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136 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great art series
This a long overdue DVD release for what, in my view, is the best art series we've seen on British TV in the last ten years. Every one of these 22 films brings you information and ideas that enable you to look at some of the best known paintings in western art, as though you've never seen them before. We discover that Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen was thought to...
Published on 14 Nov. 2007 by Art lover

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watchable But Not Life Changing
I watched 'Private Life of a Masterpiece' after watching Nigel Spivey's 'How Art Made the World'.

Compared with Spivey, this was a vast improvement, if only because it actually presents more actual works of art to the viewer and because the presentation assums that the audience are as interested, knowledgable, and experienced about "art" and "art theory" as the...
Published on 14 Nov. 2012 by Amazon Customer


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most engaging documentary series, 20 Oct. 2011
By 
ziggy_fan (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
From the superb narrator. to the well placed interview clips, the long shots of the artworks, the historic settings. Everything about this series oozes class, scholarly insight as well as popular culture surrounding them are covered too. There are things about the background of the works included which sometimes are even more interesting than the immediate subjects.

After watching the entire series, I am left wondering if they will produce more on other iconic and perhaps less well known but important works too. I hope so.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A master piece of master pieces, 18 Jun. 2010
By 
C. Lin "Wongwong" (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
It helps me to do my design process to a better skillful way..it's the answers for arts and it's the truth for art lovers, you can learn too much from just a single production like this, it's the hope and the beauty for seeing such a film like this could be made
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great antidote to 'Dumbing Down', 24 Oct. 2011
By 
Phil "Leaf-turner" (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
No 'Blokey' presenter hogging the screen, no tendentious comparisons with modern culture for the sake of 'accessibility'. Somber, intelligent and insightful commentary. Beautiful camera work that is often allowed to speak for itself. Relevant use of interviewers.
This is, put simply, the best series of art documentaries released in Britain in the last 20 years. It can keep company with Clarkes 'Civilisation' in terms of its authoritative and unpatronising approach to art appreciation.
Thankfully the price has come down a bit!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece itself!, 30 Sept. 2011
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
I am extremely impressed with this DVD. Each episode is packed with interesting information surrounding paintings and sculptures and their creators. It is definitely something I will revisit again and again, so well worth the cost. It has stirred up my love for art even more. Superb x
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Narrow Scope, 5 Oct. 2011
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
This very good BBC series assesses nineteen famous paintings from Botticelli to Dali, and three famous sculptures. Interestingly, the twenty-two programmes do not just address the works of art themselves - their creation, history, and meaning - but also responses to them up to the present often-disrespectful day. Each programme follows roughly the same format: after the opening, we learn what the work is about, who commissioned it, a biography of the artist, its composition, the techniques employed, its subsequent history and reputation, and finally modern responses to it - copies, spoofs, and spins.

Thankfully, these are not docu-dramas, but serious documentaries in which expert opinion is mixed with public responses. The sheer number of talking heads is quite staggering, and some of the programmes are quite powerful (such as that on Goya's 'The Third of May 1808') and prescient (Hokusai's `The Wave'). The programmes are very well edited, and the bespoke choice of music to accompany most of them is often superb (but, alas, never credited). What also really makes this series is the brilliant narration by Sam West (and less so by Tim Piggot-Smith).

However, the series is fatally flawed in its choice of masterpieces. (Indeed, it is questionable, in my opinion, whether most of these are `masterpieces' at all, and there are only a few that I would have on my wall.) The vast majority are French and Italian, with a smattering of Spanish and Dutch. Even within the French choices, the Impressionists gain a vastly unfair ascendancy, whilst in Italy, Florence reigns supreme - there are no Venetian paintings discussed. There is also one painting apiece by American, Austrian, Japanese, and Norwegian artists: there are none at all by British, German, or Russian artists: no Turner or Reynolds; no Friedrich or Grosz; no Shishkin or Levitan.

