Inspired by Kenneth Clark’s groundbreaking BBC series from 1969, BBC Two’s nine-part series Civilisations (Original release 1 March 2018) introduces a new generation to great masterworks of beauty and ingenuity.
“It’s taken three years of thinking, writing, filming and editing, every shoot, every encounter with great art, a daunting challenge and an immense satisfaction. We hope you enjoy the feast.” – The BBC.
Are you ready for art history? Really really dramatic art history? Watch the 6-minute epic trailer below, this from the new 9-part documentary series Civilisations offers a first extended look at the show inspired by Kenneth Clark’s seminal 1969 series Civilisation (playlist Part 1-Part 13), treating us to a montage of the most meaningful pieces of art through the ages. Just in case you didn’t get how important these pieces of art are, messages like “art is a measure of humanity” and “celebrating humanity’s urge to create” flash on screen.
Civilisations is an epic new series spanning 31 countries on six continents, and covering more than 500 works of art.
Fortunately, all the dramatics might be justified: the nine-part BBC TWO series has been three years in the making and will seek to explore almost the entire span of art history, from marks on cave walls made 40,000 years ago to present day masterpieces. Historians Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga explore the way art reflects and questions human life, while the main music score and theme music was composed by Tandis Jenhudson.
The trio will “travel far and wide across six continents to find answers to fundamental questions about human creativity. The series will examine what makes a civilisation.”
“We live in a time of raw power, the swagger of money, brutal poverty and hard reckonings; precisely the moment when it can’t be bad to contemplate again the most enthralling things that human creativity can achieve, because, for the most part, they are our common possession.” – Simon Schama
Watch a preview below, how Simon Schama travels to the civilisations of Petra.
9 Episodes Available below now; this programme can only be streamed on BBC iPlayer.
Series 1.1 “The Second Moment of Creation” – The first film by Simon Schama looks at the formative role art and the creative imagination have played in the forging of humanity itself.
Series 1.2 “How Do We Look?” – In this episode of Civilisations, Professor Mary Beard explores images of the human body in ancient art, from Mexico and Greece to Egypt and China.
Series 1.3 “Picturing Paradise” – Simon Schama explores the depiction of nature. Simon discovers that landscape painting is seldom a straightforward description of observed nature.
Series 1.4 “The Eye of Faith” – Professor Mary Beard explores the controversial topic of religion and art. How, and at what cost, do different religions make the unseen visible?
Series 1.5 “The Triumph of Art” – Simon Schama examines how traditions developed in the years following the Renaissances.
Series 1.6 “First Contact” – David Olusoga shows how art was always on the frontline when distant cultures met.
Series 1.7 “Radiance” – Simon Schama starts his meditation on colour and civilisation with the great Gothic cathedrals of Amiens and Chartres. He then moves to 16th-century Venice.
Series 1.8 “The Cult of Progress” – David Olusoga explores the artistic reaction to imperialism in the 19th century.
Series 1.9 “The Vital Spark” – Simon Schama explores the fate of art in the machine and profit-driven world, looking at the rise of art as a tradeable commodity.
What are the worshippers worshipping? | Civilisations – BBC Two
With the worship of images prohibited by the Ten Commandments – Mary Beard broaches the controversial, sometimes dangerous, topic of religion and art. There are fundamental problems, which all religions share, in making the divine visible in the human world. How, and at what cost, do you make the unseen seen? Watch a preview below.
From Hagia Sophia to Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul
In Ottoman Istanbul the great engineer-architect Mimar Sinan had built the light-flooded Suleymaniye mosque, after the conversion of Hagia Sophia from church to mosque wasn’t good enough.
Western reactions to Benin bronzes
David Olusoga discusses Benin bronzes created from the 16th century in West Africa, and how these works of art now reside in the British Museum.
What can art do when civilisation is lost?
Simon Schama explores how art can be a form of escapism and expression during challenging times, and how in the modern world art has become increasingly commodified.