Art on Screen Databasetm Full Record

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Alternate Title:
Original Title:
Series Title: Gombrich Themes; Part 2
Edition Version:
Data: 20 min. col. 16mm; video
Year: 1989
Country of Prod'n: United States; Great Britain
Language: English
Producing Agency: Landseer Film & Television Productions Ltd. for the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The J. Paul Getty Trust
Sources: Program for Art on Film; Films Incorporated Video
Int'l Sources:
Director: Judy Marle
Producer: Judy Marle
Executive Producer:
Camera: Nick Gifford
Editor: Gregory Harris
Music Composer:
Art Consultant: Sir Ernst Gombrich
Addl Credits:
Synopsis: In this two-part program, British art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich (b.1909) of the Warburg Institute, University of London, discusses the natural phenomenon of light and its representation in a wide range of Western European art. Filmed in 1988 in Sir Ernst's London home, where he shows us numerous objects and works of art to illustrate his points about how artists have depicted light. In Part Two, on reflection, Sir Ernst distinguishes between the objective character of illumination and the subjective character of reflection (the way light is thrown back from a surface). He points out examples of reflections and highlights in the works of various European painters, including Pieter der Hooch, Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, and Jan van Eyck, and shows how smooth surfaces, such as mirrors, bounce light while rough surfaces absorb light. Sir Ernst demonstrates the strikingly different effects of reflection on concave and convex surfaces. Seventeenth-century Dutch still lifes reveal the artists' virtuosity in depicting texture, which is achieved by the degree of reflection on an object. In the eighteenth century, Watteau was a master of creating light effects on drapery. Other artists, such as Claude Lorrain, excelled at representing the sparkle of sunlight on water. Sir Ernst concludes with a reminder that the film medium resembles a transparency since the quality of the image depends on the intensity of light behind it. Therefore, it is important to study the original painting in order to experience the complete visual splendor as created by the artist. Many of the paintings shown were filmed from the originals in the National Gallery, London. A film by director Judy Marle and Sir Ernst Gombrich. Gombrich Themes series, Part 2 of 2.
Genre Film: Criticism
Aud./Grade Level: General
Suggested Uses: General Information; Teaching
Subject Headings: Aesthetics -- Europe -- Great Britain -- England -- 20C

Assoc Concepts: Reflections; Perception
Artist's Name: Gombrich, Sir Ernst Hans Josef (b.1909), British art historian
Artist on Camera: No
Evaluation: Demonstrates that the old-fashioned lecture approach can be one of the most effective ways to present material when all the conditions--and the "lecturer"--are right. As in Part 1, the freshness is Gombrich. In contrast to Part 1, demonstrates more theory than showing actual examples of art. Stimulates the viewer's awareness of the techniques of art and of visual phenomena. Obviously addresses a broad audience. Uses simple objects and simple demonstrations (as with spoons) to illustrate complex ideas. Playful, witty: a great teaser, quite provocative. Inspires the viewer to go look at the object and examine it formally and critically. Gombrich also raises the question of the difference between seeing art on film and seeing the work itself. Very useful for museum audiences as well as art classes. Technical quality, content, and programming potential all judged very good.

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