A truly cinematic art experience is on offer tonight at both multiplexes and art-house establishments across the country. As part of ‘Exhibition’, a series of films on great gallery shows, a feature-length documentary takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the Royal Academy’s ‘Manet: Portraying Life’.
Art historian and broadcaster Tim Marlow gives a guided tour of the exhibition, speaking to a wide range of figures from different disciplines about the works on view. Interviewees include the writer and urbanist Ian Sinclair, who gives a fascinating analysis of Music in the Tuileries Gardens (1862), and actress Fiona Shaw, whose perspective on the mysterious Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe (c. 1863–8) includes her compelling view of the French master as a “hybrid painter”.
The art-historical interpretation is fleshed out by biographical episodes and footage of the RA team, under the guidance of exhibition co-curator MaryAnne Stevens, as they plan and execute what was – in curatorial terms – a highly ambitious undertaking. And most importantly, thanks to the high-end high-definition cameras used, the visuals are utterly vivid, making Manet’s works look sparklingly sharp. Seeing exquisite details of his work projected on the big screen is, heretical as it sounds, almost better than viewing them in person.
To find a cinema near you showing the film, visit the ‘Exhibition’ site here,
and to see a sneak preview, visit this page on this website.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine