There is a strong correlation between art and film. Film is a form of art itself and in fact it is one of the most advanced forms of art created by man. Some of the generalized purposes of art and film that unite them are to create a powerful emotional experience, to entertain and to educate.
Over the years Hollywood and European filmmakers have created hundreds of amazing films about artists and their works that inspire audience to appreciate art and learn more about the life story of some brilliant people.
If you would like to follow the life of the fabulous painter like Frida Khalo or to learn the story of Modigliani read our article to choose the best film for you!
1. Frida (2002)
The beautiful film Frida (2002) directed by Julie Taymor portraits a private life of the surrealist Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. (Salma Hayek) The film captivates the audience by its beauty, sensitivity and art.
The story starts with Frida being involved in a bus crash at the age of 18. Though she survived her injuries, they caused her severe pain and extended periods of isolation for the rest of her life – greatly influencing her work, which most often took the form of self-portraits.
The film includes her complicated and up and down relationship with fellow artist and twice husband Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), her affair with exiled Russian Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush), her constant health struggles, her amputations, her miscarriages, and her bi-sexuality.
The film Frida breathed life into the story of an incredible individual, who overcame enormous obstacles to create extraordinary art.
2. Modigliani (2004)
The film is set in 1919 Paris and depicts a story about the Italian artist Modigliani and his tragic romance with Jeanne Hebuterne.
The film focuses on his last days as well as the vicious rivalry between two brilliant people Modigliani and Picasso. His bitter rivalry with Picasso is one of the story’s primary threads.
The message of the film is clear: Modigliani’s belief in his work and his passion for art are unconditional. No one can touch them, not even Picasso.
The film is brilliantly acted by Andy Garcia, Omid Djalili and Elsa Zylberstein. Emotional, tense, and a wonderful show of art, this film is worth a watch.
3. Loving Vincent (2017)
This visually stunning, beautiful piece of film is a must-watch. It’s an animation imagining the last months of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. (Robert Gulaczyk)
Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman the film explores the life and the unusual death of Vincent Van Gogh.
The most amazing point of this film is that each of 65,000 frames has been painted by hand and in Van Gogh’s post-impressionist style by 125 painters. The whole process took 10 years to complete. The technique literally gave life to Van Gogh’s paintings.
4. Big Eyes (2014)
Directed and produced by Tim Burton, Big Eyes is based on the true story of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who was one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and early 1960s.
The film tells us the story of the artist who became overwhelmingly notorious by his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. His paintings became a sensation, generating huge earnings and achieving bizarre popular icon status. The truth would eventually be discovered though: Keane’s art was actually not created by him at all, but by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams).
Big Eyes centers on Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband.
“Big Eyes” is full of fascinating questions about the meaning of art, the concept of popularity, and what it means to develop a huge audience.
5. The Agony and Ecstasy (1965)
The Agony and the Ecstacy is the story of the 16th century war of wills between Renaissance artist Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison).
The story itself is really interesting as it opens up the many challenges Michelangelo experienced in completing his famous painting and this from a man who did not consider himself a painter but rather a sculptor. Charlton Heston plays a strong Michelangelo with a temper, and Rex Harrison is terrific as the pope.
The film will please art and history admirers and leave a wonderful aftertaste.
6. Caravaggio (1986)
Caravaggio is biographical film which depicts us an adventurous life of a baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who became much more renown as Caravaggio. It is actually a town near Milan in Italy where the painter came from.
The film paints the biographical details, from his boyhood apprenticeship in Milan, escape to Rome, and patronage from the Cardinal Francesco Del Monte and the notorious taste of Caravaggio for street fights and carousing.
Film is expressionistic and engaging, and will make you understand the nature of the artist named Caravaggio.
7. Death and Maiden (2016)
Death and Maiden is a biopic about Egon Schiele, one of the most provocative artists from Vienna at the beginning of the 20th Century.
“Death and Maiden” is a painting of a 17 year old Wally, who is arguably artist’s true love who became immortalized in it.
Egon Schiele’s radical paintings scandalize Viennese society but notable and fearless artist as Gustav Kilmpt sees them as exceptional.
The film portrays Egon Schiele as an artist who leaves a vast legacy to this world after his own ephemeral and turbulent life.
