Robert Hughes (1938-2012)

The Shock of the New (1982)

The Mechanical Paradise - Episode 1
Traces how developments in technology inspired art between 1880 and the end of WWI, leading to movements like cubism and futurism.

The Powers that Be - Episode 2
Hughes explores the interplay between art and politics, seeing how artists were affected by the development of mechanised warfare and ideologies like fascism and communism.

The Landscape of Pleasure - Episode 3
The French artists who attempted to reconcile man with nature, from the determination of the impressionists to paint outside to Matisse's vibrant use of colour.

Trouble in Utopia - Episode 4
How modern architects in the wake of the Bauhaus aspired to change societies with their designs, a move represented both by Le Corbusier and the plans for the city Brasilia.

The Threshold of Liberty - Episode 5
The art movement that gripped its exponents with the fervour of a religion: surrealism. Artists like Di Chirico, Ernst, Mir— and Dal’; brought the subconscious to the fore and attempted to tap into innocent and irrationality.

The View From the Edge - Episode 6
Expressionism sprung out of the harsh, secular atmosphere of the 20th Century and evolved, through the strong colours and often sombre moods of artists like Munch, to the non-figurative work of Pollock and De Kooning.

Culture as Nature - Episode 7
Artists began to take man-made images as their inspiration, leading to the pop art of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as well as Stuart Davis' collages inspired by jazz.

The Future That Was - Episode 8
The final episode in the series explores the decline of modernism and how various artists have reacted to the consequent commercialisation of their art.

A classic eight part documentary that offers a comprehensive view on the development of modernist art in its cultural context. It focusses minly on painting and sculpting but pays some attention to architecture as well. The documentary is presented and narrated by the art critic Robert Hughes, whose views on modernism have left an unmistakable stamp on the film. It was originally aired by the BBC.