Back in April J and I visited the Defining Beauty exhibition at the British Museum which finished in early July. It's the only one of their exhibitions where I've been as ambivalent about it on the way out as I was on the way in - which says rather more about me than the exhibition, I think. The subject of the exhibition was Ancient Greek sculpture and the incredible impact it has had on the modern Western definition of beauty.
Andrew Graham-Dixon has done several series for the BBC about the art of various places - one of the more recent was about China and we watched it earlier this year. He covered the art of this vast and long-lived culture in chronological order, so the series also provided an overview of the history of China.
In Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale of Three Cities James Fox picked three different cities each in a single year of the 20th Century, and looked at how each was the focal point of cultural developments at the time. The first episode covered Vienna in 1908, the year Sigmund Freud revealed his Oedipus Complex theories. Many of the most notable artists or musicians of the day were in the city - Klimt, Schiele, Schoenberg.
Travels with Vasari is a two-part documentary we've had on the PVR for the last 4 years or thereabouts. It's presented by Andrew Graham Dixon and is about Vasari, and Renaissance Italy. Vasari was an artist in Italy in the 16th Century but nowadays he is much more famous for the book he wrote called "Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects". Dixon explained that this is the first work of art criticism and art history as we know those subjects today, and that Vasari can be credited with inventing them.
The second lecture in the 2013 Charles Wilkinson lecture series was associated with the department of Ancient Near East Art at the MMA, and was called "Adornment for the Afterlife: Jewelry and Identity at Ur and Nimrud". Kim Benzell, who gave the talk, is one of the curators at the museum and is also a trained goldsmith which gave her quite a different perspective on the ornaments she was talking about.
Border Country can be fairly characterised as unashamed propaganda for the No-to-Independence side of the upcoming referendum in Scotland. To be fair that fits my own bias* so I was predisposed to like the series. The narrative structure for the two programmes was a history of the border regions of England and Scotland from the time of the Romans through to James VI & I as ruler of both countries.
Baroque! - From St Peter's to St Paul's was a three part series presented by Waldemar Januszczak about Baroque art and architecture. The three programmes moved in geography (covering Italy, Spain & the Netherlands, and Britain respectively) and forwards in time. He started off with the story of how baroque art has its roots in the Counter Reformation - basically intended to propagate the "right" Christian message via eye-catching art.
The third and final episode of Treasures of Ancient Egypt covered the period from Ramesses II through to Cleopatra. In terms of the history of the period this can be seen as a long slow decline from the height of New Kingdom power through several foreign dynasties to the annexing of Egypt by the Roman Empire.