Review: Art of Scandinavia | Virgin Media
Review: Art of Scandinavia

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The ever-affable Andrew Graham-Dixon casts an eye over the masterpieces of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, reminding us of paintings we know and introducing us to artists we’ve never heard of.

In a nutshell

Television’s scholar superstars tend to be a cocky, even authoritative lot. Think of the reliably terrifying Dr David Starkey, who always has the air of a furious headmaster crossed with a Bond villain. Even the seemingly sweet and soft Brian Cox has an innate confidence to him, like a master seducer knowing full well how much we swoon over his subtle smile. As this new art documentary series showed last night, Andrew Graham-Dixon is a bit different. There’s something endearingly uncool and awkward about the chap. He’s downright Alan Partridge-like in places.

His overwhelming Englishness contrasted with his surroundings, as he took us through the harsh and dramatic landscape of Scandinavia. The landscape was very much the point – as he pointed out, the unforgiving sprawl of this part of the world inspired its angst art, including Munch’s The Scream, which has graced the walls of student flats for generations. This erudite show also touched on writers like Ibsen, philosophers like Kierkegaard, and other gloom-mongers who have beguiled and disturbed us for so long.

What's the verdict?

This is the kind of programme which critics call “magisterial”. It really is that good, though: all-encompassing, with some serious learning to be had. Who says telly is dumbing down?

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