Chapter 2 Vasari in Hollywood: Artists and Biopics

Steven Jacobs

in Framing Pictures

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748640171
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670901 | DOI:
Chapter 2 Vasari in Hollywood: Artists and Biopics

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Presenting a survey of the genre of the artist biopic, this chapter investigates which specific artists and art historical eras proved attractive to filmmakers. Favouring the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the one hand and the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the other, artist biopics heavily depend on the Renaissance notion of the artist as an exceptional individual and the Romantic idea of the artist as a misunderstood genius, who not only rejects artistic conventions but also leads a life determined by poverty, alcohol, pangs of love, venereal diseases, fits of insanity, self-mutilation, crime and suicide. Cinema unmistakably endorses the stereotypical artist's personality, which is the subject of many myths and anecdotes. Reminiscent of the strategies used in the art documentaries discussed in the first chapter, artist biopics mobilize or animate static paintings and sculptures. As a result, artist biopics favour but often also struggle with scenes involving the act of artistic creation. Specifically, this chapter also examines two films, both hovering between documentary and fiction, which focus on the act of creation of a specific painting: Hazan's A Bigger Splash and Erice's Dream of Light (The Quince Tree Sun), featuring David Hockney and Antonio Lopez Garcia respectively.

Keywords: Biopic; Artist Biography; Artist Mythology; Artist Legends; Jack Hazan; David Hockney; Victor Erice; Antonio Lopez Garcia; Giorgio Vasari

Chapter.  11697 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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