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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Story of Women and Art
The Story of Women and Art
Acorn Media // Unrated // January 27, 2015
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted February 13, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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The Story of Women and Art DVD Review

Women have far too often been neglected in the history of art. There have been many battles that female artists have had to face in their quest for acceptance and recognition for their talents in an industry unfairly divided and overrun with men. From the early origin's of art, there has been an immense struggle for women to overcome the unfair sexism and prejudices placed upon them in the world of professional artistry. The documentary program The Story of Women and Art seeks to explore the foundations and backgrounds of famous female painters and artists (from an array of creative fields) while simultaneously examining the often ignored and misunderstood history of women in these artistic mediums.

The series The Story of Women and Art has been written, produced, and hosted by historian, teacher, and writer Amanda Vickery. Vickery is a professor of modern history at the Queen Mary University in London. She is also a writer and critic for the BBC Radio and Guardian.  Vickery is an excellent host for the series and she provides strong background history and a richly detailed exploration of the highlighted works. Her hosting style is uniquely direct as locations are explored and the audience is invited to go along with Vickery on her journey. Throughout the program, Vickery also carries a delightful conversational tone (which helps to make this program all the more entertaining to watch). The presentation style and the research explored in the history of female artists makes this a must-see series for anyone with an interest in the subject.

The production was remarkably well-mounted with Vickery visiting a lot of locations which were far apart from one-another while exploring the history and movement of artistry and the styles throughout the ages. Produced and directed by John Hodgson and by Deborah Lee, the series has a slick, stylish vibe that carries throughout the episodes. This is a remarkably well filmed documentary and the look given to different cultures, museums, homes, and more is terrific fun. Series producer Hartford clearly succeeded at making this an accomplished production that looks splendid and covers a lot of essential ground.

While it is true that all great artists have had to face obstacles placed in front of them that must be overcome, it is also undeniably accurate that female artists have had a much more difficult time being recognized for their equally brilliant works of art. Even today, in a time when the world now cherishes some of these once ignored masterpieces, there are hurdles to overcome. Vickery touches on this very subject as she explores things like dramatically differing bidding costs which are associated with famous paintings from female painters compared to their male counterparts. She also explores how many acclaimed female artists throughout history are still ignored from even the places where they should receive the most widespread presentation: in a number of museums where famous paintings and works by female artists are owned she visits locations only to discover that these works needed to be taken out of storage before they could even be featured on the program.

Some of the artists discussed and explored in the program include Georgia O'Keeffe, Judith Leyster, Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Berthe Morisot, and Coco Chanel. Many different artists from a variety of artistic backgrounds are discussed and their works explored. Such creative artistic endeavors explored include paintings (including works of significant artistic merit which were created during the French Revolution and the Italian Renaissance).

Paintings are explored in a variety of styles. While historical and biblical paintings were in demand more than any other type of painting during many time-periods, many great female artists faced difficulties finding acceptance for their depictions of biblical figures and effects from war (which often emphasized a tragic element to war over more-glamorized depictions).  Female artists faced horrible prejudice for these works and had difficulty finding mainstream acceptance from art circles, painters, and other establishments. Despite these styles of art being highly demanded many female artists with significant talent faced difficulties selling their work done in these styles. These artists also faced difficulties in art training as men were able to paint their art after taking classes with nude models, but women were not allowed to do so). This made it particularly more difficult for them to paint as detailed illustrations of the male body. (Despite this limitation, many prominent female artists still worked to try and achieve great results but it was a much more difficult challenge given the discriminatory limitations imposed on them by male artists and art establishments).

Vickery also explores other forms of artistic achievement as well. She includes embroidery, paper cutting (extravagantly detailed and often featuring thousands of cuts from acclaimed artists), fashion (highlighting the changing styles of women over time), and more. She has included Chanel and other female innovators in women's fashion as key artists in history. Representing the variety of creative endeavors great female artists participated in shows significant areas where women excelled creatively despite imposed societal limitations.

The Story of Women and Art is an important documentary. Highlighting great art and educating audiences on important artistic achievements from accomplished female artists is a priority for Amanda Vickery (who excels as the program's host). Exploring these great accomplishments throughout the program, Vickery keeps things quite fascinating with an assortment of great interviews featuring art curators, historians, and others in the industry. It's hard to imagine audiences not finding this to be an essential documentary on the topic. This is an incredible achievement worth exploring by anyone with an interest in the arts.

The DVD:


Video:

The Story of Women and Art arrives on DVD from Athena with a generally pleasing 16:9 anamorphic widescreen image which preserves the series 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image has a clean look that is decidedly modern and noteworthy. Colors are crisp and vivid throughout the presentation. The image is reasonably detailed. If there is any downside, it resides in occasional compression artifacts that can be seen. It's not too detrimental to the presentation but it certainly is something that prevents this from receiving an even higher score.

Audio:

The 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo audio presentation is worthwhile even if the sound mixing was decidedly average. The sound quality is clean and the dialogue is easy to understand. There aren't issues with the audio quality for the purpose of experiencing this series. It's a fairly typical quality for a well-produced documentary program. The emphasis is entirely on the host's dialogue/voice-over. There isn't a lot of specific directionality that resides within the stereo design, but as host Amanda Vickery is easy to understand the audio quality still deserves solid marks.

Optional English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing) are provided.

Extras:

The lone extra included with this release is a reasonably put-together booklet containing more information on some of the important women artists discussed in the program. The 12 pages provided will add extra insight for those interested. It's a nice inclusion to the release.

Final Thoughts:

The Story of Women and Art is an exceptional program which provides an overview of various methods of art which women have explored and excelled in throughout history despite overwhelming sexism and obstacles placed in front of them. This program truly speaks to the important drive of artistry in every human being with a passion for creativity and to the importance of not giving up on one's dream. Host Amanda Vickery is a great leader for the documentary and does a terrific job of discussing the lives and works of the talent focused upon on the program. There are excellent insights to be heard from Vickery as well as from an array of individuals interviewed. This series is an essential for art lovers. 

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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