Harry Davies
Harry Davies
Film & video

7 Beautiful Films on Great Artists

  • by Harry Davies @harry_davies

The best films on history’s greatest artists, as chosen by illustrator Alex de Marcos García

From Van Gogh to Basquiat, there are some names–and some pieces of art–that everybody recognizes. Far fewer people know about the person behind the masterpiece, however. We study their techniques and the movements they began but sometimes their personal lives can be equally insightful for those of us who want to learn from them.

Illustrator Alex de Marcos García teaches the Domestika course Pictorial Portraits Using Digital Techniques and, even in his modern-day craft, encourages students to find out more about the artists they love.

Alex has shared his 7 favorite artistic biopics that reveal just what a great film about a creative genius can bring to our understanding, enjoyment, and creation of their art and ours.

Loving Vincent

Alex’s first recommendation is the first of its kind: a fully painted feature film. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is its own oil painting. This extraordinary feat brings Van Gogh to life by exploring the circumstances of his death through letters he sent while he was alive, animating his work and his story in harmony.

Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden

Based on the novel by Hilde Berger, this film explores one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century–people still go to the flea markets of Austria hoping to find one of his many sketches among the stalls. His work was drenched in eroticism and the female body, most notably his sister Gerti and his later muse Wally Neuzil, immortalized in his piece Death and the Maiden.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

This documentary explores the disorder and chaos that combined together to create Basquiat’s unmistakable style and his priceless paintings, one of which became the most expensive work by a US artist when it sold for 110.5 million dollars in 2017.


This charming film tells the story of Maud Lewis, the birth of her relationship with Everett Lewis, and how her simple paintings got to be seen by millions around the world, and her art became an emblem of folk art in Canada.

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Like every great artist, Paula Modersohn-Becker was ahead of her time. She was looked down upon by her peers, but, despite the challenges before her, it’s her name we remember. The film tells the tale of a modern woman determined to succeed.

7 Beautiful Films on Great Artists  11

Paula Rego, Secrets and Stories

Paula Rego took the baton from Lucian Freud and Francis Bason and ran with it. The notoriously shy painter did not let many into her life. Her son and this film’s director Nick Willing is among the most qualified to tell the story of the great artist, a life few got to see first hand.

Shirley: Visions of Reality

Few artists have captured the imagination of so many directors, but Edward Hopper’s work has influenced everyone from Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmush to David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock. This film does not tell the life of Hopper but of that of the protagonist of one of his most famous works, Shirley, through 13 other pieces.

This is a small collection of the many films that take advantage of the fascinating lives and minds of inspiring artists to make inspiring cinema. Enjoy them for yourselves or let this list spark your own search for the stories of those that excite you.

You can learn more about how to take the work of great artists and use them in your own digitals portraits, using pixels as paintbrushes, with Alex de Marcos García on his course Pictorial Portraits Using Digital Techniques.

You may also like:

- Adrian Brandon on Creating Art That Starts a Conversation
- 5 Free Lessons to Boost Your Procreate Skills
- 5 Essential Books to Learn Composition and Balance

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