How Art Made the World + Simon Schama's Power of Art [BBC DVD]

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From the instinct of creativity to capturing humanity, these riveting BBC series promise a fascinating tour to the major stations of art over centuries.

Simon Schama's POWER OF ART


How Art Made the World

From the instinct of creativity to capturing humanity, this riveting BBC documentary series promises us a fascinating tour to the major stations of art and artistic expression over centuries.

Combining in a wonderful way the social events, politics, science, nature, archaeology and religion, the series episodes sort out the modern mysteries through travels to the past and the beginnings of civilization, thanks to some of the most amazing man-made structures ever devised in the world. A powerful narrative speech runs in each series episode, while a series of impressive scientific evidence reveals how our minds and the minds of our ancestors, are functionally related to the art.

The final destination of our journey is finding answers on key questions about man's place in the modern world and the image of humanity throughout time.

Simon Schama's Power of Art

Focusing on eight unique visual artworks - like Caravaggio's David and Goliath, David's The Death of Marat and Picasso's Guernica - the series unfolds the story of "visual" creative imagination over time. Thanks to the convincing dramatic reconstructions, the stunning photography and Simon Schama's unique style, the viewer becomes a witness of the dramatic moments of conception and creation of the most of important works of art.

From the dangerous world of Baroque Rome and massacres of the Spanish Civil War to the paradoxes of New York of the '50s and the dazzling lights of Manhattan, the award-winning series "The Power of Art" by Simon Schama tells the epic story of a constantly evolving artistic dynamic and presents the ability of people who changed our perspective of the world.

The series won (and was nominated for) the following awards:

Awards won:

• BAFTA TV Award (Best Photography Factual)
• Emmy Award (Arts Programming)

Nominated for:

• BAFTA TV Award (Specialist Factual)

These two BBC TV series are presented in a box set of 6 DVD discs. See the list of episodes and other details under Additional information.

This movie comes from our personal collection and only one piece is available

DVD rating
Rating - Like New
Like New: a DVD in perfect condition. The box or jewel case is clean and vivid, with no signs of wear.


Nigel Spivey, Simon Schama (narrators)


Box set, Colour PAL

Main soundtrack

English or Greek (selectable)
Dolby Digital 2.0


OFF or Greek (selectable)


Region 2: Europe (except Russia, Ukraine and Belarus), Western Asia, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, French overseas territories, Greenland

Aspect ratio


Number of discs





2 Entertain Video

Release date

How Art Made the World: 30 May 2005 in the U.K.
Simon Schama's Power of Art: 20 November 2006 in the U.K.

Run time

718 minutes (11 hours 58 mins)



List of episodes

Discs 1-2: How Art Made the World

Programme 1: More Human Than Human...

One image dominates our contemporary world above all others: the human body. How Art Made the World travels from the modern world of advertising to the temples of classical Greece and the tombs of ancient Egypt to solve the mystery of why humans surround themselves with images of the body that are so unrealistic.

Programme 2: The Day Pictures Were Born

The discovery of prehistoric cave paintings in the last century led to the shocking realisation that humans have been creating art for over 30,000 years. Episode two reveals how the very first pictures ever made were created, and how images may have triggered the greatest change in human history.

Programme 3: The Art of Persuasion

The visual devices used by Tony Blair and George Bush to get themselves elected and maintain power, come not from modern times, but a world that is thousands of years old. How Art Made the World ventures back to the creation of Stonehenge and the reign of Alexander the Great to reveal how imagery became an indispensable weapon in every leader's political armoury.

Programme 4: Once Upon a Time

Each year, over seven billion people across the world are drawn to see the latest feature films in the cinema. This episode reveals how the most powerful storytelling medium ever created exploits visual techniques invented by artists in the ancient world.

Programme 5: To Death and Back

Today, in the 21st century, people see fewer real dead bodies than at any time in history. Yet in the modern world we seem almost obsessed with images of death. In an investigation encompassing ancient Jericho, Aztec America, and classical Italy, How Art Made the World discovers what it is that has compelled human beings to surround themselves with images of death for thousands of years.

