Greatest biopics with artists

Lots of biopic movies have been made with a famous artist as the object. Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Francisco de Goya and Jackson Pollock are just a few of the historical painters which life has been depicted on the silver screen. Here is a list with the editor’s choice of the best movies about painters.

Lust for Life screenshot

The List

1 Lust for Life
The life of Vincent van Gogh was filled with sorrows and in the end it was influenced by insanity. Kirk Douglas is terrific in the role as the Dutch painter. This is also a movie in which the painting is given much room and we are led trough the progress of van Gogh's art. Lust for Life had its premiere in 1956 and was directed by Vincente Minnelli. In 1990 Robert Altman did a surprisingly weak film about the same painter in the movie titled Vincent & Theo.
Director: Vincente Minnelli | Actors: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn | Year: 1956

2 Les Amants de Montparnasse  (The Lovers of Monterparnasse)
Without being historically correct in every aspect Les Amants de Montparnasse (The Lovers of Monterparnasse, 1958) is a magnificent movie about the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. “Modi” as he is called wants recognition for his art as well as true love in his life. However, the world wasn’t ready for his art under Modigliani's lifetime and he used alcohol as consolation. Gérard Philipe makes a great impression in the role as Modigliani.
Director: Jacques Becker | Actors: Gérard Philipe, Lilli Palmer | Year: 1958

3 Moulin Rougue
This movie of the French illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the greatest among movies about painters and is directed by John Huston. The scenes from Paris and the Moulin Rouge feels very authentic and so does the portrait of the painter. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had an accident at a young age which affected his legs to not grow normally. He became short the rest of his life and this, of course, was a struggle for him. The remorse over the handicap and the hardships in life that was caused by it is heartrending depicted and the film doesn’t try to soften the facts.
Director: John Huston | Actors: José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Colette Marchand | Year: 1952

4 Basquit
Jean-Michael Basquit was a black young man living on the street who suddenly rise to stardom in the art world with his graffiti-style paintings. The movie Basquiat from 1996 is a true story about a rebellious artist that never tries to adjust to the big audience or trying to romanticize anything that wasn’t there. The director is Julian Schnabel and Basquit are played by Jeffrey Wright.
Director: Julian Schnabel | Actors: Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott | Year: 1996

5 Pollock
Jackson Pollock paintings are worth millions today, but as so often with remarkable artists, it took some time until the acknowledge from the art world came. The movie Pollock portrays an artist that however reach the fame before his death and we can observe how Pollock is handling his success after being an unknown painter. Ed Harris makes the role of a suffering painter artist with many unsympathetic sides in impressive style. The fact that Pollock is a Hollywood product is sometimes obvious, but as a whole it still has many authentic qualities. 
Director: Ed Harris | Actors: Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden | Year: 2000

Selection of other biopics about painters

Mr. Turner (2014) – based on the life of J.M.W. Turner.
The Mill and the Cross (2013) – a story based upon one painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elders paintings.
Renoir (2012) – based on the life of Renoir.
Séraphine (2008) – based on the life of Séraphine de Senlis.
Goya’s Ghost (2006) – Goya en Burdeos (Goya in Bordeaux, 1999) – based on the life of Francisco Goya.
Klimt (2006) – John Malkovich portrays Gustav Klimt.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) – a story based upon one a painting of Johannes Vermeer.
Frida (2002) – based on the life of Frida Kahlo.
Love Is the Devil (1998) – based on the life of Francis Bacon.
Surviving Picasso (1996) – based on the life of Pablo Picasso.
Dalí (1991) – based on the life of Salvador Dali.
Caravaggio (1986) – based on the life of Caravaggio.
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) – based on the life of Michelangelo.
Rembrandt (1936) – based on the life of Rembrandt.

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