This Is Civilization
Mathew Collings makes a personal selection of the greatest artistic moments and monuments from history to examine how they have shaped our world. He embarks on an epic journey, to stunning locations across Europe, Egypt, China and the United States, to explore the changing ways in which cultures of the past have shaped our civilization. In doing so, he offers a unique perspective on today’s social and political issues.
Each episode in this four-part series addresses a watershed in artistic expression and explores how that transition has shaped Western culture and thought. 4-part series, 49 minutes each.
Ye Gods. Whatever our religious beliefs, the feelings we have about civilisation today would be unimaginable without the religious art of the past. Collings starts in ancient Greece. The Greeks absorbed the awesome power of representations of the gods left by older civilisations, particularly the ancient Egyptians, but it’s the element the Greeks added that still fascinates us today: lifelikeness, the human body, the feeling that this is art that celebrates what it is to be human.
Feelings. This episode looks at how art came to express our human emotions and the full range of what it is to be human. Mathew Collings examines the work of two great 18th century artists – David and Goya – in a journey that takes him from the glories of Renaissance Italy to the turbulent, violent Paris of the French Revolution.
Save Our Souls. The third programme in the series explores the impact of the industrial revolution on our ideas about art, nature and society, focusing on the visionary ideas of the British art critic John Ruskin. Collings follows in Ruskin’s footsteps to locations including Venice, the Alps and, closer to home, Britain’s stunning Lake District.
Uncertainty. The final episode of Matthew Collings’ epic sweep through the history of art and civilization tells the story of modern art and culture, from its beginnings in artists like Picasso, Klee and Mondrian, right up to the present day. It’s a journey which ends with the booming contemporary art scene in Beijing. But what does it tell us about the future of civilization?
Watch the full documentary now (playlist – 3 hours, 12 minutes)