James McNeill Whistler and the Case for Beauty

From PBS - Best known for the groundbreaking portrait of his mother, James McNeill Whistler was the original art star. But beneath the high gloss, the struggle of this genius to find his own voice resulted in a breakaway style that moved painting towards abstraction and would revolutionize the art world in his time-and beyond.
Karen Thomas
Daniel ArbonEvangelos AlexiouPenny Fuller
English [CC]
Audio languages

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Supporting actors
Edward Hibbert
Karen ThomasDalton DelanDavid S. ThompsonFilm Odyssey, Inc.
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4.2 out of 5 stars

63 global ratings

  1. 56% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 24% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 12% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 0% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 8% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

sure,sureReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
Extremely well done. Highly recommend.
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I didn't know who James Whistler was until today. I'm really glad I watched the documentary. I'm not an art student, an artist or fabulously rich patron of the arts. That said, it's why I am so glad there are documentaries so I can learn about people, things and places I didn't know before I watched. I think some folks (my friends, ahem) think documentaries are boring films that only teachers force one to watch.This doc is very well done. It uses believable reenactments and interviews art curators who are very excited about Whistler's processes and his work.
13 people found this helpful
Robert WhistlerReviewed in the United States on July 10, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Whistler on Whistler
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A distant relative. I'm a Artist myself and rarely finish a painting without thinking of J.M.W. I thought this Doc. was a wonderful glimpse into his life. Very well done.
9 people found this helpful
panamafredReviewed in the United States on January 3, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
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The best film biography of Whistler that I've seen - omits one key event in his life - his work at the US Coast Survey where he reputedly perfected his engraving skills following his dismissal from West Point - and other significant highlights (e.g., the Ruskin trial) and works of art (the Freer Peacock Room) could have received more attention to detail - but the events and behavior that are described and reenacted are well done and comprise an entertaining, if abbreviated, sketch of the artist, his distinctive personality, and his life's work. Worth the price of admission!
13 people found this helpful
ouicoopReviewed in the United States on June 14, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great documentary
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Outstanding documentary on Whistler. I was interested in watching after reading The Hammock https://www.amazon.com/Hammock-novel-French-painter-Tissot-ebook/dp/B009P5RYVE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465901128&sr=1-1&keywords=the+hammock. Whistler is a prominent character in this novel about Tissot, a contemporary of Whistler in London. Read The Hammock, if you are interested in learning more about the interactions of the artists of this time period.
9 people found this helpful
bethReviewed in the United States on March 26, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Familiar with Whistler's paintings, I was not aware of his life story. For instance, I did not know about his care free lifestyle or eccentric fashion tastes, such as wearing bows in his hair. In addition, I did not realize that many of his sketches were the impetus for the abstract movement. Watching this film, you will learn Whistler's intriguing background and his influence on artistic sketching and abstractism.
7 people found this helpful
Simone SimonianReviewed in the United States on October 28, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
James McNeil Whistler and the case for Beauty. The film summery.
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This was a delightful distillation of Whistler's life and career. It was informative and entertaining at the same time. It left me wanting more and learning more about his life. It explained how his mother became a famous painting, his friendship with Fantin latour and Rosetti, his great etchings and concepts that were so new for his time. It's worth watching if you are fascinated with the 19th century and it's artistic influences.
6 people found this helpful
ChrisSherrillReviewed in the United States on July 6, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Four stars
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Interesting and informative. Those like me with little or no art background should find it a great primer.
One person found this helpful
NavymomReviewed in the United States on November 17, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Worth watching!
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I really enjoyed this documetary! I had no idea what a versatile, innovative artist Whistler was for his time. It seems he was brilliant at any medium he tried (as well as very hard working when he wanted to master something). Knowing more about Whistler's life and career path leading up to "Whistler's Mother" gave the painting a whole new meaning. Seeing his life play out through the reenactment was entertaining and added a little fun to the usual documentary format. Enjoy!
2 people found this helpful
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