Every Picture Tells: Fascinating Doc

DATELINE: Picture This, Part One

 Mr. & Mrs. Mr. & Mrs. Andrews

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak  makes great paintings accessible and stresses how they endure.

From its galloping opening credits, you know this is not Kenneth Clark pontificating. It is art with a large dollop of droll and snide insight. The host begins with a barrage of witty puns.

The mini-series covers a couple of disks with four major paintings and painters on each. Waldemar knows enough to start off the series with his aplomb dropping wit applied to Thomas Gainsborough.

You might think he’d do “Blue Boy,” but instead he goes for an unfinished masterpiece called “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews.”  He savages them totally in about 25 minutes.

In the host’s estimation, Gainsborough did not like Mrs. Andrews much—and the family cancelled the picture before it was finished. He wanted to show the hard-hearted Mrs. Andrews throttling a pheasant her husband just shot on their massive estate.

Gainsborough insights abound from the critic. He notes how the painter’s father was into satin manufacturing—and his artist son always makes his subjects wear the most gorgeous clothes.

As for the subject of portraiture, he did not favor it. The first episode is lively and wonderful. Succeeding pieces on Rembrandt, Giorgioni, and Boticelli, are less amusing, though he provides many startling facts.

You will find that Rembrandt enjoyed the lessons of dissecting human bodies, and Venus on the half-shell is more than an appetizer.

You can’t turn away from great art, or great education, and we look forward to what he has to say about Da Vinci and Caravaggio in the subsequent episodes.