Film: 3284

Art + Architecture | 1960 | Sound | B/W


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This film, which is narrated by Tim Benton, focuses on the representation of the female nude and it's changes, from the 1830's untill the end of the century. It looks at history painting, allegorical subject matter, academy studies, using the life model and fairy paintings, fantasy and escapism.

The film opens with a shot of a William Etty (1787-1849) painting; Youth on the Prow and Pleasure at the Helm, 1832. Over this image is played a quote from 1832, a criticism of the subject matter and the nudity in his painting. A still shot of this painting continues while Tim Benton begins his introduction. The camera pans left to reveal him sitting infront and to the left of the painting, he continues discussing the content of the programme. Benton has medium length dark hair, parted on one side and brushed over, dark glasses and quite a long, dark moustache. He is wearing a suit jacket, a shirt and a thin tie. He has his hands clasped together on his lap and he occasionally swivells slightly in his chair. The film cuts to a full-shot, panning in to show just the face, of a photograph of W.Etty. Over this image a quote from Etty is read out, explaining his work. This continues over a panned shot of the previous painting. Cut to a close-up, head and shoulders shot, of Benton as he continues discussing Victorian art and the public reaction to it. The film cuts to a full shot of another Etty painting; Sleeping Nympth and Satyr,1828. The main focus of the painting is a reclining nude in the foreground with her arms stretched out over her head and her face turned to the side. She is naked except for a small piece of draped fabric which just covers her pubic hair, a satyr is slightly bent over her watching. This painting was considered at the time to be; to realistic and concequently to vulgar. Over this image is a narrative reference to another of Etty's paintings; Arrora and the Zepha,1845. Cut to a still shot of a painting by one of Etty's pupils, William Frost; The Sea Cave, which shows a more acceptable image of the nymph. The film then cuts to an almost full shot of Frost's painting; Cupid Discovered Sleeping by the Nymphs of Diana.

There is also a narrative reference to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who bought similar paintings. A close-up shot follows of one section of the previous painting which so impressed Prince Albert that he commissioned Frost to paint a futher picture; La Legro(?). There follows a full shot of this painting, including it's frame. Cut to a close-up shot of a painting by William Dyce (1806-1864), also commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, which shows scenes of British naval supremacy and which also includes several nude studies. The film returns to a head and shoulder shot of Benton as he continues his discussion. A still shot and close-up shots follow of two of Etty's painted life class(academy) studies. Over these images is played a quote from Alexanda Gillcrist's biography of Etty from 1855. This includes information about Etty's academy studies, his use for them and his wish that; "young men don't have them in their possession merely to show about to one another." Cut to a still shot of a W.Frost sketch from life, showing a female nude, front on, sitting, leaning to the left her face turned to the right and her eyes closed. A close-up shot follows, zooming out, to show a life study by William Mulready(1786-1863). His studies were done either in black chalk or pen and ink. The shot returns to Benton as he informs the viewer that John Ruskin (1819-1900) thought these life sketches to be: "Degrading and beastial". Cut to a still shot of one of the few paintings Mulready produced from his life sketches; Bathers Suprise. One nude is shown in the foreground, twisting her hair around her fingers and two more are visable in the background. Return to a shot of Benton as he begins to discuss Victorian sculpture, the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the large number of draped or partially draped nude statues on show. Cut to a full shot of the sculpture; Innocence, by J.H.Foley. The sculpture shows a draped female nude, looking down and twisting her hair around her two hands. She is shown infront of a black background. A contemporary quote is played from The Art Journal defending the number of nude statues on show at the Great Exhibition. This is played over a still shot of a second draped nude sculpture, again against a black background. Cut to a still shot of Edward Hodges Bailey's sculpture; Eve, a reclining nude whose subject matter meant no drape was deemed necessary. Cut to a full length, then close-up, of John Bell's draped sculpture; Dorethea. Return to a head and shoulder shot of Benton. The film then cuts to the first of two photographs showing a sculpture by the American Hiram Powers(1805-1873); The Greek Slave,1843. The first shows the front view of the sculpture, full length. She is standing, facing the viewer, but with her head turned to the side. Her two hands are chained together, and to a post at her side. The second photograph is taken from the side and shows her face, a reflection of the back of her head is visable behind her. A contemporary quote is read out which explains the possible background and thoughts of the slave depicted. Cut to a close-up shot of a second depiction of a draped slave. The shot begins on her chained hand, as she sits covering herself with a drape, and pans up to her face, which is also draped but with features remaining visable. It was this transparent quality of the sculpture which made it such a success at the time. Cut to a shot of the head, shoulders and breasts of the sculpture by John Bell; Chained Andromider, which was bought by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for Osbourne House. A second, full length, photograph shows the same sculpture from the side, she is standing with her hands tied behind her back, a close-up shot on her face follows. Cut to a panned shot of the terraces at Osbourne House which show the Royal families collection of sculptures, copies after the antique.

The film now cuts to a shot of Benton standing next to a 'fairy painting' by Noel Payton(?); The Reconcilliation of Oberon and Titarnia, 1847. (Based on a A Midsummer Night's Dream). A close-up panned shot follows showing Titarnia's sleeping face surrounded by several faries. Two contemporary quotes follow telling of the meaning of faries to the Victorians. Cut to a panned, close-up shot, of Payton's companion painting; The Quarrel of Oberon and Titarnia, 1850. Cut to a panned shot of (?)Huskison's fairy painting; Titarnia Asleep. A close-up panned shot follows of Richard Dadd's(?) fairy painting based on The Tempest; Come Unto These Yellow Sands,1842. The film now cuts to a still shot of film showing a young woman from the 1960's wearing a black, full length Victorian dress from the 1850's. She is standing on grass with a grass verge and trees in the background. Cut to a shot of Benton sitting on a bench with Stella Mary Newton from the Courtauld Institute as they discuss female Victorian dress. Cut to a long shot of the young woman wearing the black dress. She is descending a stone staircase infront of a large country house, trees or bushes are on either side of the staircase. Close-up head and shoulder shot of the young woman, she has her hair tied behind in a bun. The shot pans down to her hands in which she holds a small book and then down the length of her skirt. Camera returns to a shot of S.Newton. A gardener trims the edge of a boarder behind her (in the background) and looks around towards the camera. Return to film which follows the young woman in Victorian dress as she walks along grass infront of a wall in the garden. There follows a close-up of the woman as she stops to pick some lavender. Film cuts to a head and shoulders shot of her trying to adjust her hair: her head bends down to her raised hands. Return to shot of Benton. Cut to a shot of an Edward Byrne-Jones (1833-1898) painting; Andromider. The narrative discusses the change in representation of the female nude in the 1870's.

Cut to an illustration showing two women wearing the fashions from 1877. The film returns to a shot of S.Newton. Cut to 1960's film of a woman in 1870's dress walking down a long hallway in the country house, she turns side on to the viewer and stops as she nears the camera. A close-up panned shot of her dress follows. The camera angle changes and she walks towards it again. Continued discussion of the changes in fashion and it's meaning for women. Cut to a shot of Benton, sitting in a chair, as he discusses Byrne-Jones' four paintings; Pygmalian and the Image, painted in the ten years before 1879. Four still, close-up shots are shown of the paintings. Return to Benton. Cut to a full length, panned shot, from feet to head of a Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) painting; Bath of Psyche, 1890. Cut to a still shot of a Lawerence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), painting of Ancient Rome; Tripidarium(?). Return to Benton as he concludes, ending with the words: Think about it.

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