Top Ten Films About Artists

Just as fine art is inspirational, the lives of the artists themselves have intrigued, entertained and fostered creativity in the public for decades. Many films have been made celebrating the fascinating lives and the creative process of artists of all kinds.  We list here a short guide to the best of the best.

Lust for life (1956)     
This film has stood the test of time and is based on the novel by Irving Stone and follows the tortured life of Vincent van Gogh. Starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn it is a wonderful depiction of the intense life of this incredible painter. Van Gogh only managed to sell one painting during his lifetime, yet he is arguably the world’s best-known artist. This movie is still very watchable sixty years after its release, with its sensitive portrayal of VanGoghs passion, mental illness, and genius.


 Frida (2002)
Salma Hayek gives a wonderful performance as the tragic Frida Kahlo, who channeled crippling injury into her bold, colourful self-portraits.  Her complex and passionate life with the artist, Diego Rivera. Her affair with Leon Trotsky. Frida was political, uncompromising, brave and brilliant. The film follows her life from a feisty schoolgirl to being a celebrated artist in Mexico.

Basquiat (1996)     
This film on Jean-Michel Basquiat is wonderful and not just because a Basquiat painting sold for a staggering $110.5 million this year, and not just because the film stars David Bowie (as Andy Warhol). It is wonderful, as it is the story of an American artist who achieved fame as an informal graffiti artist. It celebrates the unique work of a creative genius.
 Big Eyes (2014) 
Drama, comedy and a true story combined with the quirky direction of Tim Burton combine to make Big Eyes an entertainment package that everyone will enjoy, It is the story of Margaret Keane, an artist who went unrecognized for years as her husband, Walter took credit for her paintings of figures with big eyes.  You either love or hate her artwork, but the tale itself is mesmerizing.    
Pollock (2000)  
Jackson Pollock became the greatest American painter of the 20thCentury. This film charts his life from struggling artist to successful artist achieving selling some of the most expensive works of art ever sold.  He battles with alcoholism and an interesting love life (seems to be a common theme among the famous artists) and enjoys success as the world’s best known abstract expressionist painter.

 Exit through the Gift Shop (2010)
Banksy is the most well-known street artist in the world.  His identity is still private and yet, he remains a rule-breaking guerrilla artist.  Exit through the Gift Shop is a celebration of this artist’s ingenious, original, controversial, political and brilliant work. Banksy has left his mark all over the world, including London, Palestine, New York, Canada and beyond.

Mr Turner (2014)  
The eccentric and difficult English romanticist landscape painter, Joseph Turner is brought to life wonderfully by the actor, Timothy Spall and director, Mike Leigh. A controversial figure, Turner changed the face of landscape painting, while living a very unorthodox life.

 Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) 
Vermeer, the Dutch painter of the 17th Century story is expertly told through the lens of the young servant, Griet, who was immortalised in the famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. An exciting dramatic movie which captures the life and times of the famous painter, his household and the world of the artist at that time.
Klimt   (2006)  Woman in Gold- Adele’s Last Will (2015)
John Malkovich stars as Gustav Klimt. Klimt lies in a hospital, dying of syphilis as we recall, through flashbacks, his life in art. A varied and turbulent love life, his muse and frequent visits to Austria. It was not a huge box office success. The film, Woman in Gold was a more popular film on Klimt, although it did not concentrate on the artist uniquely opplulent artwork, but on the recovery of the Bloch-Baurt Klimt collection and the restitution paid by Austria to its former owners. Starring Helen Mirren, it is the true story of the legal battle to have it returned.

Caravaggio (1986) 
Caravaggio is of Particular interest to Irish people as the Caracaggio exhibition in the National Gallery comes to its close. The drama which is evident in his paintings is reflected in the life of Caravaggio himself.  The film opens with the death of the great painter, and tells his story as a renegade teenage to his rise as an iconic painter.  The film is noted for its errors, in that a motorbike and a manual typewriter are seen in this and a car horn is heard at some point. However, it captures the incredible, melodramatic life of this master painter who celebrated the lives of ordinary people.