ZCZ Films / On Demand

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Painting at night is difficult and problematic. So why have so many great artists taken on the challenge? Waldemar Januszczak celebrates the nocturnal art of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Velazquez, Hopper and Magritte as he explores art's edgy relationship with the night and tries to discover why the dark adds so much extra drama and mystery to art.

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In this spectacular three-part series, Waldemar Januszczak explores the Baroque tradition in many of its key locations. Starting in Italy and following the spread of the wildfire across Europe and beyond, he takes us on a tour of the best examples of Baroque to be found, and tells the best stories behind those works.

Episode One begins at St. Peter’s in Rome, and details the birth of the Baroque tradition as it burst forth in Italy.

Episode Two follows Baroque to its dark heart in Spain, especially focussing on the route of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and featuring star painters Velasquez, Caravaggio, and Zurburan. We then follow on through Belgium and Holland to discover such celebrities as Rubens and Vermeer.

Episode Three brings the Baroque home with an exploration of the English tradition, which finds its climax through Christopher Wren and the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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The film they tried to ban! Waldemar Januszczak’s controversial investigation of new art in China reveals a very different Beijing art world to the one that the Chinese authorities seek to present to the world. Shot secretly, with hidden cameras, in the build up to the Beijing Olympics, this remarkably frank account of new Chinese art reveals a fractured society obsessed with death and decay, and fighting fiercely for the right to public self-expression.

When Beijing Swings was aired on Channel 4, questions were asked about it in the House of Commons and the Chinese authorities banned its makers from re-entering China.

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An enlightening eight-part series, in which art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, sets out to unlock the hidden meanings contained within some of the world’s most famous paintings. The answers will shock and surprise you.

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The first full-length biography of one of the world’s most popular artists.
Gauguin is best known for his gorgeous paintings of Tahiti. But has the fame of Gauguin’s Tahiti pictures blinded us to the bigger truth about his achievements?

Waldemar Januszczak believes so, and his epic biography of Gauguin follows the painter through countless twists in a remarkable life that takes him from an idyllic and forgotten childhood in Peru to an horrific and notorious death on the Marquesas Islands. The Gauguin who emerges from this radical re-telling of his story was not only a great painter but also a sculptor, musician, print maker, journalist and ceramicist.

Hailed by The Times as the finest artistic biography ever made, Gauguin: The Full Story features a stunning collection of Gauguin's masterpieces shot in museums and galleries around the world.

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As Henry VIII’s court painter, Hans Holbein witnessed and recorded the most notorious era in English history. He painted most of the major characters of the age, and created the famous image of the king himself that everyone today still recognises.

But who really was Holbein? Where did he come from? And what were the dark and unsettling secrets hidden in his art? Waldemar Januszczak looks at the life and work of an artist who became famous for bringing the Tudor age to life, but who could have been so many other things.

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Manet is one of the main candidates for the title of the most important artist there’s been. As the reluctant father of Impressionism, and the painter of Dejeuner sur L’Herbe, he can probably be accused of inventing modern art. But his story is fascinating on so many other levels.
There was Manet’s private life, which was chaotic and dramatic, dominated by an affair with his piano teacher who was simultaneously seeing Manet’s own dad. To this day, no one is sure if it was Manet junior or senior who fathered the Manet son. No wonder he turned against authority. There were other exotic affairs too, and a particularly horrible death, when, riddled with syphilis and gangrene, Manet had to have his leg amputated.

But none of it would matter a jot were it not for the revolutionary art it provoked and coloured. Manet was a born rebel, in his art and in his life. Always cited as the father of the Impressionists, he stubbornly refused to show with them, and was careful to maintain an aesthetic distance from Monet, Renoir and the others. They worshipped him. He looked down on them.

And preferred instead to continue his own remarkable departure from the traditional ways of art. The scandalous paintings with which he made his reputation – the outrageously sexy Olympia; the relentlessly paraphrased Dejeuner sur L’Herbe – are the most totemic images in French 19th century art. And the story of how Manet was rejected from the official salon, and ended up instigating the Salon des Refuses, can be understood as the epoch’s key cultural event. It led to everything.

Using the life of Manet as his narrative arch, Waldemar Januszczak, will tell the story of complex and difficult man who started a revolution that continues to rumble on today. Some bits of Manet’s revolutionary output are justly famous. But most bits of it are not. And by some strange quirk of serendipity, Manet’s full story has never been told in a major television documentary. This is a proposal to right that wrong.

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All saints in art are inventions, but no saint in art has been invented quite as furiously as Mary Magdalene. For a thousand years, artists have been throwing themselves at the task of describing her and telling her story, from Caravaggio to Cézanne, Rubens to Rembrandt, Titian to van Gogh.

Her identity has evolved from being the close follower of Jesus who was the first witness to his resurrection, to one of a prostitute and sinner who escaped from persecution in the Holy Land by fleeing across the Mediterranean to wind up living in a cave as a hermit in the South of France, enjoying ecstatic experiences with Christ.

It is this role as a repentant prostitute that has pressed the buzzer of art most violently. The loose woman, wild haired and sexy, draped in her iconic scarlet garb, who, as the archetypal penitent, set the moral benchmark for which women were to aspire.

Her identity has been re-imagined by bishops, artists, authors and musicians. Whilst possessing the relics of Mary Magdalene was big business for Medieval monks in France, she has also proved her worth in the West End and Hollywood, playing the role of the lover of Christ in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and in Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

Delving into the great art of the last 1000 years, Waldemar will explore the evolution of the identity of this scarlet woman and reveal what this all really says about the artists whom she bewitched.

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Best known as the birthplace of the fictitious Borat, Kazakhstan is in fact a delightful; country with an extraordinary artistic past, and an even more extraordinary artistic present, as the art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, discovers when he travels there to investigate the shocking stories he has been hearing about the mad experimental art of modern Kazakhstan. Are the stories true? Does all this really go on? You bet.

With its risky video installations, outrageous performance pieces, stunning nudity, desperate violence, and weird shamanism, the modern art of Kazakhstan takes Januszczak’s breath away and will probably do the same to you.

Through this extraordinary filmic journey, we meet a remarkable range of Kazak artists who are blurring the lines between the traditional and the modern, combining the ancient with the contemporary; and pushing the boundaries of “regressive progressive” art.

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This timely documentary tells the fascinating and largely unknown story of Islamic art and architecture. The film’s discoveries and will surprise many Muslims as well as Westerners.

Islam has inspired some of the world’s greatest art. But this huge artistic achievement has long been undervalued. Waldemar Januszczak puts the case for the supremacy of Islamic art. His epic journey of discovery across the Muslim world, from Central Asia to the heart of the Middle East, from Cairo to Samarkand, reveals a treasure-trove of awe-inspiring religious creativity. Works range from the dazzling 10th century Egyptian rock crystal ewer, to the dancing girl frescos of Isfahan, as far afield as the surreal mud mosques of West African Mali.

“Waldemar Januszczak is perhaps the most articulate presenter of programmes on the subject of art on British television today” – The Observer
“Here is a celebration of Islamic art that expresses the timeless and the divine” – The Knowledge
“Two hours of entertaining but seriously good television” – Daily Telegraph

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Waldemar Januszczak hates dogs. They poo outside his door, spread diseases, sniff embarrassingly around his crotch, and bring out the worst in all their owners. Who needs dogs?, asks Januszczak, as he sets off on a disastrous journey through canine history that takes him to Korea to eat dog, and to Derby where the world's largest dog tries to eat him.

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Rococo art is often dismissed as frivolous and unserious. But Waldemar Januszczak disagrees. In this revolutionary three-part series he re-examines Rococo art, and argues that the Rococo was actually the age in which the modern world was born. Picking three key territories of Rococo achievement – Travel, Pleasure, and Madness – Waldemar will celebrate the finest cultural achievements of the period and examine the drives and underlying meanings that make them so prescient.

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In this series from ZCZ Films, Waldemar Januszczak includes art that is not usually thought of as ‘Renaissance art’. This will involve ‘re-classifying’ what is sometimes called Late Gothic, and showing it off as a marvelous and native artistic tradition, particularly in the remarkable field of polychrome sculpture.

On top of all the new art to be introduced, Waldemar will also look from fresh and intriguing angles at many of the established Renaissance giants, including Michelangelo in the Vatican, Leonardo in the Louvre, Botticelli in the Uffizi, Van Eyck in Ghent.

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The last solar eclipse of the 20th century occurred on 11 August 1999. To commemorate this historic event the brilliant American artist, James Turrell, was commissioned to produce a special work located on a hillside overlooking St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

Turrell is famous for thinking big. The material he works with is light. And his Cornish artwork was what Turrell christened a ‘Skyspace’ – a special chamber for viewing the sky.

This film documents two years with Turrell working and living in both Cornwall and at his ranch in Arizona, leading up to eclipse itself.

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In this landmark four part series the art critic Waldemar Januszczak explores the revolutionary achievements of the Impressionists, through the stories of some of Art’s most famous painters: Monet, Degas and Van Gogh, as well as less-known Impressionists such as Caillebotte, Cassatt and Braquemond.

Although today Impressionism is considered appropriate for chocolate boxes, Januszczak argues that it was actually a remarkably exciting and radical movement in Art.