8. Basquiat (1996)
Basquiat is set in New York 1980s and tells us a story of of the life and suffering of Jean-Michel Basquiat (played by Jeffrey Wright) an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent born in 1960.
The film depicts his life as a street artist who actually lived on the streets, his discovery by Andy Warhol (David Bowie) and others, how he became an in-demand graffiti and neo-expressionist artist, and his death from a drug overdose at his art studio at the age of 27.
The film vividly re-creates the 1980s New York art scene from firsthand experience.
9. Pollock (2000)
Pollock depicts the life of the American abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock.
The film portraits a life journey of Pollock from struggling artist to international success and enfold his battle with alcoholism and his death in a car crash.
The director of the film is Ed Harris who also played a part of Jackson Pollock and earned Oscar for “Best Actor”.
Jackson Pollock was known for his drip paintings, which have become some of the most expensive works ever sold.
10. Séraphine (2008)
Seraphine directed by Martin Provost was a critically acclaimed film and the winner of seven Césars – the French Oscars – including best film.
The life of French painter Séraphine Louis was portrayed in this biopic . Working as a cleaning lady, Séraphine ( Yolande Moreau) was discovered and promoted by German art collector Wilhelm Ude (Ulrich Tukur) and later became a famous representative of the Naïve art movement with her works featuring intensely repeated floral arrangements.
She famously incorporated in her paintings such materials as soil and the blood of dead animals, which she found on her daily walks.
Andrei Rublev (1966)
An expansive Russian drama, this film focuses on the life of revered religious icon painter Andrei Rublev (Anatoliy Solonitsyn). Drifting from place to place in a tumultuous era, the peace-seeking monk eventually gains a reputation for his art. But after Rublev witnesses a brutal battle and unintentionally becomes involved, he takes a vow of silence and spends time away from his work. As he begins to ease his troubled soul, he takes steps towards becoming a painter once again.
Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky is considered one of the greatest and most influential directors in the history of Russian cinema. His films explored spiritual and metaphysical themes, and are noted for their slow pacing and long takes, dreamlike visual imagery, and preoccupation with nature and memory
In 1880 Paris, 40 year-old sculptor Auguste Rodin finally receives his first state commission, “The Gates of Hell,” which includes “The Kiss” and “The Thinker,” two of his most famous creations. Constantly working, he shares his life with his lifelong partner, Rose, and his mistress, the young Camille Claudel, the gifted student who becomes his assistant and a talented sculptor in her own right during a decade of passion, mutual admiration and creative collaboration.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir paints on the French Riviera in 1915 after his wife dies and his son is wounded in a battle. He finds a young woman named Andrée who becomes his last muse and model.
Little Ashes (2008)
In 1922, Salvador Dalí arrives at university in Madrid, where he befriends Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca. Dalí soon feels a strong attraction towards the latter, and a passionate romantic relationship ensues.
Details of the relationship between artist Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca have long been the subject of speculation and debate among historians and biographers. In Little Ashes, Dalí’s and Lorca’s feelings are shown deepening into a love affair that the sexually repressed painter tries (but fails) to consummate.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
While working as a maid in painter Johannes Vermeer’s house, Griet gets closer to him. Later, she becomes the face of Johannes’ most prolific works of art wherein she poses with pearl earrings.
Goya’s Ghosts (2006)
When the prominent Spanish painter Francisco Goya’s muse gets arrested by the Church on account of heresy, her father pleads with him to secure her release as he is in good terms with Brother Lorenzo.
Tim’s Vermeer (2013)
Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) manage to paint so photo-realistically — 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers.
Night watching (2007)
Rembrandt takes up the commission to paint a portrait of the Amsterdam Musketeer Militia. When he stumbles upon a murder conspiracy, he decides to expose the conspirators through his painting.
Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1988)
A biopic of noted painter Francis Bacon, this film focuses on the artist’s unlikely and tumultuous relationship with erstwhile thief George Dyer, who became Bacon’s lover after a botched break-in. After the unique beginning to their love affair, the well-connected and volatile artist assimilates Dyer into his circle of eccentric and often cold friends, including the caustic Muriel Belcher, as Dyer’s struggle with addiction strains their bond.
