British Masters – Dr James Fox

Thanks to BBC iPlayer I’ve just had an experience I don’t think I’d have been persuaded to undergo if I hadn’t been taking The Art of Photography course; I watched the 3 part series of British Masters.

You might ask “what has painting in the 20th century got to do with photography in the 21st?”  Directly of course it probably doesn’t, but indirectly they are both visual arts and photography was invented for those of us who haven’t the talent of drawing and painting.  But there’s yet another reason for their connection; it shows us the wonderful progression of art structure and composition over a period of almost 100 years, and to me that was the most incredibly revealing part of the series.  Never mind the fact that some of the best modernistic art I’ve seen was shown, explained and their creators dissected; for the first time ever someone was able to explain and show clearly how and why and when artists changed style and presentation.

Normally, someone like myself would go to a public gallery and see pictures that have no contextual explanation, no historical setting and continuity.  Now I feel that I can at least look at British art of the 20th century entirely differently and with the small knowledge I have, see the why, appreciate the what and understand the where in the line of things the piece fits.

So what has this to do with photography?  My biggest problem is understanding how we progressed from the early pictures the pioneers created of the where and the thing, to today’s images where the narrative is the key.  By understanding the world that painters inhabited for a large chunk of the period that photography has been around helps give an understanding of why photography moved the way it did in reaction to the changing artistic world.


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