Issue 14: Article—Artists on Films

Each issue, RSL offers up that perennial internet favourite: the themed list. This time, to celebrate the release of The Danish Girl, we take a look at some other real-life artists who have been fictionalised on screen…

BasquiatmovieposterBasquiat (1996)

Who’s the artist? Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988)

What’s the story? Jeffrey Wright stars in this acclaimed portrait of the American street artist who was ‘discovered’ by Andy Warhol and took the New York art world by storm before succumbing to the pressures of fame. Written and directed by Julian Schnabel, the film is notable for featuring one of the late David Bowie’s screen performances (as Warhol).

Caravaggio (1986)

CaravaggioWho’s the artist? Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio (1571-1610)

What’s the story? Derek Jarman directed this fictionalised re-telling of the life of the Italian Baroque painter. Nigel Terry played the famed artist as an older man, with Dexter Fletcher portraying his younger self. Don’t rely on this account if you’re writing an assignment on the history of art – this is more a total ‘reimagining’ of the artist’s life than an accurate biopic.

PollockPollock (2000)

Who’s the artist? Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

What’s the story? Ed Harris directed and starred in this biopic of the troubled abstract expressionist painter. Marcia Gay Harden won an Oscar for her turn as Pollock’s lover, artist, Lee Krasner. The script was based on the book, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh.

Lust for LifeLust for Life (1956)

Who’s the artist? Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

What’s the story? A whole of host of big names contributed to this portrait of the brilliant but tortured van Gogh. Kirk Douglas took the lead role, with Oscar-winning Anthony Quinn as fellow artist, Paul Gauguin. Vincente Minnelli was the man behind the lens (with an uncredited George Cukor).

LovetheDevilLove Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998)

Who’s the artist? Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

What’s the story? Derek Jacobi and a (way before Bond) Daniel Craig starred in this tale of the British artist’s relationship with criminal, George Dyer. An adult film with dark themes, this is one for those who like their love scenes more S&M than wine & roses. Written and directed by John Maybury, the film is largely based on The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon by Daniel Farson.

MogModigliani (2004)

Who’s the artist? Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920)

What’s the story? Andy Garcia took the lead as the Italian painter and sculptor in this film, which focussed on the artist’s bitter rivalry with some fella called Pablo Picasso (played by Omid Djalili). Mick Davis wrote and directed this American-French–German–Italian production, which received something of a critical mauling on release.

FridaFrida (2002)

Who’s the artist? Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954)

What’s the story? The life of the Mexican painter was brought to the big screen with Salma Hayek in the lead role and Alfred Molina as her mentor and husband, Diego Rivera. The film depicts the uncompromising Kahlo’s political, artistic, and sexual exploits. Julie Taymor directed the adaptation of Hayden Herrera’s book, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo.

Surviving picassoSurviving Picasso (1996)

Who’re the artists? Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Françoise Gilot (1921-)

What’s the story? The focus here is actually Gilot, who became Picasso’s mistress, muse and mother to two of his children, before finding out about the other women in the artist’s life. Anthony Hopkins is Picasso, Natascha McElhone is Gilot and Joss Ackland is fellow artist, Henri Matisse. James Ivory directed the loose adaptation of the book, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington.

Issue 15 of RSL is out on 29 February.