Art in the Movies

Artists Biography

Frida (2002)
Related Links: IMDB , Netflix
Julie Taymor directs this Oscar-winning biopic of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek), focusing on her often rocky relationship with husband Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Also known for her controversial political and sexual reputation (she was a communist and a bisexual), Frida struggled with a life of wracking pain following an accident, the amputation of a leg, and finally, drug and alcohol abuse that killed her at age 47.

Pollock (2000)
Related Links: Netflix
Neurotic, misogynistic, brilliant: All are apt descriptions of that enfant terrible of the 1950s art world, Jackson Pollock. Ed Harris inhabits the skin of the tortured abstract expressionist in a movie that plays almost like a documentary of Pollock's life. Matching Harris stroke for stroke is Marcia Gay Harden, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in the role of Pollock's ambitious, hard-bitten wife.

Dirty Pictures (2000)
Related Links: IMDB
When Robert Mapplethorpe's sadomasochistic photography exhibit "A Perfect Moment" was shown at Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center in 1990, it was quickly deemed obscene, and museum curator Dennis Barrie (James Woods) was taken to court. This fact-based, made-for-cable-TV drama explores the relevant issues of freedom of expression and censorship of the arts through narrative and via interviews with celebrities and cultural icons.

I Shot Andy Warhol (1995)
Related Links: IMDB
Based on the true story of Valerie Solanas (Lili Taylor) who was a 60s radical preaching hatred toward men in her "Scum" manifesto. She wrote a screenplay for a film that she wanted Andy Warhol (Jared Harris) to produce, but he continued to ignore her. So she shot him. This is Valerie's story.

Basquiat (1996)
Related Links: IMDB
In 1981, Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright) was a 19-year-old graffiti artist living on the streets. Eight years later, he was a world-renowned painter -- and dead of a heroin overdose. Director Julian Schnabel's biopic won an Independent Spirit Award for its depiction of Basquiat's tumultuous but meteoric rise in New York's art world, his anguish over his family and his hatred of a society that both courted and exploited him.

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
Related Links: IMDB
Renaissance artist Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) begrudgingly paints the Sistine Chapel for imperious Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) in this adaptation of Irvine Stone's novel. While the novel covers Michelangelo's life from birth to death, the film focuses on the battle of wills between the perfectionist artist and the impatient Pope who commissions (and eventually commands) Michelangelo to paint the famed chapel. Diane Cilento also stars.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Related Links: IMDB
Sometimes, inspiration is found in the most surprising places ... or people. In this cinematic adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name, Scarlett Johansson stars as Griet, the young housemaid with a hidden appreciation for art who becomes the muse of Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), famous for capturing the luminosity and grace of women in their domestic setting.

Lust for Life (1956)
Related Links: IMDB
Vincent Van Gogh (Kirk Douglas) is the archetypical tortured artistic genius. His obsession with painting, combined with mental illness, propels him through an unhappy life full of failures and unrewarding relationships. He fails at being a preacher to coal miners. He fails in his relationships with women. He earns some respect among his fellow painters, especially Paul Gauguin (Anthony Quinn), but he does not get along with them. He only manages to sell one painting in his lifetime. The one constant good in his life is his brother Theo, who is unwavering in his moral and financial support.

Vincent & Theo (1990)
Related Links: IMDB , Netflix
Robert Altman's biopic delves into the lives of painter Vincent van Gogh (Tim Roth) and his dedicated brother, Theo (Paul Rhys). The story centers on the pair's relationship as gallery owner Theo struggles to promote the works of his brother, who remained a relative unknown until after his death. As Theo fails in his efforts and his financial problems mount, Vincent's disturbed mental state worsens, and both brothers sink into despair.

Surviving Picasso (1996)
Related Links: IMDB
In 1943, a young painter, Françoise Gilot (1921- ) meets Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), already the most celebrated artist in the world. For the next ten years, she is his mistress, bears him two children, is his muse, and paints within his element. She also learns slowly about the other women who have been or still are in his life: Dora Maar, Marie- Thérèse (whose daughter is Picasso's), and Olga Koklowa, each of whom seems deeply scarred by their life with Picasso. Gilot's response is to bring each into her relationship with Picasso. How does one survive Picasso? She keeps painting, and she keeps her good humor and her independence. When the time comes, she has the strength to leave.

Art Documentaries

My Architect: A Son's Journey (2003)
Related Links: IMDB
World-famous architect Louis Kahn (Exeter Library, Salk Institute, Bangladeshi Capitol Building) had two illegitimate children with two different women outside of his marriage. Son Nathaniel always hoped that someday his father would come and live with him and his mother, but Kahn never left his wife. Instead, Kahn was found dead in a men's room in Penn Station when Nathaniel was only 11. Nathaniel travels the world visitng his father's buildings and haunts in this film, meeting his father's contemporaries, colleagues, students, wives, and children.

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1995)
Related Links: IMDB
In this Academy Award-winning documentary, filmmaker Freida Lee Mock captures the genius of Maya Lin, a visionary architect vaulted to fame at age 20 after her pared-down, modern and controversial design was chosen to memorialize the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. The film also describes other memorials Maya Lin has created, such as the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

Sister Wendy's American Collection (2001)
Related Links: IMDB
Enjoy the musings and teachings of Sister Wendy Beckett, a nun and art enthusiast who has stirred up interest in the history of art -- even among those who avoid museums like the plague. This entertaining and enlightening collection of her programs spans the globe and the years as Sister Wendy shares her knowledge and passion for art and artists; her insight and whole-hearted enthusiasm are an alternative to the traditional study of art.
  • Disc 1: The Art Institute of Chicago / The Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Disc 2: Kimbell Art Museum / Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Disc 3: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Museum of Fine Arts