Cast & Crew
E. A. Dupont
On the grounds of an American university, actor and art collector Vincent Price conducts an informal art appreciation class with a group of students, telling them that he would like to introduce them to "a strange and interesting voyage into the world of art," as exemplified by six noted artists from the fifteenth century to modern days. As the students look at fifteen century Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch's "The Lost Paradise" Price describes the painting by reading passages from the Bible 's Book of Genesis that relate Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden after eating fruit forbidden by God. The painting depicts Adam and Eve swimming, crawling and flying through fantastic flora and fauna in a violent depiction of their fall from Paradise. Price then introduces the students to the work of fifteenth century Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio. Actor Gregory Peck's offscreen narration explores the story behind Carpaccio's painting "The Legend of Saint Ursula." When a foreign prince asks for the hand of Ursula, the daughter of the King of Brittany, she accepts on the condition that he be baptized in Rome. After the ceremony in Rome, the couple leave with an escort of 11,000 virgins for Cologne, where, as an angel had predicted, enemies of the Christian faith massacre Ursula, her prince and the virgins, thus making Ursula a martyr. Price then turns his attention to the eighteenth century, in which art is more concerned with everyday life of man, and introduces the students to Spanish painter Francisco Goya y Lucientes. Accompanied by the music performed by world-famous Spanish classical guitarist Andres Segovia, offscreen narrator Harry Marble tells of a matador's skill during a bullfight while the audience views Goya's "Feast of St. Isidore." "The Invasion of Spain," another painting by Goya, was inspired by the occupation of Madrid by Napolean's army in 1808. The painting depitcs a passionate people ravaged by war. The French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a dwarfish aristocrat, is the next subject of Price's discourse. Actress Lilli Palmer's offscreen narration describes Lautrec's interest in the seamy side of 1890s Parisian night life, related in portraits of working class people in which both the drudgery and the carefree nature of the working class are tenderly portrayed. Lautrec had a penchant for coquettes, portraying them as flirtatious stars among the late night crowds at clubs and music halls. In contrast to this gaiety, Price introduces Paul Gauguin, also a resident of Paris at the time, but whose paintings were met with harsh criticism. Using excerpts from Gauguin's diaries and letters, off-screen narrator Martin Gabel describes the painter's misery among the French public and his final move to Tahiti, where he created the portraits of native women which later made him famous. Price closes his discussion with American painter Grant Wood, a self-educated artist from Iowa. Actor Henry Fonda's offscreen narration dramatizes the stories behind several of Wood's most famous paintings, including "John B. Turner, pioneer," a portrait of a Midwestern undertaker; "Woman with Plants," a study of his mother; and the infamous "American Gothic," in which his sister and his dentist were the models for corn farmers.
E. A. Dupont
Robert S. Robinson
Robert S. Robinson
The Orchestra Of Santa Cecilia, Rome
Although screen credits and other contemporary information has been found to enable respective credit to be given to the producers, directors and actors of some of the individual segments, the exact role of other credited filmmakers has not been determined. Following the opening title, a statement reads "Featuring Vincent Price." The various sequences are credited "In order of Appearance." All sequences include music credits, and most credit the narrators, except for the squences on Vittore Carpaccio and Francisco Goya, which do not give written credit to the narrators. Classical guitarist Andres Segovia is the only musician to receive onscreen credit.
According to a November 21, 1951 Variety article, sixty top art experts were consulted before production of the film. The producers paid for the artworks to be transported in order to photograph them for the film. Portions of the film were shot in museums in Italy, Spain, France and the United States. The informal art appreciation class sequence was shot on the UCLA campus in Westwood, CA.
According to a December 16, 1951 Los Angeles Times article, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art sponsored the film's premiere at the Esquire Theater in Los Angeles on December 21, 1951. An April 8, 1952 New York Times review noted that because the picture was in black and white, it lacked the "aesthetic completion" necessary to view the paintings, which are color.
A February 16, 1952 Saturday Review (of Literature) article stated that Pictura-Adventures in Art was the first American produced film to feature artworks as the subject of a documentary; however, a 20 December 51 Daily Variety notes that the film's production company, Pictura Films, had previously produced two other films on the subject of artists Michelangelo Buonarotti and Vincent Van Gogh.