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The world's greatest paintings brought into your living room

An exciting new DVD art series known as 1000 Masterworks (or Meisterwerke in German) has recently been released by ArtHaus Music and is distributed by Naxos. It is based on a highly successful German TV program that has been adapted for the DVD format. A total of 16 DVDs have been released to date and I hope that others are in the offing. I have viewed two and what I saw and heard was so impressive that I decided to bring this to the attention of art lovers.  

With the name 1000 Masterworks, I approached the review with some trepidation fearing that I would be inundated with hundred's of images. But this was completely unfounded. Only five paintings are featured on each DVD. The discussion on each painting is concise and geared to give the viewer a greater understanding of the specific painting. The spoken dialogue is in English, French or German. The images of the paintings are of high quality and there are many close-ups of various sections of the painting under discussion. 

In addition to the selected painting, works by other masters who inspired the artist are often featured. Additional noteworthy creations by the artist are often shown and the influence on subsequent art movements highlighted. This gives an excellent perspective leaving one with a greater understanding and deeper insight into the specific painting as well as the artist and their place in the pantheon of art history.

Durer renaissance portraits.jpegIn the Portrait in the Renaissance, seminal paintings by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, Lorenzo Lotto, and Luca Signorelli are all lucidly explained. In the DVD on the Baroque, works by Anton van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velazquez, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Michelangelo Caravaggio are critically analyzed. My understanding of these art movements was considerably enhanced after viewing these informative DVDs.

The DVDs released cover many of the seminal developments in art history. Each one focuses on one specific art movement beginning with the Italian and Northern European Renaissance. It also covers Flemish paintings from the early and mid-1400s. Other art developments and styles reviewed include mannerism, which served as a link between the renaissance and the Baroque movement. In this art style, the human form is depicted in exaggerated poses and in unrealistic settings. The series then advances to impressionism, German Romanticism and German Expressionism. The latter traces the development of the two major twentieth century schools of this genre including Die Brucke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). 

Cubism and Futurism, the two art movements which revolutionized twentieth century painting are also included. There are also DVDs on the Bauhaus School, Surrealism, Symbolism & Art Nouveau, American painting from the 1950's and 60's as well as abstract expressionism. Some more esoteric epochs are included such as social realism in the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Another focus of the series highlights great museums and includes individual DVDs of famous paintings in Paris's Musee du Louvre, Berlin's National Gallery and New York's Museum of Modern Art. Hopefully other museums will soon be made available.

Baroque van Dyck.jpegI was somewhat perplexed by some of the painting choices and there appear to be some curious omissions. The DVD on Mannerism lists paintings by Parmigianino, Massys, Arcimboldo, Giulio Romano and Paolo Veronese but not the great mannerists, Bronzino and Correggio. 

The DVD on Impressionism includes well known artists such as Mary Cassatt, Max Liebermann and Gustave Caillebotte as well as some lesser known luminaries (Albert Edelfeldt and Peter Severin Krøyer). Surprising Manet, Pissarro, Monet and other famous members of this school are given short thrift. Other omissions include Vincent van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Cezanne and Picasso to name only a few.

On the other hand, I stress that to date I have only seen two DVDs. Hopefully this series represents a continuous ongoing process and the artists mentioned above may well be added to the impressive and highly recommended 1000 Masterworks in the future releases. 

1000 Masterpieces is released by Arthaus Musik in cooperation with Naxos which is the world's leading classical music label. Their huge catalogue comprises classical music CDs and DVDs as well as other genres including jazz, new age, educational and audio-books together with state-of-the-art sound and consumer-friendly prices. 

Legend to Figures

Fig 1: 1000 Masterworks: The Portrait in the Renaissance: Portrait of an unknown cleric, Albrecht Durer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Fig 2: 1000 Masterworks: The Baroque. Samson and Delilah, Anthony van Dyck, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

About Me

Dr. Irving Spitz writes, reviews and lectures on medical topics, music, art, history and travel. Some of his articles, essays and reviews can be seen at www.irvingspitz.com. Additional photographs can be seen at www.pbase.com/irvspitz. Dr Spitz holds MD, PhD and DSc degrees from the Witwatersrand University in...Read More...Read More

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