Biographical films don’t always have to be authentic to be effective, but the best ones invariably utilise real locations that have a personal connection to their chosen subject.
This is especially true of films about artists. Take Julian Schnabel’s latest feature, At Eternity’s Gate, which chronicles the final chapter in the complicated life of Vincent van Gogh, played with astonishing commitment by Willem Dafoe.
Shot over 38 days in the south of France, the film takes in various locations frequented by the Dutch master, including the villages Auvers-sur-Oise and Arles and the asylum at Saint-Remy where Van Gogh produced some of his best-loved paintings. To coincide with its theatrical release, here are five more noteworthy dramas filmed at famous artists’ homes.
This long-gestating passion project by American actor and sometime director Ed Harris was shot almost entirely at the oceanfront studio of the eponymous Abstract Expressionist painter and his partner and fellow artist, Lee Krasner.
Now known as the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, the modest, paint-spattered barn conversion situated on Long Island’s East End regularly hosts exhibitions and is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Art aficionados can visit throughout the year.
The driving force behind this double Oscar-winning Frida Kahlo biopic was Salma Hayek, who so desperately wanted to play the Mexican artist that she actively pursued Dolores Olmedo, who inherited the rights to much of Kahlo’s artwork following the death of her husband, Diego Rivera, in 1957.
With Olmedo’s blessing, Hayek and the film’s production team set about securing appropriate filming locations, chiefly the San Angel studio (now the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo) where Kahlo and Rivera lived and worked.
Little Ashes (2008)
Although primarily filmed in and around Barcelona, this evocative snapshot of Jazz-age Spain comprises several scenes shot at Salvador Dalí’s home in the coastal town of Cadaques, where he grew up and became an artist.Many of the original 1920s locations central to this story were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War – but the Portlligat Museum-House remains intact, its striking, intricate architectural design suggesting that its former resident’s surrealist tendencies stretched beyond the art itself.
Unable to film at Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s villa in Cagnes-sur-Mer owing to the building having been turned into a free public museum in the 1960s, director Gilles Bourdos opted to reconstruct the French Impressionist’s final home further along the Côte d’Azur at the Domaine du Rayol, a picturesque botanical garden and arboretum which is said to have been a source of inspiration for some of Renoir’s most celebrated works.
Mr Turner (2014)
Mike Leigh’s handsomely mounted portrait one of Britain’s most revered painters, J M W Turner, takes place across multiple locations. The standout setting is Petworth House and Park in West Sussex, a Grade I listed 17th-century country mansion where Turner stayed and worked in the early 1820s at the behest of George Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont, who commissioned some 20 works by the artist.
Leigh’s film recreates several of these, including ‘The Artist and his Admirers’ and ‘Petworth Park, with Lord Egremont and his Dogs’.