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All Seasons

Season 1

  • S01E01 The Kimbolton Cabinet

    • March 5, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Granted privileged access to the Victoria and Albert Museum after hours, John Bly seeks out the Kimbolton Cabinet, an exquisite piece of 18th century English furniture that promises to reveal much about not only our nation's craft heritage but also his very own childhood.

  • S01E02 The Art of the Vikings

    • March 5, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Through interpretations of some of the archaeological treasures of the Swedish National Museum, now on display in Edinburgh, Dr Janina Ramirez of Oxford University explores the fascinating wealth of Viking culture and its long-lasting influence on the British Isles.

  • S01E03 Bolsover Castle

    • March 27, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Lucy Worsley tells the story of Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire. Built in the early 17th century, Bolsover Castle became the pleasure palace of playboy Cavalier and ambitious courtier William Cavendish. Guiding us on a tour of the castle and its remarkable collection of artworks, Lucy brings to life the spectacular Masque held by Cavendish to win the favour of King Charles I. And from within the walls of this eccentric architectural gem emerges a colourful tale, capturing the tensions of early 17th century England that would eventually lead the nation to Civil War.

  • S01E04 Walter Scott's Castle

    • July 1, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Novelist, poet and all-round cultural impresario Sir Walter Scott is renowned for inventing many of the myths of Scotland that still dominate how the country is imagined. His home in the Scottish Borders, Abbotsford House, brilliantly brings to life his romantic views of Scotland. In the run-up to the reopening of Abbotsford House Scott-fan Stuart Kelly gets exclusive behind-the-scenes access as over 13,000 treasures are moved back into the strange and wonderful building. Exploring some newly discovered secret corners Stuart finds out just how controversial the bizarre building and the man who built it remain.

  • S01E05 Stradivarius and Me

    • July 15, 2013
    • BBC Four

    The name of 17th-century violin maker Antonio Stradivari - or Stradivarius as he is usually known - is one that sends shivers down the spine of music lovers the world over. During his lifetime Stradivari made over 1,000 instruments, about 650 of which still survive. Their sound is legendary and for any violinist the opportunity to play one is a great privilege. Clemency Burton-Hill indulges in her lifelong passion for the instrument as she explores the mysterious life and lasting influence of Stradivari - through four special violins on display at this summer's Stradivarius exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. She is joined by 2002 Young Musician of the Year winner Jennifer Pike to put some of the violins in the exhibition through their paces

  • S01E06 The King's Lost Bed

    • August 6, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Jonathan Foyle believes he has uncovered the bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

  • S01E07 The Art of Witchcraft

    • August 29, 2013
    • BBC Four

    Artist Lachlan Goudie presents a highly personal documentary, inspired by his father, in which he investigates why witches have cast such a powerful spell over generations of artists. From early woodcuts of shrieking hags to Victorian depictions of the seductive sorceress, our familiar stereotypes of the witch have been conjured up from artists' imaginations and in The Art of Witchcraft, Lachlan marvels at the enduring power of their imagery, reveals the role that some artists played in fuelling the hysteria of the witch trials and argues that the witch in art offers a vivid commentary on changing attitudes to sex, superstition and the supernatural.

  • S01E08 The Hidden Jewels of the Cheapside Hoard

    • October 15, 2013
    • BBC Four

    The story behind a trove of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewels discovered in London in 1912.

  • S01E09 Tracey Emin on Louise Bourgeois - Women Without Secrets

    • November 25, 2013
    • BBC Four

    An insight into the life and work of the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois.

  • S01E10 Castiglione - Rogue Genius of the Baroque

    • November 27, 2013
    • BBC Four

    One of the most innovative artists of the 17th century, printmaker and draftsman Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was also a violent, impetuous man, repeatedly in court for assault and even accused of murder. His turbulent life often overshadowed his artistic brilliance, and Castiglione struggled to achieve recognition in his own lifetime. Yet his pioneering printmaking techniques would influence generations of later artists including Degas and Picasso and with the UK's first major exhibition of his work currently running at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace, art historian Helen Rosslyn makes the case for Castiglione to be seen as one of the great artists of the Baroque. Featuring exclusive access to Castiglione's original prints and drawings in the library at Windsor Castle, uncovering documents that throw new light on his troubled personality and revealing fascinating insights into his ground-breaking printmaking methods, Helen tells the story of one of the forgotten geniuses of art history.

