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  • Writer's pictureShlomit Oren

Best Free Online Art Documentaries

Getting to know an artist thorough his or her art is the best way I think. However, after the initial encounters I sometimes get the urge to learn more about the person behind the works of art – the background, influences, life circumstances and even how they look. Moreover, once I formed an opinion, I’m interested to listen to other people’s opinions, such as curators and art historians.

The immediacy of documentaries is what make them especially good tool for all this. Plus – when done well, they are absolutely immersive and enjoyable.

Here is a short list of art documentaries, complimenting the art movies list. Enjoy!

Jean Michel Basquiat

You can get to know Basquiat through the documentary JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT - THE RADIANT CHILD which includes interviews with friends as well as archival footage and photographs of the young man who was the hottest thing in New York, rose as a meteor and crashed. He left this world when he was only 27 years old. Too bad, it looks like he was a really nice guy.

Watch here

Johannes Vermeer

The documentary VERMEER – MASTER OF LIGHT emphasizes Vermeer's virtuosity, an artist who left very little information and few paintings behind. Vermeer never left his home town Delft and almost never left his house - most of the paintings depict characters inside a house, lit by the natural daylighted coming though the window.

The film provides a close look at the works and reveals all sorts of little secrets that shed light on Vermeer’s greatness in color, technique and composition. The narrator is the wonderful Meryl Streep, which is of course a bonus.

Watch here

Gustav Klimt

The documentary ADELE’S LAST WISH tells the story of Klimt's most famous painting - The Woman in Gold. The film tracks the story of the painting nationalized by the Nazi-sponsored authorities and the long legal battle to restore it to the family heir's possession.

Recently a feature film was produced that tells the same story starring Helen Mirren. Look for it (paid or subscription).

Watch here

Amadeo Modigliani

THE MYSTERY OF THE MODIGLIANI MASTERPIECE is a documentary by a journalist traces the story of the painting 'A Sited Man with a Cane’ owned by a Jewish art dealer in Paris on the eve of the second world war and ended up in the huge collection of the Nahmad family, New York Jewish art dealers, through various shell companies. The legal battle over ownership is currently being debated in the courts and has not yet ended.

Watch now


How did Impressionism - an innovative, bold and avant-garde art movement became the one that represents academic and traditional taste? IMPRESSIONISM – REVENGE OF THE NICE attempts to answer this very question as it deciphers the evolution of taste.

Watch now


VICTORIAN REVOLUTIONARIES is a documentary series narrating the historical course of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formation and sheds light on the innovation and uniqueness of their paintings. The series highlights the place of brotherhood in the revival of British painting.

Watch Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Frida Kahlo

With Polio disease at age 6, severe bus accident at age 18, a tangled relationship with star-painter Diego Rivera, repeated abortions, surgery and death at a young age, Frida Kahlo's life was difficult and full of agony. All her personal experiences and anguish are evident in her paintings, which became a kind of a personal diary. In the documentary, interviews with relatives and archival footage help to grasp the full story of this fascinating personality.

Watch here

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