Paintings in Film | TV | Picture of Florida/Miami

TV / Television

Miami Vice “The Lost Madonna”, season 5 episode 14 first broadcast 17 March 1989

Two paintings which were part of the 15th century triptych The Madonna of the Spirits are found in a pick-up truck instead of the expected drug haul.  The centerpiece, The Madonna, is still missing but is eventually tracked down. The episode both playfully and seriously examines the various role and values of art. For example, Lucy Lammermoor is said to be the artist who created an all-white ‘painting’ which in the eyes of the NYPD art thefts unit expert called in to help recover the lost centerpiece represents “a search for the purest possible form… the painter here is engaged in a sort of aesthetic mysticism” to which detective Crockett replies “Yeah, I’ll say it’s pure. It’s so pure I can’t even find it.” It is, in fact…..


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Source: YouTube by OffTheAirr


In addition, Lucia di Lammermoor is actually a tragic opera by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti first performed in 1835. The tragic ending for the main prima donna does, however, parallel that of one of the episode’s characters, Julia: Lucy dies, Julia is arrested. Yet the episode is by no means a philistine rant against art but a metadiscourse on it. The twisting faceless figures of paintings by the Los Angeles (pop) artist and composer Mark Kostabi (1960- ) can be seen, some highly unusual works of art (and camera angles) are on display at a party, and The Madonna of the Spirits itself is cheekily impressive. Neither does the episode shy away from thematizing the link between commerce and art—even in its more criminal manifestations. In the end, the episode itself with its cinematography, lighting and seamless use of unsourced music to comment on and reflect the mood—Tanita Tikarem’s “Twist in my Sobriety” at the party


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and “She’s Waiting” by Eric Clapton for the final chase—comes across as a work of art as indeed does the whole Miami Vice series with its pastel colours, neon-inflected night streets, designer fashion and art deco buildings. Those parts of the episode featuring Kostabi’s paintings have been edited together at


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Source: YouTube by Arte in TV.


Gilmore Girls, “The Festival of Living Pictures“, season 4 episode 7 first broadcast 4 November 2003. The episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Series (non-Prosthetic). It is decided to host “a show which presents on stage recreations of famous works of art – statues, paintings etc – with real people posing as the figures in the art” (6:10—6:20). The episode can be watched at


First of all we see Girolamo Parmigianino’s Portrait of a Young Girl Named Anthea (1524—27 original title merely Anthea) hanging on the stage in a gold frame which is part of a (possibly) gauze screen behind which Rory is posing as Anthea. Next we have Leonardo’s Last Supper (35:00—35:00) where the twelve disciples form a tableaux vivant, again behind a screen. The one sculpture in the quartet is Nicolas Poussin’s The Reaper (1679), and appropriately for a statue that stands in the Gardens of Versailles this version (39:00—39:55) is slowly rotating on its pedestal in the outside garden pavilion (the theatre where all this is taking place is obviously open at the back). The finale is provided by Dance at Bougival (1883) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (41:52—42:41) with Renoir’s friends Suzanne Valadon and Paul Auguste Lihote doing the dancing in the original. Here (and not behind a screen) Lorelai’s head as Valadon is sticking through the canvas like some sort of funfair attraction. The baby pager unfortunately goes off but Lorelai takes one of the audience member’s pieces of advice to stay frozen till the end! See also


An annual “living pictures” 90-minute art performance entitled The Pageant of the Masters takes place in Laguna Beach, California. The festival has in turn been referenced by two TV episodes. “In God We Trust” from Arrested Development (season 1 episode 7) where the festival is seen to take place in Orange County) almost exactly reproduces God’s gesture of reaching out to touch index fingers with Adam from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, part of his series of Sistine Chapel Genesis paintings.  And in “Pageant of the Masters” from the Reality TV show Somebody’s Gotta Do It (season 1 episode 5) host Mick Rowe plays Bartholomew from (again!) Da Vinci’s Last Supper see


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Source: You Tube by Dana Robinson


The Art of the Television Series” was an international conference organized by the School of Communication at the University of Navarre/Spain 9-10 February 2017. Its self-declared aim according to the conference overview was to explore the relationship between television series and the arts, connecting contemporary TV series to other artistic fields such as architecture, sculpture, and painting. Interaction between TV programs and the arts involves the frequent use of pre-existing artistic objects in TV fiction, and the arts can also be found in TV series through the different contributions of artists to television sets and soundtracks. Photography, special effects, interior design, costume design and music offer other interesting lines of research. Sometimes these two types of interaction appear together as when contemporary artists draw their inspiration from pre-existing artworks.

By way of example, the conference stressed its interest in artistic achievements such as landscape constructions (Fargo, True Detective or Game of Thrones), fashion design in historical productions (Downton Abbey, Deutschland 83), sculptural recreations of human and animal bodies (Bones, CSI Las Vegas or Les Revenants), the Baroque still lifes in Breaking Bad, and the influence of painters like Botticelli in Hannibal, Pollock in Dexter and Hopper in Mad Men. In an attempt to merge content and form, the conference was held at the Contemporary Art Museum in the University of Navarre, surrounded by the paintings of Miró, Kandinsky, Picasso, Rothko and Chillida. The conference contributions included in particular:


“A Piece of TV or a Pretentious Art Film? Influences of Art in Hannibal.”


Mad Men, Admen and Art.”


“Connotative Dimensions of the Japanese Folklore in a Family Story: Hirokazu Koreeda’s Going My Home.”


