American Masters Presents an “Artists Flight” Fridays, August 31-September 14 on PBS
Four documentaries explore the lives of iconic visual artists Eva Hesse, Elizabeth Murray, Andrew Wyeth and Jean-Michel Basquiat
Uncovering the lives and works of four groundbreaking visual artists, American Masters presents an “Artists Flight” of new documentaries, premiering Fridays, August 31-September 14 on PBS (check local listings). Four films tell the stories of four artists: Eva Hesse, the 1960s art world icon who changed art history and women’s place in the picture; New York contemporary art maverick Elizabeth Murray; painter Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s most popular, but least understood, artists; and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the New York graffiti artist turned ’80s art world rock star who died 30 years ago (August 12, 1988). Each film will be available to stream the following day via pbs.org/americanmasters and PBS apps.
“Week over week, each artist’s tremendous contributions to the medium will be explored. Combined, they create a rich canvas of modern art,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters.
American Masters: Eva Hesse
Premieres Friday, August 31 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Available to stream September 1 on pbs.org/americanmasters and on PBS apps
As the wild ride of the 1960s came to a close, Eva Hesse, a 34 year-old German-born American artist was cresting the wave of a swiftly rising career. One of the few women recognized as central to the New York art scene, she had over 20 group shows scheduled for 1970 in addition to being chosen for a cover article in ArtForum Magazine. Her inventive sculptures were finally receiving both the critical and commercial attention they deserved. When she died May 1970 from a brain tumor, the life of one of that decades’ most passionate and brilliant artists was tragically cut short. American Masters deepens the understanding of this extraordinary artist, not only in terms of her innovative work with fiberglass and latex, but also the life that provided the fertile soil for her achievements. Through dozens of new interviews, Hesse’s artwork and a wealth of newly discovered archival imagery, the documentary traces Hesse’s path and delves deep into the creative communities of 1960s New York and Germany. Written and directed by Marcie Begleiter.
American Masters: Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray
Premieres Friday, September 7 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Available to stream September 8 on pbs.org/americanmasters and on PBS apps
This intimate portrait of maverick painter and printmaker Elizabeth Murray explores the relationship between her family life and career, and reconsiders her place in contemporary art history. Excerpts from her journals voiced by Meryl Streep, verité footage and home videos show Murray’s internal struggles and incredible ambition. Exclusive interviews with art world luminaries describe the thriving New York art scene within which Murray challenged and captivated her viewers. In 2005, Murray was the fifth woman to be celebrated with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Breaking convention, Murray’s paintings still defy efforts at categorization. Through them she made an indelible imprint on the contemporary art world. This film chronicles her remarkable journey from an impoverished childhood in Chicago to the extraordinary art world of lower Manhattan, before she lost her life to cancer in 2007. American Masters: Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray cements Murray’s legacy as one of the great painters of our time. Directed and produced by Kristi Zea.
American Masters: Wyeth
Premieres Friday, September 7 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Available to stream September 8 on pbs.org/americanmasters and on PBS apps
Wyeth tells the story of one of America’s most popular, but least understood, artists – Andrew Wyeth. Son of the famous illustrator N.C. Wyeth, Andrew had his first exhibition at age 20, and his painting “Christina’s World” was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. While Wyeth’s exhibitions routinely broke attendance records, art world critics continually assaulted his work. Detailing the stunning drawings and powerful portraits he created in Chadds Ford, Pa., and on the coast of Cushing, Maine, Wyeth explores his inspirations, including neighbor Christina Olsen and his hidden muse, the German model Helga Testorf, who he painted secretly for 15 years. Through unprecedented access to Wyeth’s family members, including sons Jamie and Nicholas Wyeth, and never-before-seen archival materials from the family’s personal collection and hundreds of Wyeth’s studies, drawings and paintings, American Masters presents the most complete portrait of the artist yet — bearing witness to a legacy just at the moment it is evolving. Directed by Glenn Holsten, the film will be available on Digital HD on September 8 and on DVD September 11 via PBS Distribution.
American Masters — Basquiat: Rage to Riches
Premieres Friday, September 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Available to stream September 15 on pbs.org/americanmasters and on PBS apps
One of the most influential American artists of the 20th century, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a rock star of the early ’80s New York art scene. He lived fast, died young and created thousands of drawings and paintings. It took less than a decade for Basquiat, an accountant’s son from Brooklyn, to go from anonymous graffiti writer known as SAMO© to an epoch-defining art star. Today, Basquiat is in the top tier of the international art market along with Picasso, de Kooning, and Francis Bacon. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Basquiat’s untimely death from a heroin overdose. In death, he has emerged as one of the most important artists of his generation and now exhibits in museums all over the world. American Masters — Basquiat: Rage to Riches features exclusive interviews with Basquiat’s two sisters, Lisane and Jeanine, who have never before spoken about their brother and his art for a television documentary. With striking candor, art world colleagues, including dealers Bruno Bischofberger, Larry Gagosian and Mary Boone, and Basquiat’s most intimate friends, lovers and fellow artists draw a portrait of a handsome, charismatic and fragile personality – also divulging the cash, drugs and pernicious racism that he encountered. The main weapon Basquiat used to fight prejudice was his art. A game changer, his painting embodied and reflected breakthroughs in music, poetry and a new type of expressionism in modern art. Directed and produced by David Shulman, the film will be available on Digital HD on September 15 and on DVD September 25 via PBS Distribution.
American Masters: Eva Hesse is a bdks production co-produced with Televisor Troika in co-production with Avro, SVT and WDR in cooperation with ARTE, with the support of Film- und Medienstiftung NRW. Marcie Begleiter is writer, director and producer. Karen S. Shapiro and Michael P. Aust are producers. Louise Rosen is consulting producer. Lawrence Benenson is executive producer. Funding is provided in part by Audrey and Sydney Irmas Charitable Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Phillip & Muriel Berman Foundation, Agnes Gund through the A G Foundation, Larry Marx, Mickey and Jeanne Klein, Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust, Stolaroff Family Foundation, Kate Ganz, and California Community Foundation.
American Masters: Everybody Knows…Elizabeth Murray is a RubyRed Productions and Human Arts Association Production. Kristi Zea is director and producer. Jacki Ochs is executive producer and producer. Funding is provided in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Stanley Family Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman Foundation, Agnes Gund through the A G Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Sarah Peter, Anne H. Bass, Ehrenkranz Family Foundation, Peter McHugh and Louise McNamee, Robert and Sylvia Mangold, and Sidney Felsen and Joni Moisant Weyl.
American Masters: Wyeth is a production of glennfilms and FreshFly in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters. Glenn Holsten is director. Chayne Gregg is producer. Funding is provided by Joanna McNeil Trust, the Wyncote Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, the Haverford Trust Company, and The Leslie and Roslyn Goldstein Foundation.
American Masters — Basquiat: Rage to Riches is a BBC Studios Production for PBS and BBC in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC. David Shulman is director and producer. Janet Lee is executive producer for the BBC. Bill Gardner is executive producer for PBS. Mark Bell is commissioning editor for the BBC.
Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional support provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Judith and Burton Resnick, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation and public television viewers.