his research showed that up to that point, nobody else had decided to do this with any seriousness. Fascinating and absorbing to hear the artist himself speak - watching this program will feel like the fastest 17 minutes of your life!


Hepworth on Form, Released 1973, Length 4 Minutes

Although only four minutes in length, this short TV feature gives a fascinating insight into the work of one of the world's most famous sculptors, Barbara Hepworth. Born and raised in Wakefield, Yorkshire in the UK, Hepworth eventually settled in St Ives, Cornwall in the south of England. After her death, her studio became a museum and sculpture garden. It is from her studio that she is shown working and being interviewed.


Anish Kapoor, Released 1985, Length 14 Minutes

Anish Kapoor is a name that most people interested in the arts will know but may not know anything about - that was certainly the case for us until we saw this great little documentary! Kapoor was interviewed as part of the Arts Council film Just What is It...? and almost the entire 14 minutes of this short piece are of Kapoor discussing his work in great depth and with fantastic clarity and articulation. This interview is a rare treat for those who like to get inside the mind of an artist!


Painters in the Modern World, Released 1969, Length 20 Minutes

This is a wildcard entry! The short documentary centres around three artists - Bob Campbell, Ken Cuthbert and David Hazelwood. The aim of the program is to show how these three artists, all of whom have day jobs, can work as an artist 'without the need of patronage' to create work which is completely on their own terms. Fascinating stuff!


A Long Day's Life: The Art of Harold Riley, Released 1987, Length 22 Minutes

Going full circle for our final recommendation, we return to the city of Manchester in the UK for our favourite film on the BFI archive that we've found so far!

We didn't know Riley's work at all until this film introduced as and what a great artist he is. As well as being from the same are of the UK as LS Lowry, Riley documents the areas of Manchester and Salford with a similar affection to Lowry and it was in fact a chance meeting with Lowry himself that spurred Riley on to pursue a career in art and to even gain acceptance to the world-famous Slade School of Fine Art in London, at the tender age of just 17!


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