Peter Greenaway

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Peter Greenaway
Peter greenaway.jpg
Greenaway in August 2007
Born (1942-04-05) 5 April 1942 (age 77)
Newport, Wales, United Kingdom
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, and artist

Peter Greenaway, CBE (born 5 April 1942 in Newport, Wales) is a British film director, screenwriter, and artist. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular. Common traits in his film are the scenic composition and illumination and the contrasts of costume and nudity, nature and architecture, furniture and people, sexual pleasure and painful death.

Newport, Wales City and County in Wales

Newport is a city and unitary authority area in south east Wales, on the River Usk close to its confluence with the Severn Estuary, 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Cardiff. At the 2011 census, it was the third largest city in Wales, with a population of 145,700. The city forms part of the Cardiff-Newport metropolitan area, with a population of 1,097,000.

Baroque painting

Baroque painting is the painting associated with the Baroque cultural movement. The movement is often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and Catholic Revival, but the existence of important Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underscores its widespread popularity.

Flemish painting paintings from Flanders from the early 15th century until the 17th century

Flemish painting flourished from the early 15th century until the 17th century, gradually becoming distinct from the painting of the rest of the Low Countries, especially the modern Netherlands. In the early period, up to about 1520, the painting of the whole area is typically considered as a whole, as Early Netherlandish painting. This was dominated by the Flemish south, but painters from the north were also important. Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, of which Antwerp became the centre, covers the period up to about 1580 or later, by the end of which the north and south Netherlands had become politically separated. Flemish Baroque painting was especially important in the first half of the 17th century, dominated by Rubens.


Early life

Greenaway was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, [1] to a teacher mother and a builder's merchant father. [2] Greenaway's family left South Wales when he was three years old (they had moved there originally to avoid the Blitz) and settled in Chingford, Essex (later to become part of greater London). He attended Forest School in northeast London.

Monmouthshire (historic) one of the thirteen historic counties of Wales

Monmouthshire, also known as the County of Monmouth, is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales and a former administrative county. It corresponds approximately to the present principal areas of Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Newport and Torfaen, and those parts of Caerphilly and Cardiff east of the Rhymney River.

The Blitz German bombing of Britain during WWII

The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom in 1940 and 1941, during the Second World War. The term was first used by the British press and is the German word for 'lightning'.

Chingford district of the London Borough of Waltham Forest in East London

Chingford is a district in North East London, located in the London Borough of Waltham Forest and is situated 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Charing Cross. Historically a rural Essex parish, it gained urban district status in 1894, and between 1938 and 1965 formed the core of the Municipal Borough of Chingford. Chingford is close to the Essex border of Epping Forest District.

At an early age Greenaway decided on becoming a painter. He became interested in European cinema, focusing first on the films of Ingmar Bergman, and then on the French nouvelle vague filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard and, most especially, Alain Resnais. He now lives in Amsterdam.

Ingmar Bergman Swedish filmmaker

Ernst Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio. Considered to be among the most accomplished, acclaimed and influential filmmakers of all time, Bergman's films include Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), and Fanny and Alexander (1982); the last two exist in extended television versions.

Jean-Luc Godard French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic

Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He rose to prominence as a pioneer of the 1960s French New Wave film movement.

Alain Resnais French film director

Alain Resnais was a French film director and screenwriter whose career extended over more than six decades. After training as a film editor in the mid-1940s, he went on to direct a number of short films which included Night and Fog (1956), an influential documentary about the Nazi concentration camps.



Greenaway at the 44th Venice Film Festival (1987) Greenaway 01.jpg
Greenaway at the 44th Venice Film Festival (1987)

In 1962, Greenaway began studies at Walthamstow College of Art, where a fellow student was musician Ian Dury (later cast in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover ). Greenaway trained as a muralist for three years; he made his first film, Death of Sentiment, a churchyard furniture essay filmed in four large London cemeteries. In 1965, he joined the Central Office of Information (COI), working there fifteen years as a film editor and director. In that time he created a filmography of experimental films, starting with Train (1966), footage of the last steam trains at Waterloo station (situated behind the COI), edited to a musique concrète composition. Tree (1966), is a homage to the embattled tree growing in concrete outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London. By the 1970s he was confident and ambitious and made Vertical Features Remake and A Walk Through H . The former is an examination of various arithmetical editing structures, and the latter is a journey through the maps of a fictitious country.

Walthamstow College of Art was an art school based in Walthamstow, north-east London.