The programmes have all been written by Russell Davies, so one assumes the choice of painting is his alone. They are well-written and occasionally humorous, but one often has to question some of their rhetoric, such as van Gogh's `Sunflowers' being "the most famous painting in Britain", or that Picasso's `Demoiselles d'Avignon' represents "the beginnings of twentieth-century art". There are occasional errors of fact too: for instance, Arles is not seven hundred miles from Paris!

Overall, then, a series that can be highly recommended for those wanting to explore more about some of the world's most famous paintings; it's just a shame that the scope is so narrow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 12 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
This is an excellent series, so interesting and informative about the various works as well as about the relevent artists and historical contexts which really 'fills out' the picture (!). It has been such a pleasure to learn and appreciate more about both what is within a picture,and what was behind it. The hour-long episodes are perfect for dipping into.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into Art, 19 Aug. 2010
By 
Ruth (Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
This is a TV series that I missed first time around, and would normally not seek out. I bought this out of interest in some of the paintings detailed and took it on holiday with me to Italy.

How often do you go to galleries and think wow! but want to know more about what the artist was thinking. How many famous paintings become a bit of a cliche?

The episodes are a bit formulaic, talking about the biography of the artist, the history of the picture, some technical information about techniques used (invariably very interesting), and then a description of the impact on popular culture (the talking heads bit), each is around 50 mins which feels quite long.
I watched the episode on the Primavera the day after seeing it in the flesh and it certainly enhanced the experience. I would be keen to go back again just to check!

I would recommend this if you are planning to see the pictures, and it might inspire you to see the other ones.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watchable But Not Life Changing, 14 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
I watched 'Private Life of a Masterpiece' after watching Nigel Spivey's 'How Art Made the World'.

Compared with Spivey, this was a vast improvement, if only because it actually presents more actual works of art to the viewer and because the presentation assums that the audience are as interested, knowledgable, and experienced about "art" and "art theory" as the speakers. This is a series made by adults for adults. Hurrah!

Each episode focuses on a specific work of art. The work is presented in some detail (although I would have liked more time just looking at the art without commentary but I guess someone in charge of the editing must have decided that would make for boring telly (but not for art-lovers it wouldn't, doh!) so we also get lots of comments from various talking heads who have something to say about the work from some perspective e.g. restoration, history of art, interpretation etc.

What each talking head says is intelligent and interesting but not earth-shattering. We do not get a developed presentation from anyone about what they think "art" is. We do not get a "theory" or "ethics" of "art" as we do from Kenneth Clark in 'Civilisation' or Robert Hughes in 'Mona Lisa Curse'. We do not get a debate. We do not get much in the way of originality. It is all a bit forgetable (apart from the art).

Each episode (and the series as a whole) is quite diffuse without an overall narrative to pull things together - seeing the work of art is the thing that anchors each episode/the whole series so you get returned back to the "art itself" over and over. From these clues you have to make up your own narrative and work out your own opinion from the comments on offer. Its a kind of DIY telly that will appeal to intelligent people who like to make up their editorial.

The overall impression is of something worthy but dull. It is more authoritative than Spivey's controversial 'How Art Made The World' but less stimulating. It is far less engaging than the much more ambitious and entertaining and passionate works of Clark or Hughes. Give me them over this any day but this is okay in a dull dentist's waiting room kind of way, you know if you want to pass time in a vaguely art-associated way and don't want to expend energy being annoyed by Spivey or charmed by Clark.

I would say add it to your collection of DVDs on art criticism (although the price is a bit steep for what you get... maybe ask for it as a present from kindly chums and keep your own pocket money to buy the much more rewarding and value-for-money Clark's 'Civilisation' or something by Robert Hughes instead).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 20 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
Totally informative and absorbing.
Watching addiction has started, and would recommend it to anyone passionate about the arts. It reinforces the beauty of Masterpieces across time in its presentation.
Absolute Masterpiece in itself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WONDERFUL VOYAGE, 27 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Private Life Of A Masterpiece - The Complete Series 1 - 5 [DVD] (DVD)
I really enjoyed my voyage around these wonderful works of art. Beautifully done.... the painting and all its environment. Very intersting. For art lovers and those who enjoy a good documentary.
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