I will openly confess to the fact that I am not a massive fan of the art gallery, but find more appreciation in listening to someone more knowledgeable tell me about art. And so, after spotting a feature in the Radio Times no less, I gave last night’s Perspectives a watch.
Eddie Redmayne is best known as an Oscar-winning actor; he’s starred in war drama Birdsong, played Marius in Les Misèrables in 2012 and more recently won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. This documentary, however, sees Redmayne hark back to his university days – he has a history of art degree from Trinity College, Cambridge – and embark on an emotional journey through the realms of war art.
Travelling to Flanders to experience the place which inspired much artwork during the First World War, Redmayne explores how war artists ‘depict the undepictable’, looking at the works of the Nash brothers and David Bomberg, an artist whose use of vibrant colour Redmayne marvels at. The programme also moves on to look at more contemporary pieces, with Redmayne discussing with several modern day painters how their stories of war have affected their artwork, as well as the controversial issue of censorship within war depictions.
It’s artistically shot, but I think what’s most refreshing about this programme is the little snapshots of Redmayne’s personality that shine through. At one point he jokes that he sounds like a weather man; he also insists on unnecessarily wearing white gloves to handle paintings in the Imperial War Museum so that he feels like a ‘proper’ curator, and also proclaims at one point “I’ve always had a weird fetish for palette knives.” Frankly, Redmayne spends a lot of time looking like an excited schoolboy, wrapped up in a flat cap and scarf, but when it comes down to scrutinising art, he slides seamlessly into a sincere and knowledgeable persona, and clearly knows and cares for what he is talking about.
Through this documentary, Redmayne makes war art somewhat more accessible. From the impressive works of canvas to sketches drawn on postcards, I certainly feel new found respect for those who spend time depicting the unimaginable for the rest of the world to see.