top of page
  • Writer's pictureTerry Bonneville

Top Five Films About Famous Artists

Here, in order of lack of preference, are the five most important films about famous artists that everyone should see:

5. Lust for Life starring Kirk Douglas

Lust for Life is a 1956 biographical film directed by Vincente Minnelli that depicts the life of Vincent van Gogh, the celebrated post-impressionist painter. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Irving Stone, features Kirk Douglas in the lead role and Anthony Quinn, James Donald, and Pamela Brown in supporting roles.

The film captures van Gogh's tumultuous life, including his struggles with poverty, mental illness, and personal relationships. It explores his artistic journey, from his beginnings as an art dealer to his move to Paris, where he formed close friendships with other artists such as Paul Gauguin. The film also delves into his prolific and intensely creative period in Arles, where he painted some of his most famous works, and his eventual suicide.

Lust for Life was praised for its artistic and technical excellence, including Douglas' portrayal of van Gogh, which was regarded as a tour de force of acting. The film's visual style, with its use of vibrant colors and evocative imagery, was also widely admired.

Lust for Life is a compelling biographical film that offers a vivid and poignant portrait of Vincent van Gogh's life and artistic legacy. Although relatively little-known, it has had a lasting impact on popular culture and really helps bring Van Gogh's struggles to life.

4. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a 2010 documentary film, directed by the very well-known and anonymous British street artist Banksy. The film explores the world of street art and follows the journey of a Los Angeles-based amateur filmmaker named Thierry Guetta, who becomes involved in the street art scene and eventually transforms himself into an artist under the pseudonym Mr. Brainwash.

The film features interviews with several prominent street artists, including Shepard Fairey, Invader, and Banksy himself. The documentary chronicles Guetta's rise to fame as an artist, despite his lack of training or supposed artistic talent. It also delves into the commodification of street art and the tension between its countercultural roots and mainstream popularity.

The movie received critical acclaim upon its release, with many praising Banksy's direction and the film's unique perspective on the street art scene. The film was also notable for its ambiguous narrative, with some viewers questioning the authenticity of the story and whether it was a mockumentary or a genuine documentary.

Overall, Exit Through the Gift Shop offers an interesting and thought-provoking look at the world of street art, its cultural significance and the complex relationship between art and commerce.

3. Mrs Lowry and Son

Mrs Lowry and Son is a 2019 biographical drama movie directed by Adrian Noble, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Elizabeth Lowry and Timothy Spall as her son, the famous English painter L.S. Lowry.

The film explores the strained mother-son relationship, with a particular focus on their shared passion for art. Elizabeth, a proud and domineering woman, disapproves of her son's career as a painter, dismissing his works as "matchstick men" and failing to appreciate his artistic talent. Despite this, L.S. Lowry remains devoted to his mother, and their relationship is portrayed with a mix of tenderness and frustration.

Mrs Lowry and Son is a beautifully-acted and visually impressive film that captures the gritty, working-class world of early 20th century Manchester, England. It is beautifully shot and features some stunning scenes of Lowry's paintings and the landscapes that inspired them.

One of the film's strengths is its delicate portrayal of the mother-son relationship. Vanessa Redgrave delivers a commanding performance as Elizabeth Lowry, a woman who is both sympathetic and unlikeable in equal measure. Timothy Spall excells as L.S. Lowry, conveying his character's deep love and respect for his mother despite her disdain for his art.

Overall, Mrs Lowry and Son is a touching and engaging film that provides an insightful look into the life of one of Britain's most beloved painters.

2. Timothy Spall as Turner

Mr. Turner is a 2014 biographical drama film directed by Mike Leigh, starring Timothy Spall as the famous English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. The film focuses on the later years of Turner's life, during which he achieved great artistic success, but also faced personal and professional challenges.

The film features a stunning performance by Spall, who embodies Turner's gruff exterior, his eccentricities, and his deep passion for art. Spall won the Best Actor award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of the painter.

The movie paints a vivid portrait of Turner's life and career, showing how he revolutionized the art world with his innovative use of light and colour. The film also explores Turner's relationships with his father, his housekeeper, and other important figures in his life, highlighting his complex personality and the many contradictions that defined him.

One of the film's major themes is the relationship between art and society, as it shows how Turner's work was often dismissed by critics and the public, despite his incredible talent and artistic vision. The movie also delves into the changing cultural landscape of 19th century England, depicting the rise of industrialisation and the impact it had on the art world.

1. Frida

Frida is a 2002 biographical drama film directed by Julie Taymor that tells the story of the life and work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, played by Salma Hayek. The film explores Kahlo's early years in Mexico City, her marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera, and her rise to fame as a painter.

The film is notable for its visually striking style, which incorporates elements of Kahlo's artwork and Mexican culture. The use of vibrant colours, surreal imagery, and traditional music creates a vivid and immersive experience for the viewer.

The movie also delves into Frida Kahlo's personal life, including her relationships with Rivera and other men, as well as her struggles with physical and emotional pain. The film does not shy away from the more difficult aspects of Kahlo's life, including her experiences with miscarriage, infidelity, and political turmoil.

The performances in Frida are strong across the board, with Hayek delivering a powerful portrayal of the iconic artist. The film also features the ever-impressive Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, Ashley Judd as photographer Tina Modotti, and Edward Norton as Nelson Rockefeller.

Overall, Frida is a moving and visually stunning tribute to one of the most important artists of the 20th century. It's a must-watch for fans of Frida Kahlo's artwork and anyone interested in the history of Mexican art and culture.

We hope this article has whetted your appetite and if you want to know more about any of these movies, please try the links below!

7 views0 comments


bottom of page