Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Artist as a Tortured Genius

In the last week I have watched both The Agony and the Ecstasy, (1965) staring Charlton Heston as Michelangelo and Lust for Life, (1956) staring Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh. Both movies were based on novels by Irving Stone, both portray the artist as heroic, driven and crazy, especially Van Gogh. 

 Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in Lust For Life, 1956

Both movies were Hollywood epics  in the grand style of the 50s and 60s. Heston and Douglas were both at the peak of their Hollywood careers. Both gave stunning performances as the tortured geniuses they portrayed. I'm sure the real Michelangelo and Van Gogh had their issues and I would be the last person to say that being an artist won't drive a person crazy but I do think these actors hammed it up a bit. I was left wondering how much these movies told me about the actual artists and how much these movies told me about celebrity culture in mid-twentieth century America.
Charlton Heston as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965

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