  • S01E11 Hogarth - One Man and His Pug

    • March 27, 2014
    • BBC Four

    To mark 250 years since William Hogarth's death, ceramics expert and self-confessed Hogarth fanatic Lars Tharp is determined to solve a mystery that has consumed his personal and professional life - the case of Hogarth's lost pug. In this unique shaggy dog story, Tharp explains Hogarth's obsession with this most characterful of breeds and the pivotal role it played in his life and his work. A canine odyssey that only examines one of his most iconic works of art, but leads us into a world of satire, salaciousness and secrets. From harlots and rakes to the shadowy machinations of the freemasons, Tharp's ultimate goal is to lead an appeal to the nation to help him recover a rare piece of long-lost Hogarth memorabilia - a precious terracotta sculpture of his beloved pet pug. For Tharp this is the perfect moment in which to pay tribute to a man whom he regards as our greatest and most influential artist - and what better way to explore a man famed for his wit and humour than on the trail of his most iconic and idiosyncratic four-legged companion.

  • S01E12 The Russian Revolutionary: Zaha Hadid on Kazimir Malevich

    • September 12, 2014
    • BBC Four

    World-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, perhaps best known for her futuristic architecture, explains how her work has roots in an art movement that is 100 years old. She has long cited the Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich as one of her greatest inspirations and, as a major exhibition of his work is on show at Tate Modern, together with curators and critics Zaha considers the influence of Malevich's avant-garde art on her avant-garde architecture.

  • S01E13 The Living Mountain: A Cairngorms Journey

    • December 2, 2014
    • BBC Four

    A forgotten literary masterpiece celebrating the majesty of the Cairngorm mountains is the subject of a new documentary presented by travel writer Robert MacFarlane. The Living Mountain, written by Scottish poet and novelist Nan Shepherd in the 1940s, recounts her experience of walking in the Cairngorms during the early years of the Second World War. When Robert MacFarlane first discovered it he found it to be one of the finest books ever written on nature and landscape in Britain. This love letter to the Cairngorms instantly challenged his preconceptions about nature writing. Unlike other mountaineering literature that focused on a quest to reach the summit, this remarkable book described a poetic and philosophical journey into the mountain. Now Robert MacFarlane retraces Nan Shepherd's footsteps, exploring the Cairngorms through her thoughtful and lucid descriptions, in an attempt to discover what she called the living mountain: "So there I lie on the plateau, under me the central core of fire from which was thrust this grumbling mass of plutonic rock, over me blue air, and between the fire of the rock and the fire of the sun, scree, soil and water, grass, flower and tree, insect, bird and beast, wind, rain, snow - the total mountain." This film brings the story of Nan Shepherd and her little-known work to a new audience, and along the way offers a moving and memorable tour of the Cairngorm mountains, seen afresh through the passion and poetry of her writing.

  • S01E14 In Search of Rory McEwen

    • February 13, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Jools Holland tells the remarkable story of his father-in-law Rory McEwen - aristocrat, artist, folk singer and pioneering TV presenter, and the man who brought the blues to Britain. Illustrated with rare archive and McEwen's own beautiful paintings, the programme features contributions from an eclectic cast including Van Morrison, David Dimbleby and Jonathan Miller.

  • S01E15 Wondrous Obsessions: The Cabinet of Curiosities

    • February 25, 2015
    • BBC Four

    As the popularity of collecting fairs and Pinterest would attest, we are a nation of magpie obsessions. Renaissance expert Professor Nandini Das reveals the story behind the Cabinet of Curiosities - the original collecting craze that began in Renaissance Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and which is experiencing a surprising revival in the work of contemporary artists today.

  • S01E16 The Private Life of a Dolls' House

    • March 3, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Lauren Child, author, illustrator and creator of Charlie & Lola, has a secret passion - dolls' houses. She's been working on her own dolls' house for the past 30 years and her lifelong obsession continues to inspire her ideas and shape her work. But why do these interior worlds have the power to cast a spell beyond childhood? Lauren explores the history of dolls' houses from some of the earliest examples to their modern incarnations, speaks to craftspeople who create perfect miniatures, and meets ardent collectors willing to pay big money for tiny objects of desire.

  • S01E17 The Body Beautiful - Ancient Greeks, Good Looks and Glamour

    • April 8, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Writer and classicist Natalie Haynes leads us on a journey into ancient beauty and modern glamour, examining how our current obsession with the body beautiful goes back thousands of years to an era of stunning artistic achievement. With unique access to the British Museum's major exhibition which opens on March 26th, Haynes explores the Greek preoccupation with the human form ranging from objects of abstract simplicity to breathtaking realism.

