In this entry, I will look at a short series that did well in creating accessible art history lessons, but did not expand beyond the usual canon of famed artists.
To elaborate, this podcast has only five episodes and the last one dates from 2010. Pity, the producer/narrator (Jeremiah Palecek) created a fully realized series that delved into facts and themes that surrounded an artist. However, if you expect scholarly language, you will not enjoy this. Palecek keeps a casual tone in his narration, for he uses words such as “nutbar”, “crap”, and calls the Russians “Commies”. Made with humorous intent of course, and Palecek sometimes tells history with dry wit and pop culture references. Since he does not overdo it, I don’t have a problem with that approach.
As I wrote earlier, do not expect lesser known artists to receive their own time in the spotlight. The creator devoted only four episodes to Edouard Manet, Lucian Freud, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, and one to the history of oil painting. On the oil painting episode, he lays out a simple timeline starting with the Buddhists of Afghanistan as early users and artists such as Jan Van Eyck who added their own ingredients to the medium. Along with history, Palecek will offer his own opinions on an artist he profiles. He openly admits that he never cared for Chagall’s work and challenges people’s snobbish irritation at Salvador Dali’s popularity with people unaware of art history’s depth. From what I can see, this series feels pretty accurate in its presentation of facts.
On the main website, Palecek created a hub that one can easily navigate but the content ends up a little inconsistent. Except for two, most of the episodes has reproductions from the artists he used in the video. Furthermore, only two episodes has transcriptions of his narration. On sources, he provides little to none.
Visually, Palecek uses lots of fancy graphics, photography, and provides up close shots of paint from the artworks themselves. For background music, he uses electronica, somber violin music, and drum beats. I did find some glitches. In the Lucian Freud profile, he needed to work on the volume, for I found it too low. In part three of the Manet video, the footage of Palecek speaking started inexplicably speeding up.
Nothing really new, but this could work as a great way to break in a person not knowing where to start in Western Art History.