10 Art films to watch while you’re at home

Home cinema

Are you finally tackling the endless list of films that you thought you’d never have the time to watch? Because now is the perfect time to binge! That is why we are here to suggest some of the absolute must-see films for art lovers. Use lockdown as a time to relax and learn about art along the way… Here is our special selection of 10 films about art to watch while you’re at home.

1. Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Peter Webber
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Peter Webber

Have you ever wanted to know the story behind the painting? Are you interested to go behind the canvas and discover who the characters really were? This is exactly what director Peter Webber did in the first of the films about art that we recommend you watch while you’re at home. A transformed Scarlett Johansson plays the lead role and the resemblance to the painting is astonishing. You will also enjoy performances by Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, and Cillian Murphy. This award-winning film is definitely one to watch, but you can read the story too! Indeed, it is also an adaptation of the novel Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

2. Finding Vivian Maier

Finding Vivian Maier by John Maloof
Finding Vivian Maier by John Maloof

Released in 2013, this documentary follows the extraordinary life of Vivian Maier, as told by John Maloof. In fact, the director discovered Maier two years before her death and acquired a large part of her work. The photographer took pictures for 40 years, alongside her job as a nanny. Whilst she never knew the extent of her celebrity, today she is one of the world’s most famous photographers. The film received the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2015.

3. DOWNTOWN 81

Jean-Michel Basquiat - DOWNTOWN 81 by Glenn O'Brien
Jean-Michel Basquiat – DOWNTOWN 81 by Glenn O’Brien

The 80’s, New York, the art scene and of course, the artists… Downtown 81 was filmed in 1981 but not finished until almost two decades later. The film follows Jean-Michel Basquiat a few years before his death, during his everyday life, creating art and being with his friends. The added bonus of this film? Its music! The soundtrack is composed of rock ‘n’ roll classics but also includes Basquiat’s own melodies. Downtown 81 debuted during the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

4. Mr. Turner

Mr. Turner by Mike Leigh
Mr. Turner by Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, released in 2014, tells the story of British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner. The story recounts his fiery temperament and notorious rivalry with John Constable, but also the progressive isolation of the painter towards the end of his life. If you want to be fully immersed in the world of 19th-century England, this film is for you. What’s more, Timothy Spall, the actor portraying Turner, received the award for Best Actor at Cannes for his performance. 

5. Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery by Arne Birkenstock
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery by Arne Birkenstock

In The Art of Forgery, Arne Birkenstock takes an interest in the life of Wolfgang Fischer, also known as Beltracchi. From Braque to Ernst and Léger, Fischer reproduced and resold a large part of their works, aided by his wife. As a result, he is dubbed one of the greatest German forgers. After being arrested in 2010 and sentenced to 6 years in prison, he now lives in Montpellier with his wife, making a living from his own art. In The Art of Forgery, discover the amazing story of the art world’s very own Bonnie and Clyde.

6. FRIDA 

FRIDA by Julie Taymor
FRIDA by Julie Taymor

How can we talk about cinema and art without mentioning FRIDA, the biopic of the iconic Frida Kahlo by Julie Taymor? It is one of the most unmissable art films to watch while you’re at home. The film won several awards, such as the Oscar for Best Costume Design and Best Soundtrack. It also received several nominations, namely Best Actress in a Leading Role for Salma Hayek. If you want to know more about the remarkable life of this female artist, this is the film for you.

7. The 100 Years Show

The 100 Years Show by Alison Klayman
The 100 Years Show by Alison Klayman

In this documentary, director Alison Klayman follows the daily life of abstract artist Carmen Herrera as she celebrates her 100th birthday. This is combined with flashbacks depicting her personal and artistic history between New York and Cuba. Despite the painter being a major forerunner of Minimalist art, she was only recognised as a great artist at the age of 90. The director is also known for her direction of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which was presented at Sundance Festival.

8. At Eternity’s Gate

At Eternity's Gate by Julian Schnabel
At Eternity’s Gate by Julian Schnabel

Vincent Van Gogh has inspired many directors over the years. It’s true that with his instantly recognisable works and reputation as a tortured artist, Van Gogh’s fate has been a fertile breeding ground for cinema. However, if there is one not to miss, Artsper recommends ‘At Eternity’s Gate’. The film is set during the final years of the artist’s life and takes a gentle look at the painter and his art. What’s more, Willem Dafoe was nominated at Venice Film Festival for his performance in the lead role.

9. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present by Matthew Akers
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present by Matthew Akers

A pioneer of her art form, innovative artist Marina Abramovic pushes her body to its limits. She gives her all – even to the point of putting herself in danger – for her performances. The documentary was filmed on the occasion of her MoMA retrospective and recounts her 40-year career. Moving and profound, this film immerses the viewer in the creative world of the self-proclaimed ‘grandmother of performance art’.

10. Séraphine

Séraphine by Martin Provost
Séraphine by Martin Provost

This eponymously titled 2008 film follows Séraphine Louis, in her life and art right up to her tragic end. The self-taught artist was discovered by Wilhelm Uhde when she was 50 years old. The famous curator encouraged her to paint and bought some of her works. Séraphine is now considered a major figure within the Naive art movement.

Finding Vivian Maier
Finding Vivian Maier

When it comes to staying at home, it’s best to change up how you spend your time. Whether you are in a small apartment or a large villa, nothing can stop you from escaping for a few hours alongside the greatest artists in history! Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it gives you some ideas for art films to watch at home. But don’t forget: this is not to be consumed in moderation!

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