  • S01E18 Nina Simone & Me with Laura Mvula

    • May 29, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Over half a century since she first performed her songs, Nina Simone is more popular than ever. From Sinnerman to Mississippi Goddam, Feeling Good to My Baby Just Cares for Me, she is an artist with an extraordinary songbook that mixes jazz, blues, soul and even classical. British soul singer Laura Mvula travels to New York to celebrate the Nina songs that mean most to her and explore their musical roots. Performing with a Harlem gospel choir, uncovering the influence of Nina's classical training and meeting Simone's long-time guitarist Al Shackman, Laura presents a personal tribute to the genius of her musical hero.

  • S01E19 Thomas Chatterton: The Myth of the Doomed Poet

    • June 15, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Poet Michael Symmons Roberts explores the mythic afterlife of the 18th-century poet Thomas Chatterton. With access to rare documents and artefacts, and featuring a surprising interview with Queen guitarist Brian May, Michael explains how Chatterton's tragic early death in his London garret aged just 17 was immortalised by a succession of poets and painters and photographers - most notably by the pre-Raphaelite Henry Wallis in his masterpiece known as The Death of Chatterton - and how these successive images of the young Chatterton have saddled poets ever since with the notion of the doomed young artist suffering and ultimately dying in service to the muse.

  • S01E20 The Art of the Impossible: MC Escher and Me

    • September 20, 2015
    • BBC Four

    World-leading cosmologist Professor Sir Roger Penrose is more than just a fan of MC Escher's mind-bending art. During the course of a long creative collaboration, the British mathematician and the Dutch artist exchanged ideas and inspirations. Some of Escher's most iconic images have their origin in Penrose's mathematical sketches - while the artist's work has served as a starting point for the professor's own explorations of new scientific ideas. To coincide with the first ever Escher retrospective in the UK, Penrose takes us on a personal journey through Escher's greatest masterpieces - marvelling at his intuitive brilliance and the penetrating light it still sheds on complex mathematical concepts.

  • S01E21 Jacobi on Garrick: Godfather of the British Stage

    • November 1, 2015
    • BBC Four

    Derek Jacobi goes in search of David Garrick, 18th-century superstar and the man who reinvented acting for the modern era.

  • S01E22 Goya Exposed with Jake Chapman

    • January 10, 2016
    • BBC Four

    Throughout their artistic career, Jake and Dinos Chapman have returned again and again to a single artwork by the great Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. The Disasters of War are a set of 83 etchings that offer a harrowing account of the atrocities of the Peninsular War (1807-14), but for Jake Chapman they are much more than a matter of historical record. They have provided the inspiration for countless Chapman Brothers artworks across more than two decades, from model recreations and 'rectified' prints to shop mannequins and full-scale sculptures in bronze, some of which were nominated for the Turner Prize. In this film, Jake explores why Goya's famous etching series is so central to his art. He re-examines his relationship to the Spanish artist by visiting Goya's hometown Zaragoza for the first time, and by spending time at the Prado in Madrid where some of Goya's greatest works hang on the walls. As Jake works on a new 'Disasters of War' model in his London studio, he explains why for him there is a fundamental conflict at the heart of Goya's art - in their gruesome detail his images seem to celebrate violence rather than protest against it. Jake explores this contradiction that art history has chosen to ignore, and explains how it tells us something profound about the way we see ourselves and our past.

  • S01E23 A Very British Pornographer: The Jack Kahane Story

    • October 31, 2016
    • BBC Four

    Secret Knowledge - A Very British Pornographer: The Jack Kahane Story Actor and antiquarian book dealer Neil Pearson travels to Paris to discover one of the most important - and least likely - figures in 20th century literature - Jack Kahane. A short-sighted dandy from Manchester, Kahane combined a career selling low-grade smut with publishing some of the most significant works of avant-garde literature, including books by James Joyce, DH Lawrence, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller.

Additional Specials

  • SPECIAL 0x1 The Russian Revolutionary: Zaha Hadid on Kazimir Malevich

    • September 9, 2014
    • BBC Four

    World-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, perhaps best known for her futuristic architecture, explains how her work has roots in an art movement that is 100 years old. She has long cited the Russian abstract artist Kazimir Malevich as one of her greatest inspirations and, as a major exhibition of his work is on show at Tate Modern, together with curators and critics Zaha considers the influence of Malevich's avant-garde art on her avant-garde architecture.