Savage Messiah (1972)
In the Paris of the 1910s, brash young sculptor Henri Gaudier begins a creative partnership with an older writer, Sophie Brzeska. Though the couple is 20 years apart in age, Gaudier finds that his untamed work is complemented by the older woman’s cultural refinement. He then moves to London with Brzeska, where he falls in with a group of avant-garde artists. There, Gaudier encounters yet another artistic muse in passionate suffragette Gosh Boyle
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Willem Dafoe is Van Gogh in this journey through the world and mind of a man who overcame scepticism, ridicule and illness to create some of the world’s best-loved paintings – not least The Dance Hall in Arles(1887) in Gallery 19. It covers the last few years of his life, notably his friendship with Gauguin, the ear business, and his death.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
France, 1760. Marianne is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent. Because she is a reluctant bride-to-be, Marianne arrives under the guise of companionship, observing Héloïse by day and secretly painting her by firelight at night. As the two women orbit one another, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Héloïse’s first moments of freedom. Héloïse’s portrait soon becomes a collaborative act of and testament to their love.
The Belly of an Architect (1987)
An architect is invited to Rome with his young, attractive wife to set up an exhibit. But, his health and obsession with work weigh heavily on his wife, who finds affection with a young Italian.
Director Greenaway’s visual technique heightens Kracklite’s alienation. There are few close-up shots of the other actors beside Dennehy, who himself is dwarfed by the monuments of Roman architecture surrounding him. Scenes take place at various Roman sites, including the Pantheon, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, the fountains of Piazza Navona, as well as Hadrian’s Villa.
Camille Claudel (1988)
When renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (Gérard Depardieu) notices the raw sculpting talent of the beautiful and precocious Camille Claudel (Isabelle Adjani), the two artists begin a scandalous love affair. Camille becomes Auguste’s muse and assistant, sacrificing her own work to contribute to his sculptures. However, when her work goes unrecognized and she desires attention of her own, Camille is left alone and gradually spirals into mental illness.
Mr. Turner (2014)
Mr. Turner is a 2014 biographical drama film based on the last 25 years of the life of artist J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), known for his dramatic land and seascapes in oil and watercolour. J. M. W. Turner was one of the most famous and controversial artists in Britain in the early 19th century.
The Moderns (1988)
A struggling American artist lives a laid-back life amongst the expatriate community of Paris. His life takes a twist when he gets involved in a plot to forge three paintings.
Surviving Picasso (1996)
Francoise Gilot struggles through the abusive relationship with her lover, the famous artist Pablo Picasso. In spite of his affairs, she continues to find her ground, but not for long. As the producers were unable to get permission to show the works of Picasso in the film, the film is more about Picasso’s personal life rather than his works, and where it does show paintings, they are not his more famous works. When Picasso is shown painting Guernica, the camera sits high above the painting, with the work only slightly visible.
Oviri. The Wolf at the Door (1986)
The Wolf at the Door is a 1986 Danish-French biographical drama film written and directed by Henning Carlsen. It is based on real life events of French artist Paul Gauguin.
The Mill and the Cross (2011)
This film focuses on a dozen of the five hundred characters depicted in Bruegel’s painting. The theme of Christ’s suffering is set against religious persecution in Flanders in 1564.
The Rebel/Call Me Genius (1961)
A clerk from London leaves his boring office job and travels to Paris to become an artist on the Left Bank.
F for Fake (1973)
Orson Welles’ final film documents the lives of infamous fakers Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving. De Hory, who later committed suicide to avoid more prison time, made his name by selling forged works of art by painters like Picasso and Matisse. Irving was infamous for writing a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes. Welles moves between documentary and fiction as he examines the fundamental elements of fraud and the people who commit fraud at the expense of others.
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976)
Impressions de la haute Mongolie was a 1976 surrealist film directed by Salvador Dalí and José Montes-Baquer, starring Salvador Dalí himself. It is a mockumentary about a hunt through Mongolia for a giant hallucinogenic mushroom.
Enjoy this list of films about art and artists, share what your favourite films are in the comments and share this article with your friends 🙂
2 thoughts on “30 Art Films Every Art Lover Should See”
Thank you for this article. I have seen a few of these films but not the majority. I love in a beautiful cultural wasteland. Any thoughts on how they can be viewed?
How can you watch these ??
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