Read full description of the series and its episodes at the BBC web site.

Discs 3-6: Simon Schama's Power of Art


Caravaggio's approach to painting was unconventional. He avoided the standard method of making copies of old sculptures and instead took the more direct approach of painting directly onto canvas without drawing first. He also used people from the street as his models. His dramatic painting was enhanced with intense and theatrical lighting.

Caravaggio's fate was sealed when in 1606 he killed a man in a duel. He fled to Naples where he attempted to paint his way out of trouble, he became a Knight, but was then imprisoned in Malta and then finally he moved to Sicily. He was pardoned for murder in 1610, but he died of a fever attempting to return to Rome.

"For me the power of Caravaggio's art is the power of truth, not least about ourselves. If we are ever to hope for redemption we have to begin with the recognition that in all of us the Goliath competes with the David." (Simon Schama)


Born in Naples, Bernini was an exceptional talent from an early age and went on to dominate the art world of 17th century Rome. His work epitomised the Baroque style and his sculpture, church interiors and exteriors and town planning could be seen everywhere.

Bernini worked under successive Popes: Pope Gregory XV made him a knight and Pope Urban VIII took him as his best friend. He was revered in his time until a jealous rage caused him to have the face of his mistress slashed after discovering her romance with his brother. His reputation fell further after his bell towers for the Cathedral of St Peter's started cracking in 1641. He redeemed himself and kick started his career again with arguably his most famous work, The Ecstasy of St Theresa, in 1652.


Rembrandt's success in his early years was as a portrait painter to the rich denizens of Amsterdam at a time when the city was being transformed from a small nondescript port into the economic capital of the world. His historical and religious paintings also gave him wide acclaim.

Despite being known as a portrait painter, Rembrandt used his talent to push the boundaries of painting. This direction made him unpopular in the later years of his career as he shifted from being the talk of the town to becoming adrift in the Amsterdam art scene and criticised by his peers.


Painting became an important means of communication for David since his face was slashed during a sword fight and his speech became impeded by a benign tumour that developed from the wound, leading him to stammer. He was interested in painting in a new classical style that departed from the frivolity of the Rococo period and reflected the moral and austere climate before the French Revolution.

David became closely aligned with the republican government and his work was increasingly used as propaganda with the Death of Marat proving his most controversial work.


One of Britain's most celebrated artists, Turner showed exceptional artistic talent from an early age and entered the Royal Academy aged fourteen. His English landscapes made his name but there was a darker side to his paintings that was difficult for the critics to swallow, both in the increasingly informal use of paint and the subject matter that was critical of the romanticised vision of Britain in the late nineteenth century.

Van Gogh

Born in Groot-Zundert, The Netherlands, Van Gogh spent his early life as an art dealer, teacher and preacher in England, Holland and Belgium. His period as an artist began in 1881 when he chose to study art in Brussels, starting with watercolours and moving quickly on to oils. The French countryside was a major influence on his life and his early work was dominated by sombre, earthy colours depicting peasant workers, the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters, 1885.

It was during Van Gogh's studies in Paris (1886-1888) that he developed the individual style of brushwork and use of colour that made his name. In 1888 he moved to Arles where the Provencal landscape provided his best-known subject matter. However, it also marked the start of his mental crisis following an argument with his contemporary Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh was committed to a mental asylum in 1889 where he continued to paint, but he committed suicide in 1890.


Guernica (1937) was created during Picasso's Surrealist period and captures the horror of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. By the end of World War II, Picasso had become an internationally known artist and celebrity.


Rothko is known for his abstract expressionism paintings, but he moved through more traditional styles in his early career, including surrealist paintings in the 1940s. In 1947 he embarked on the first of his large abstract 'colour-field' paintings, formalising their structure further in the 1950s.

Rothko had huge success with large scale solo shows, but committed suicide in 1970.

Read full description of the series and its episodes at the BBC web site.





  • SKU: MOV-DOC-TRA-1001

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