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BBC World News presents ‘Art of Spain’

The three-part documentary on the dramatic art and culture of Spain will be aired this month by BBC’s art critic and historian Andrew Graham-Dixon

January 8, 2013:

BBC World News starts the New Year with a splash of culture, as leading art historian and critic Andrew Graham-Dixon reveals the story of the ‘Art of Spain’. In this informative and engaging three-part documentary, Graham-Dixon travels across Spain exploring its history and rich mix of diverse cultures which have helped create some of Europe’s most exciting and vital art.

Introducing the series, Graham-Dixon explains, “Despite producing some of the most startling and original art ever created, Spanish art has been overshadowed somewhat by the rest of Europe. With ‘Art of Spain’ I wanted to help people explore this dramatic story and  give a different perspective on a country that is perhaps better known for its sun, sea, sand and sangria.”

“Spain is the empire where the great battles of the civilised world played out: Islam versus Christian, Catholic versus Protestant; fascist versus communist. How many know Spain was once Al-Andalus, the greatest and most enlightened Arab-Islamic state ever created on European soil? This amazing country and the art it inspired, full of strange and vivid splendour, holds the key to understanding all of Europe and all its culture. That is what we wanted to draw attention to in this series,” Graham-Dixon added.

He further said, “Spanish art itself, especially Spanish religious art, is like Italian art with the volume turned up. The art can be dark, violent, extreme, yet so is Spanish history, from the Great Mosque in Granada to bleakness of Goya to the surrealism of Dali influenced by the bloody civil war. Indeed as Spanish writer, Ortega y Gasset, simply remarked of possibly the country’s greatest painter Velazquez, ‘This is not art; it is life perpetuated’.”

Episode One - The Moorish South

12 January - 8:40 AM

13 January – 3.40 PM, 10.40 PM

In an exploration of Moorish Spain, Graham-Dixon looks at Muslim political and cultural influence as he travels from Cordoba to Granada, seeing classic buildings such as the Great Mosque in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada. He also shows how the Moors introduced new foods – including citrus fruits, coffee and spices – to Spain.

Episode Two - The Dark Heart

19 January - 8:40 AM

20 January - 3.40 PM, 10.40 PM

Graham-Dixon journeys to the country's scorched centre to explore Spanish art of the 16th and 17th centuries. From the mystical world of El Greco to the tender genius of Velazquez, this was a moment so extraordinary it became known as the Golden Age. But beneath the glittering surface was a dark and savage heart. Travelling from the architectural jewel of Toledo to majestic Madrid, the art historian traces the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire, the brutal conquest of the New World and the religious madness of the Inquisition, to discover how a history so violent could produce some of the most beautiful art ever seen.

Episode Three - The Mystical North

26 January - 8:40 AM

27 January - 3.40 PM, 10.40 PM

In the final part, Graham-Dixon reveals how the north of the country has produced some of the most dazzling and iconic art of the modern age. Spain's turbulent history has shaped artists from Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso. He argues that Spanish architecture is the art form now taking the nation forward in the new millennium.

As the BBC’s art critic, Graham-Dixon is no stranger to World News audiences, as the presenter of the monthly Culture Show. ‘Art of Spain’ will be followed by ‘Art of Germany’ and ‘Art of Russia’ currently scheduled to start in spring 2013. He is also currently presenting the latest in this long running series, ‘Art of America’ on BBC Four in the UK.

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