Travelling from the shores of the West Indies, to the city of Paris and the suburbs of London, Januszczak explores the key locations that inspired the Impressionists, and discovers the ground-breaking scientific advancements that allowed the movement to flourish.

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When we think of Britain’s greatest artists, we think of Turner or Constable or Hogarth. But we don’t usually think of William Dobson, do we? Many people have not even heard of him. Yet Dobson was Britain’s finest Baroque portraitist, an unusually talented artist whose work was bound up inextricably with one of the most dramatic events in _British history – the English Civil War.
Born in London in 1611, Dobson became Charles I’s principal painter on the death of Van Dyck in 1641. A year later, at the outbreak of the English Civil War, Dobson accompanied the King to Oxford, where he painted spectacular portraits of the Royal Family and the leading Royalist supporters. Following the King’s defeat by Cromwell and the Parliamentarians in 1646, Dobson returned to London where he died in poverty, aged just 35.

It was a tragically short career, but a hugely significant one. In this film, the art critic Waldemar Januszczak uncovers the fascinating life and times of the artist, and argues that Dobson is a lost genius of British art. Travelling to great houses, museums, castles and palaces across Britain, Januszczak examines many of Dobson’s masterpieces and the impressive settings in which they can be found, and shows why this great artist does not deserve to be forgotten.

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Waldemar Januszczak travels to some of the most spectacular artistic locations in the world determined to prove that sculpture is the most important of all the arts.

The series covers three topics – Women, Leaders and Land Art – with each programme traversing the globe – from Easter Island to Africa, from Peru to Tahiti – looking for the most impressive and weirdest sculptures in existence. Featuring the work of James Turrell, Orlan, Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, this pioneering series traces the origins of sculpture's most important themes back to distant prehistory.

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Art is full of angry outsiders. Yet almost all of them are eventually welcomed and forgiven. But not Lautrec. Energetic and bubbly before a childhood accident that would cripple him for life, Lautrec turned into the violent, obsessive, sexually rampant alcoholic, about whom so much that is so misleading has been written. During the course of his short but turbulent life, Lautrec succeeded in producing a body of art that was truly revolutionary in tone and impact. His work landed some of the most effective blows on the wall that separates high art from low. Yet all this is frequently forgotten as his infamy grows and grows.

Pioneer of the poster, apostle of the brothel, lover of the low. Lautrec is as under-estimated today as he ever was.

“Like all his films, it is shot through with intelligence, energy and a sense of fun” – The Sunday Times
“It is fascinating to watch and learn as Januszczak painstakingly sets the record straight. A must for anyone interested in 19th-century art, or indeed art full stop” – The Observer
“…entertaining, informative and occasionally eye-opening” – Daily Telegraph
“An affectionate, myth-busting homage…A whole series could have been eked out about this fascinating, subversive artist” – Time Out

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‘Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.’ – Confucius
Has beauty disappeared from modern art? Several influential modern thinkers insist that it has. And this belief has inspired them to publish a clutch of recent books which claim that modern art is no longer capable of capturing true beauty: that beauty has gone from art.

But the art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, disagrees fiercely with these suggestions. He believes that great art is as interested in beauty as it always was. Perhaps the definition of beauty has changed. Perhaps we are looking for it in the wrong places. But beauty is there. And he is going to find it.

Don’t expect it to be the same old beauty, though. Art is no longer in the obvious business of celebrating the glorious nude or the lovely flower study. Beauty today can be electronic or scientific; subtle and elusive. It can be found in the LCD sculptures of Tatsuo Miyajima or the subtle light installations of James Turrell. Carl Andre discovers a stern modern beauty in squares of industrial materials dropped around a goods yard. The cancer paintings of Damien Hirst find a terrible modern beauty in the deformed human anatomy. These and other great searchers after beauty would be the subject of this film.

The world today needs beauty more than it has ever needed it. Modern art is one of the few suppliers.

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The definitive three-part life of Van Gogh.
Most people know three things about Vincent Van Gogh: that he painted sunflowers, that he cut off his ear, and that he killed himself. But what was Vincent really like?

Following closely in Van Gogh’s footsteps, from his grim early life in Holland to his tumultuous suicide in Auvers, Waldemar Januszczak draws on the latest research from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to provide a fresh, unsentimental portrait of the artist we think we know. The film reveals new depths to Van Gogh’s character and personality, and throws new light on the most infamous events in his life from the disastrous two years he spent in England, to the traumatic ear-cutting in Arles.

If you think you know Vincent well – think again.

“Magnificent” – The Independent
“Fascinating viewing… the reciprocal influence of artist upon place is visible and infectious” – The Observer