An edited version of my talk on “The Lost Madonna” from Miami Vice can be found right at the start of this section.



Lewis “The Point of Vanishing” (s3 e3 2009) engages with the theory of the Vanishing Point where lines seem to converge on a horizon line to which the receding parallel lines get smaller and smaller in size, a fundamental concept of perspective allowing for the creation of paintings with a three-dimensional look. Contemplating Paolo Uccello’s “The Hunt in the Forest” (around 1470) in the Ashmolean Museum/Oxford, Lewis wonders to Hathaway whether there has to be more to it than just everyone—humans and animals—running off into the distance of the dark forest. Overhearing this, the guide Francis Wheeler explains that within the context of the Renaissance “the hunt was a courtly metaphor for the pursuit of love” (16:52-18:57 part one). Having been previously alerted to the painting on a postcard as a possible clue to a murder, the two detectives are now able to solve the crime thanks to Wheeler’s analysis.


L’Art du crime (France2 2017 two seasons of six episodes each created by Angèle Herry-Leclerc and Pierre-Yves Mora and directed by Eric Woreth and Charlotte Brändström)

In this police procedural the police officer Antoine Verlay and the Ècole du Louvre graduate and art historian Florence Chassagne both work for the department for the prevention of the smuggling of works of art. Apart from possessing the talent to find every small yet necessary crucial detail in a painting, Chassagne is also helped by painters who ‘appear’ to her in visions. Each episode is set in a particular art gallery, museum or chateau and foregrounds a particular painter (in order: Leonardo da Vinci, Watteau, Géricault, Monet/Fragonard, Courbet and Bosch) and/or painting that is the key to solving the murder of theft. Further details are provided in the French Wikipedia entry below. Filming of the third season has just started.


The Simpsons episode “Mom and Pop Art” (s10 e9 1999) references several famous paintings. Homer and Marge visit the Springfield Art Museum where Homer takes a nap and has a nightmare of various paintings and artists attacking him:


-Homer is lying in a similar way to the woman in Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy. The lion that licks Homer in the dream is also based on the same lion.


-After he is woken up by the lion, Homer is attacked by Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man drawing before being attacked by Picasso’s Three Musicians, who shoot at Homer with musical instruments turned into machine guns.


-Homer then sees a clock dripping water, a reference to Dali’s Persistence of Vision.


-At the end of his dream Homer meets Andy Warhol, who throws one of his Campbell’s Soup Cans at him.


-The episode also features the American abstract expressionist painter and printmaker Jasper Johns.


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Source: You Tube by Margrete Lauber


-For a list of 115 (!!) art references in the Simpsons see


TV Art Shows


Civilisation (1969) was the progenitor, Ways of Seeing (1972) the answer and Civilisations the reboot of the first (2018). The below concentrate on paintings and are witness to the renewed interest over the last couple of decades or so, particularly in France and Germany.



The Private Life of a Masterpiece


Biography of the Great Artists


Every Picture Tells a Story


One Hundred Great Paintings (BBC 1980)

The brainchild of Edwin Mullins, the one hundred ten-minute programmes are centred around thematic groups such as bathing, the hunt, the Adoration, the land, cities, light, touch, love, music, self-portraits, and the language of colour. Five paintings were chosen from each one in a wide-ranging selection from 12th century China to the post war era with an emphasis on (possibly/assumedly) lesser known painters, particularly from Scandinavia like Anna Ancher, Hendrick Avercamp and Halfdan Egedius. Experts or other artists were sometimes invited to discuss the paintings such as David Hockney, Café Terrace at Night by Van Gogh (cities). Along with Mullins, the other regular cast members, who analaysed the paintings as well, were Richard Cork, David Piper, Alistair Smith and Anita Brookner, who talked, for example about Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s Self-Portrait with her Daughter Julie (self-portaits). Coproduced with German arts producer Reiner Moritz, the series inspired the below, which Moritz went on to direct.


1000 Meisterwerke (Full title 1,000 Masterpieces from the Great Museums of the World WDR German Broadcasting Company 1980-84)

Ten-minute episodes narrated by Rudolf Jürgen Bartsch in which one painting is explained by an art expert. The German art historian and journalist Wibke von Bonin led the editorial team. The German Wikipedia entry lists all 1,000 paintings!


British Masters


The Landmark Arts Series


Arte Palettes – die komplette Reihe: Meisterwerke der Malerei


A Musée Vous, A Musée Moi


The Adventures of Modern Art (Arte France 2015 by Amélie Harrault, Pauline Gaillard, and Valérie Losieeux [the latter two also edited it] based on Le temps des bohemes by Dan Franck, who also wrote the screenplay)

A mixture of archival footage, photos, pictures, illustrations, scenes from theatre plays, sequences from silent films and animation brings to life in six episodes the artistic life in Paris from the origins of Modernism and the Montparnasse street artists to the end of the Second World War. The corresponding televisual style is always adapted to that of the particular artist under discussion.


Hundert Meisterwerke und ihre Geheimnisse


Meisterwerke Revisited


Liebe am Werk


Art of Film



The Impressionists

A three-part three-hour speculative mini-series about French Impressionist painter Claude Monet recalling his training in Paris during the 1860s and based on interviews and his personal journals. This factual docudrama also features Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Manet, and its special effects transport us into paintings, recreating the illuminated landscapes and portraits of late 19th-century France.


Desperate Romantics

A six-part BBC 2 drama serial about the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.


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