Every Picture Tells a StoryWhat happens when you take a world renown art historian and critic and unleash him on 8 of the worlds most famous masterpieces? You get a riveting set of documentaries is the simple answer.

There is little doubt that Waldemar Januszczak is a leading authority in the world of art, his knowledge is compendious and his delivery style witty and entertaining.

Every Picture Tells A Story takes the viewer behind the scenes of some of the worlds most famous paintings and reveals the mysteries contained on the canvas. Indeed many of the classic paintings do indeed reveal much more when you subject them to some analysis.

For years people have speculated about Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, who was the woman? Some feel it is Da Vinci himself, an effeminate self portrait. How about that strange coy smile? These questions have been asked many times, what is the true story? Waldemar Januszczak offers his views, and they are certainly well researched and well reasoned. He also explores one interesting aspect that I had never thought of before, why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? It is a painting that you can show virtually everyone in the western world and that will know the title. Its brand recognition is colossal.

Da Vinci himself was an interesting man, revered by many for his inventions, at least on paper, but is that reverence actually warranted? As Waldemar Januszczak points out Da Vinci was in fact a world class fiddler who rarely saw a project to fruition. Indeed it was this reputation that caused Da Vinci to fall out of favor in the later part of his life.

Oh, and that smile, many people view it as unique to the Mona Lisa, it is anything but. Just like an engineer used some basic shapes to design something on a computer using a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program, so Da Vinci used some basic shapes, that smile occurs in a number of Da Vincis works and doodles, it was part of his tool box.

I mentioned the Mona Lisa, but actually I prefer the stories behind some of the other great works that are explored.

Carravaggio’s Boy Bitten By A Lizard is a wonderful excursion into the social history of Rome in the 1500’s. Carravagio had an uncanny knack for realism in his characters, preferring seedy street people as his subjects, even in his religious works. Waldemar Januszczak’s explanation of Boy Bitten By A Lizard is fascinating.

Also coming under the microscope is the very dark and disturbing The Anatomy Lesson Of Dr Tulp, a Rembrandt masterpiece. Rembrandt seems to have has a fascination with death, death in all its glory. This particular painting assaults the senses. Is there a deeper meaning?

Or how about Gainsborough and his rather strange Mr And Mrs Andrews? The painting is unfinished, what was going to be on Mrs Andrews lap? Why is Mrs Andrews so grouchy? Clearly this was a commissioned work, why did Gainsborough take this particular route? While we will never know what transpired between the artist and the Andrews family, it gives great pause for thought.

Art is a strange beast, and the characters involved often had ulterior motives in the paintings they produced. As the title of this DVD set says, every picture has a story.

I enjoyed this documentary series a great deal. In fact I have watched all 8 episodes several times. I see some nuance that I missed with every previous viewing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am no art expert, but I do love a good mystery. These are real world mysteries, and Waldemar Januszczak has done nothing short of a spectacular job with this series. Even if art is not your ‘thing’ I do believe that you will enjoy this series of documentaries. They are being released in the US by the Acorn group in a couple of days.

Just click on the cover art above, or here Every Picture Tells a Story and you can order your copy of Every Picture Tells A Story.

Simon Barrett

I have been talking in email with the production company, and do hope to interview the very entertaining and very knowledgeable Waldemar Januszczak.

Simon Barrett

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