I’ve enjoyed watching the series of four programmes on the BBC presented by the youthful Alastair Sooke about Modern Art. Each programme focused on one of the great “masters” of Modern Art – Picasso, Matisse, Dali and Warhol, showcasing their work, looking at how it developed over their lifetime and trying to explain their influences and connections and the influence they have had on popular culture.
Sooke is an enthusiastic presenter and explains his points without being too preachy – although I’d agree with the Guardian review that suggested that there was “a touch of Blue Peter” in his style. There seems to be a trend for young, dynamic presenters on the BBC at the moment – we’ve also had Brian Cox, the “rock star physicist”, who seems to crop up all over the place, and Iain Stewart who’s presented a number of geology based programmes. Sometimes their enthusiasm can be a little irritating, but they clearly know their stuff, generally get it over well and may attract some younger viewers (not just old fogies like me!).
I’m sure that some serious art critics would get sniffy and consider the programmes to be “middle brow”, but I found them both entertaining and informative. I’ve only developed my interest in Modern Art relatively recently and have a lot to learn and programmes like this certainly help my education. I found the programme on Matisse particularly interesting as I didn’t know much about him even though I’d seen some of his works in the Beaubourg in Paris, and was familiar with some of his better known paintings. The programme put these in context and allowed me to discover other aspects of his work. There was much more variety – his style changing as he got older – then I realised.
I knew more about Picasso and Dali. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Musee Picasso in Paris and the Dali Theartre and Museum in Figueres. In both cases there was a large collection which spanned the life of these artists.
The BBC has a website devoted to the series, which has some clips from the programmes, a “virtual exhibition” of major works by all four artists and links to places where it’s possible to see Modern Art round the country. They also have a series of “art walks” – routes around major cities in Britain which focus on public art including sculpture, architecture and other places to see Modern Art.