Wednesday 18 Dec 2013
In a major re-calibration of 20th-century British paintings, art historian James Fox argues that British painting from 1910 to 1975 was an extraordinary flowering of genius. He predicts that art historians of the future will rank the period alongside the Golden Ages of Renaissance Italy and Impressionist France.
Drawing upon the work of Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, Stanley Spencer and David Hockney, among others, Fox explores why, during the 20th century, British painters were often dismissed for being old-fashioned. He reveals how these artists carefully reconciled tradition and modernity, providing a unique creative tension that now makes the period seem so exciting.
Over the course of the series, Fox presents his theory that this period of artistic excellence was closely linked to a dramatic shift in Britain's fortunes. He suggests that the demise of the British Empire, as much as the two world wars, defines Britain's unique take on modern art: a determination to rediscover and cling on to "Britishness" while the country's territorial assets and global influence fell away.
If there's one decade that marked an unparalleled cultural shift, and did so with a riotous outpouring of art, fashion, architecture, design and literature, it was 1811-1820, the nine years of the Regency era.
The Regency happened at a moment when the greatest living artists – Turner, Constable and Lawrence – were all British. It was a period of tremendous energy, when the Prince Regent led an architectural crusade that created one of the most familiar design brands in British history – the Regency look.
Regency is presented by historian Dr Lucy Worsley. At the centre of her take on the period is the compelling central figure of George, the Prince Regent. Lucy argues that no other Royal before or since has had a greater impact on Britain's culture – both as an enlightened patron and collector, and as a symbol of misrule, a man capable of inspiring hatred in poets, wits and writers.
Landscape Week will celebrate spring through beautiful paintings of Britain's landscapes.
Three hundred years ago, no one would dream of actually painting the British landscape. Today some of Britain's most-loved natural images are paintings. This Green And Pleasant Land is the epic story of how we painted our surroundings. This landmark 90-minute documentary takes the viewer on an epic journey through the art and history of the British landscape, from Rubens to Hockney. With commentators ranging from Dan Snow and Will Self to Julian Perry and Nicholas Roeg, it gives an intimate personal view of some of the greatest works by British painters, and a captivating story of the genesis of the quintessential British art form.
A century ago, painters Augustus John and James Dickson Innes left London for the wild Arenig Valley in North Wales. Over three years, they created a body of work to rival the visionary landscapes of Matisse. In 1914, Innes died of tuberculosis and John returned to the comforts of the capital.
Few roads in Britain are as steeped in history as the A303, 94 miles long and cutting through four counties. Tom Fort's journey down the A303 shines a light on Britain ancient and modern as he enjoys some of our most beautiful and historic landscapes.
Most people thought that when the working traffic on canals faded away after the war, that would be the end of their story. But they were wrong. A few diehard enthusiasts and boat owners campaigned, lobbied and dug, sometimes with their bare hands, to keep the network of narrow canals open.
Some of these enthusiasts filmed their campaigns and their home movies tell the story of how, in the teeth of almost universal political opposition, they saved the inland waterways for the nation and, more than 200 years after they were first built, created a second golden age of the canals.
Seasoned stomper Julia Bradbury dons her walking boots to explore her own British backyard, travelling along the country's network of canals and their accompanying towpath trails. This sees her navigating Highland glens, rolling countryside and river valleys as well as our industrial heartlands, following these magical waterways as they cut a sedate path through some of the country's finest scenery.
The Story Of British Landscape Art – This Green And Pleasant Land, Magic Mountain – The Wild Painters Of Wales and A303 – Highway To The Sun: BBC Productions
The Golden Age Of Canals: Available Light Productions
Julia Bradbury Canal Walks: Skyworks
Andrew Graham-Dixon lifts the lid on the ancient Christian practice of preserving holy relics and the largely forgotten art form that went with it: the reliquary. Fragments of bone or fabric placed inside a bejewelled shrine, a sculpted golden head or even a life-sized silver hand were, and still are, objects of religious devotion believed to have the power to work miracles. Most precious of all, though, are relics of Jesus Christ and this programme also features three reliquaries containing the holiest of all relics: those associated with His Crucifixion.
The story of relics and reliquaries is a 2,000-year history of faith, persecution and hope, reflected in some of the most beautiful yet little-known works of art ever made. The programme includes interviews with art historian Sister Wendy Beckett; and Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum and the author of A History Of The World In 100 Objects.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of playwright Terence Rattigan – whose neglected plays are starting to enjoy a long overdue revival – one of the country's leading actors, Benedict Cumberbatch, presents a passionate documentary arguing why Rattigan was one of Britain's greatest playwrights.
After early and spectacular success, Rattigan's plays such as The Browning Version and The Deep Blue Sea were later seen as safe, conventional and middle class by generations brought up on more modern radical theatre.
In this film, Benedict Cumberbatch uses his own experience of acting in Rattigan roles to argue that, while much of the theatre that supplanted him has now dated badly, Rattigan's plays remain some of the most brilliantly written, emotionally powerful social satires of the 20th century.
From Harrow, where both playwright and actor were at school, to LA via the West End, Cumberbatch meets the new champions and performers of Rattigan's work. The film also explores the enigma of Rattigan's personal life: tormented by his own sexuality, the polite restrained dramas he created confronted the very issues – sexual frustration, failed relationships, adultery and even suicide – that he found so difficult to deal with in his own life.
BBC Productions, Bristol
Richard E Grant re-opens one of his favourite children's books, The 1001 Arabian Nights, to explore its extraordinary impact on Western culture.
Journeying to Cairo, and the desert wildernesses beyond, he searches for the world that led to the creation of the Arabian Nights.
Richard visits Galland's original manuscripts in Paris and explores how the stories inspired hit shows on the 18th-century stage in London. Three of the stories, Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin, have inspired countless plays, pantomimes and films as well as becoming part of the literary canon for children and adults alike.
During Richard's journey he also discovers that the tales are shrouded in controversy, including calls for a ban on The 1001 Arabian Nights in some parts of the world today.
A Quick Fire Media production
This iconic American story was written in 1900 by L Frank Baum, a Chicago businessman – sometime journalist, chicken breeder, actor, boutique owner, Hollywood movie director and lifelong fan of all things innovative and technological. His life spanned an era of remarkable invention and achievement in America and many of these developments helped to fuel this great storyteller's imagination.
His ambition was to create the first genuine American fairytale and the story continues to fascinate, inspire and engage millions of fans of all ages from across the world. This film explores how The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz has come to symbolise the American Dream, and includes previously unseen footage from the Baum family archives, still photographs and clips from the early Oz films, as well as interviews with family members, literary experts and American historians, telling the story of one man's life in parallel to the development of modern America.
A Prospect Pictures production