Art History for Filmmakers

a battle scene, painting art history relevant to film scene
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

Welcome to Art History for Filmmakers: the secrets of visual storytelling.

Have you ever watched a movie and noticed that a shot or a scene just reminds you of a painting? Or, have you seen a painting in a book or online or in a museum and thought “that looks like a shot from a film!”?

The core of all movies is visual storytelling. Without visuals, it’s not a movie! But how do we tell stories visually? A script is a printed page; it’s is not until you involve the camera, the production design, the special effects, the performances and so on that it comes alive as a film. But how do we make those pictures, and what influences the way that we make them? To answer this question, I decided to turn to art: the 80,000 years of art history that precedes the invention of the movies.

Art History for Filmmakers is an inspiring guide to how images from art can be used by filmmakers to establish period detail and to teach composition, colour theory and lighting. In these articles, and in my  book, I look at the key moments in the development of the Western painting, and how these became part of the Western visual culture from which cinema emerges.

I’m interested in asking questions like, what is art history and how does it relate to cinema? How is painting useful for filmmakers and how can I make it accessible for people more used to film? Is Painting a record of what the past looked like in the imagination of artists? What’s the relationship of film and painting in the use of visual language?

Does the traditional linear history of art still matter? Are we heading  towards an “alternative” history of art? How can I consider non-Western art works and their influences on films?

I also explore how paintings can be representative of different genres, such as horror, sex, violence, realism and fantasy, and how the images in these paintings connect with cinema.


The book Art History for Filmmakers is available from booksellers and as an EBook. I hope you enjoy it.