Films About Painting

Hello class. I’ve compiled some videos and documentaries that I feel are great for getting you inspired and thinking about the weird and wonderful world of painting.

Jean Michel Basquiat – The Radiant Child

This is a portrait of the New York City painter Jean Michel Basquiat. Who was one of the biggest starts of the 80s art world.  It features numerous interviews with Basquait’s close friends, lovers, and acquaintances and also gives a great glimpse of New York City in the 80s.

And of course, when speaking of Basquiat, it’s hard to ignore the 1998 film directed by Julian Schnabel about his life.  Here’s a great scene from the film from when he gets into his new studio and paints with the sounds of Miles Davis in the background

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a documentary film by Werner Herzog (he’s the guy who did Grizzly Man) about some of the oldest cave paintings in France, and the people who surround this place. The film is a masterpiece which showcases not only the strangeness of humans but also the mystery surrounding some of the oldest paintings in the world. A good question to think about while watching this would be “why did we as humans decide it was a good idea to start painting?”.

(Available on Netflix. Here’s the trailer)

Loving Vincent is a modern day sucess story. It started out just as an idea on Kickstarter and soon became an international film sensation. The film is comprised of thousands and thousands of oil paintings which are then animated.  As you can imagine, the film is about Vincent Van Gogh who is still an enigma and one of the most famous painters to have ever lived.

In this video you can get more information about the film, and see how it was made.

Artemesia Genteleschi was a painter from the 16th century who fought against the male chauvistic atmosphere present at the time. The daughter of a well known painter, Artemesia takes up painting and who struggles to paint the male nude body (something unheard of at the time). It’s European, and very romantic, but still a good watch!  Fun fact, women were still not allowed to draw men naked in schools all across the US until the 1960s!

Big Eyes is a film by Tim Burton that takes place in the 1950s and 60s about Walter Keane who becomes super famous for making paintings of these children with giant eyes.  But Dun dun DUNNNN his wife is the one actually making all of the paintings.

Girl with a Peal Earring looks into the life of the Dutch Master Vermeer, whose life was anything but quiet. Vermeer remains to be one of the best “painters of light’ to have ever lived and his life is still shrouded in mystery. Nonetheless, here’s an attempt to piece together what we know of his life based upon historical records. Oh, and Scarlett Johansson is in it, so can’t go wrong there.

There’s also a good documentary from the BBC about the “Secret Life of Artists” about him.

Gerhard Richter is arguably the most prominent living painter in the world today. His work spans the generations and he has painted in a multitude of styles. From photorealism to squeegeed abstraction. The film is in German but is a great watch for anyone who just loves to see paint smeared around.

Art School Confidential is a murder mystery film set in the absurd world of an art school. Written after the director and his wife both attended University of Northern Texas the film pokes at the sillyness of art school and some of the serious pitfalls of mixing too much alcohol with painting. Plus, John Malkovich as a jaded old art professor who paints triangles is absolutely perfect.

Robert Crumb was the creator of Zap Comics which spurred on a rennaissance of underground comics in LA.  This film, produced by David Lynch, chronicles the last year Crumb lives in the US before moving to France.  I will definitely put a trigger warning on this one due to the graphic nature of the comics and how some subjects are discussed.

Frida Khalo was a visionary and pioneer of surrealism. Blending her roots into a dreamscape of her own creation. Plus, the film about her is great as well! Salma Hayek as Frida is amazing and the film is one where painting is featured throughout (since Frida married the muralist Diego Rivera) .