BBC TV is broadcasting a series called The Power of Art at the moment. It’s been written, and is fronted by, the historian Simon Schama. There have been two episodes so far, the first on Caravaggio and the second on Bernini. I have found both to be riveting. Not because of the tiresome dramatised reconstructions, but because of the power of Schama’s words. I get quite irritated at watching hammy actors acting out something that Schama has just said; it’s a trend in today’s historical doumentaries that should have been drowned at birth. The series is at its best either with Schama speaking direct to camera, or showing the art, with Schama’s voiceover giving his view of the work.
The series has had mixed reviews from the critics, and Schama replies in typical fashion with Bugger the Brickbats… Quite right, too. I’ll be there watching Schama deliver the rest of the series. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing his Rothko, since I’ve never thought much of that artist. I’m intrigued as to whether Schama can persuade me otherwise.