Visual Arts highlights on BBC Four

A History Of Horror With Mark Gatiss

League Of Gentlemen star and Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss celebrates the horror film in a new three-part series for BBC Four.

Mark begins his exploration of the genre by looking at the golden age of Hollywood horror of the Thirties and Forties and examines some iconic pictures directed by Englishman James Whale (Frankenstein, The Old Dark House and Bride Of Frankenstein), who lent the films a camp sensibility, and populated them with a largely British ex-pat cast.

The second episode concentrates on the complete reinterpretation of the genre. In the 1958 remake of Dracula, the original vampire with heavy face and foul breath was gone and along came the Byronic Count in the shape of Christopher Lee, a bloodsucker of almost gentlemanly proportions. It was at this time that horror films turned from black and white to colour and began to feature an element of sex, tapping into an increasingly permissive society.

The last programme in the series explores the gritty and graphic new wave of horror cinema from Night Of The Living Dead in 1968 to the movie Halloween ten years later, the first of the great slew of slasher films which were to dominate the next decade. Mark details the shifts in the horror genre, and meets leading film-makers from the era.


The Story Of British Sculpture

In The Story of British Sculpture, Alastair Sooke reveals three golden ages of British sculpture.

From the painted gargoyles, tombs and royal statues of the Middle Ages to the imperial heroes and erotic nudes of the 18th and 19th centuries via the stark memorials and bold experiments of the modern age, sculpture has captured the beliefs, aspirations and desires of ordinary Britons more than any other art form.

Alastair explores the true stories behind the creation of some of Britain’s most iconic artworks, including the monuments of Westminster Abbey, Nelson’s Column, the statue known as Eros in Piccadilly Circus and the Angel of the North.

The Story Of British Sculpture explores the work of sculptors past and present, including some of Britain’s greatest artists such as Alfred Gilbert, Jacob Epstein and Barbara Hepworth, who have inspired great modern sculptors like Anthony Caro, Damien Hirst and Anthony Gormley, who Sooke interviews in the course of this series.


The Art Of Cornwall

Writer and lecturer James Fox tells the remarkable story of Cornwall’s unique contribution to British art.

For a period in the 20th century, Cornwall was the home of the avant garde, eclipsing London, Paris and New York, as a group of super-talented individuals sought refuge and inspiration in the West Country.

From painter Kit Wood, who brought the surrealist influences of Twenties Paris, to Barbara Hepworth’s Modernist sculptures, James traces Cornwall’s evolution to the hub of a new international art movement, and explores its sudden fall after the mid-Sixties.

The Art Of Cornwall also covers the work of artists Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and sculptor Naum Gabo.


Portrait Of The Artist

In Portrait Of The Artist, art critic Laura Cumming tracks the evolution of the self-portrait across nearly six centuries, taking in work by Dürer, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Warhol. Along the way she explores the real lives behind great self-portraits and how their mirror gaze has, in turn, changed the way we look at ourselves.

Laura explores the work of leading artists whose self-portraits not only defined the genre but helped change how artists saw themselves and their role in the world.

She also investigates the variety of inspiration behind self-portraiture, discovering paintings that have been created to proclaim an artist’s genius, to communicate with family after they’ve died, and to exorcise evil spirits.


How To Get A Head In Sculpture

From the heads of Roman Emperors to the “blood head” of contemporary British artist Marc Quinn, the greatest figures in world sculpture have continually turned to the head to re-evaluate what it means to be human and to reformulate how closely sculpture can capture it.

Witty, eclectic and deeply insightful, this single film is a journey through the most enduring subject for world sculpture, a journey that carves a path through politics and religion, the ancient and the modern.

Actor David Thewlis has his head sculpted by three different sculptors, while the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, artist Maggi Hambling and writer Ben Okri discuss art’s most enduring preoccupation, ourselves.


Fig Leaf

Writer and broadcaster Stephen Smith uncovers the secret history of the humble fig leaf and opens a window onto 2,000 years of Western art and ethics.

Stephen reveals how the work of Michelangelo fuelled the infamous “Fig Leaf Campaign” – the greatest cover-up in art history; how Bernini turned censorship into a new form of erotica by replacing the fig leaf with the slipping gauze; and how the ingenious machinations of Rodin brought nudity back into the public eye.

In telling this story, Stephen turns many of our deepest prejudices upside down, showing how the Victorians had a far more sophisticated and mature attitude to sexuality than we do today. He ends with an impassioned plea for the widespread return of the fig leaf to redeem modern art from cheap sensation and innuendo.


BBC Four World Cinema Awards 2010

Celebrating the very best of contemporary international film-making and highlighting BBC Four’s commitment to world cinema, the BBC Four World Cinema Awards return to BFI Southbank on Saturday 9 October 2010, presented by Jonathan Ross.

Five foreign language films compete to win BBC Four’s prestigious World Cinema Award 2010 and the World Cinema Achievement Award will be presented to a film-maker of great distinction.


Peter Howson

Filmed over two years, this portrait of Peter Howson follows the painter as he tackles a major commission for Glasgow’s Catholic cathedral and tells the story of his turbulent life from Eighties stardom to his religious-themed work today.


Northern Civic Architecture

Architectural historian Dr Jonathan Foyle explores the Georgian and Victorian civic buildings of the north of England in Northern Civic Architecture.

From 18th-century stone built public buildings embodying local pride and social conscience, to the innovative municipal structures of the 19th century, Foyle reveals remarkable buildings that have left an indelible mark on the architectural aesthetic of the north of England.

Northern Civic Architecture is part of a season celebrating the culture, history, life and architecture of northern England.

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