This film is part of Free

Artists Must Live

The artist's place in 1950s Britain - and how it's paid for.

Documentary 1953 29 mins


Little in life comes free: one question that should be asked of any art form is who's paying for it. It's the question asked by this interesting film on visual artists in early postwar Britain, established and struggling alike - including well-known names like John Piper and Patrick Heron, as well as others long-forgotten. The film provides several answers to the question, one of them being the Arts Council - who paid for the film.

Art historian Basil Taylor presents the film and interviews several of its subjects, in between leisurely sequences surveying paintings and sculptures to the strains of the BBC Radio Orchestra. A fairly modest but well-mounted production, it's of some historical importance as the first of many films sponsored by the Arts Council - in this case co-producing with the BBC. A hybrid of early factual television and the older tradition of sponsored documentary, it's an early work by director John Read, who would be the BBC's prime specialist in fine art documentaries over some 40 years.