|Flying fish illustrated by John White, 1580s (British Museum)|
Critics have already made the point, but Andrew Graham Dixon is that great rarity: an art historian who makes wonderful TV programmes in which he displays both passion and balance. He is articulate and neither glib nor condescending. Yes, he can be a bit serious (as he was when talking about the delightfully flippant and unserious Edward Burra) but he demonstrates clearly and with a minimum of posturing that Art Matters.
So far I've managed to watch the first two parts of 'Art of America', and the opening programme is a gem. In fact the opening of the opening programme is fantastic in its own right, as AGD introduces artist and map-maker John White, who travelled with a pioneering expedition to (what is now) North Carolina in 1585 and later became governor of the ill-fated colony of Roanoke Island; on the first expedition he painted watercolours of the Native American people they met, and these survive today as a unique record of a long-vanished society.
|John White, A Cheife Herowan's Wyfe, 1580s (BM)|
|Audubon's Wild Turkey from 'Birds of America', 1827-38|
|Audubon's Carolina Parakeet, now extinct|
Fascinating stuff. I wonder what American viewers will make of this show if it appears on the other side of the Atlantic...