Brushstrokes on the silver screen

Brushstrokes on the silver screen

Here's a happy list of films with narratives built around famous works of art.


In the past, we have had several discussions around artists, museums, galleries and collectors with regard to their current situation and the general art scene. But, what about the viewers — all the art lovers who miss visiting galleries, viewing art and interacting with artists? Audiences are more than eager to engage with art and culture through various activities. However, with limited access to live art and cultural events, this has been a difficult period for them too.

With this in mind, I had initiated a thread on social media to compile a list of art and artist-related books and films, which fortunately evolved into a comprehensive compilation with several interesting suggestions. So here’s a short list of films that have an art connection — some of these are biopics, a few that are loosely based on factual events, while others are fictional narratives built around famous artworks — all of them though, are a pleasant way to pass time and are certainly worth a watch.

Frida: This is a beautiful, passionate film made in 2002, based on Frida Kahlo’s life. It portrays her crippling injury and unending pain, her artistic journey and her tumultuous relationship with her husband Diego Rivera. It’s a visually striking film with amazing performances from Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina.

Golden Girl: Built around Gustave Klimt’s famous painting ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I’, the film portrays the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman, who attempts to reclaim her family possessions, which include her aunt’s portrait. Randy Schoeberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young lawyer, helps her in the legal battle that ensues, making the recovery of the painting difficult, since Austria considers it as part of her national treasures.

Big Eyes: The 2014 film, a biographical drama, follows the story of artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose phenomenal success was wrongfully claimed by her husband Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). Once she reveals herself to be the artist behind the popular paintings and drawings of people with big eyes, it leads to tensions and develops into a lawsuit and a trial.

The Mona Lisa Smile: A 2003 drama, the title refers to the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci and to a song by the same name. The story follows Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts), an art history teacher’s attempt to introduce her students to art beyond textbooks and images and build a better understanding of modern art. She encourages them to think beyond traditional roles for women, and in the process, she imparts life lessons and forms deeper relationships with her students.

The Thomas Crown Affair: ‘A very rich and successful playboy amuses himself by stealing artwork, but may have met his match in a seductive detective’ is how IMDB describes the 1999 film. Essentially, a $100 million art theft by Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan), a chase by the beautiful Catherine Banning (Rene Russo), generously peppered by famous paintings by Claude Monet, Pissarro and Rene Magritte form the crux of this fast-paced and amusing romantic thriller.

The Danish Girl, Mr Turner, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Pollock and Loving Vincent are a few other films that are a must watch.

The author is a Bangalore-based art consultant, curator and writer. She blogs at Art Scene India and can be reached on

Dab Hand is your fortnightly art world low-down. It will tell you all about what fresh ideas are out there, what to collect and what to admire from afar. And, of course, what not to.

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