Ian Dury English musician

Ian Robins Dury was an English singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame during the late 1970s, during the punk and new wave era of rock music. He was the lead singer of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and before that of Kilburn and the High Roads.

<i>The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover</i> 1989 film by Peter Greenaway

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is a 1989 crime drama film written and directed by Peter Greenaway, starring Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and Alan Howard in the titular roles. The film's graphic scatology, violence, and nude scenes, as well as its lavish cinematography and formalism, were noted at the time of its release.

In 1980, Greenaway delivered The Falls (his first feature-length film) – a mammoth, fantastical, absurdist encyclopaedia of flight-associated material all relating to ninety-two victims of what is referred to as the Violent Unknown Event (VUE). In the 1980s, Greenaway's cinema flowered in his best-known films, The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), The Belly of an Architect (1987), Drowning by Numbers (1988), and his most successful (and controversial) film, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989). Greenaway's most familiar musical collaborator during this period is composer Michael Nyman, who has scored several films.

<i>The Falls</i> 1980 film by Peter Greenaway

The Falls is a 1980 film directed by Peter Greenaway. It was Greenaway's first feature-length film after many years making shorts. It does not have a traditional dramatic narrative; it takes the form of a mock documentary in 92 short parts.

<i>The Draughtsmans Contract</i> 1982 film by Peter Greenaway

The Draughtsman's Contract is a 1982 British film written and directed by Peter Greenaway – his first conventional feature film. Originally produced for Channel 4 the film is a form of murder mystery, set in rural Wiltshire, England in 1694. The period setting is reflected in Michael Nyman's score, which borrows widely from Henry Purcell and in the extensive and elaborate costume designs. The action was shot on location in the house and formal gardens of Groombridge Place. The film received the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.

<i>A Zed & Two Noughts</i> 1985 film by Peter Greenaway

A Zed & Two Noughts is a 1985 film written and directed by Peter Greenaway. This film was Greenaway's first collaboration with cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who went on to shoot virtually all of Greenaway's work in the 1980s and 1990s, until Vierny's death. Greenaway referred to Vierny as his "most important collaborator". The film is a rumination on life, love, bad sex, doubling, man's mistreatment of animals, artifice vs. the life force and the inevitability of birth, death and decay.

In 1989, he collaborated with artist Tom Phillips on a television serial A TV Dante , dramatising the first few cantos of Dante's Inferno . In the 1990s, he presented Prospero's Books (1991), the controversial The Baby of Mâcon (1993), The Pillow Book (1996), and 8½ Women (1999).

Tom Phillips is an English artist. He was born in London, where he continues to work. He is a painter, printmaker and collagist.

A TV Dante is a 1990 mini-series directed by Tom Phillips and Peter Greenaway. It covers eight of the 34 cantos in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, part of his 14th century epic poem Divine Comedy.

Dante Alighieri Italian poet

Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, commonly known by his pen name Dante Alighieri or simply as Dante, was an Italian poet. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa and later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio, is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.

In the early 1990s, Greenaway wrote ten opera libretti known as the Death of a Composer series, dealing with the commonalities of the deaths of ten composers from Anton Webern to John Lennon, however, the other composers are fictitious, and one is a character from The Falls. In 1995, Louis Andriessen completed the sixth libretto, Rosa – A Horse Drama . He is currently professor of cinema studies at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.


Greenaway presented the ambitious The Tulse Luper Suitcases , a multimedia project that resulted in three films, a website, two books, a touring exhibition, and a shorter feature which reworked the material of the first three films.

He also contributed to Visions of Europe , a short film collection by different European Union directors; his British entry is The European Showerbath . Nightwatching and Rembrandt's J'Accuse two films on Rembrandt which were released in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Nightwatching is the first feature in the series "Dutch Masters", with the next project titled as Goltzius and the Pelican Company . [3]

On 17 June 2005, Greenaway appeared for his first VJ performance during an art club evening in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with music by DJ Serge Dodwell (aka Radar), as a backdrop, 'VJ' Greenaway used for his set a special system consisting of a large plasma screen with laser controlled touchscreen to project the ninety-two Tulse Luper stories on the twelve screens of "Club 11", mixing the images live. This was later reprised at the Optronica festival, London.

On 12 October 2007, he created the multimedia installation Peopling the Palaces at Venaria Reale at the Royal Palace of Venaria that animates the Palace with 100 videoprojectors. [4]

Greenaway was interviewed for Clive Meyer's Critical Cinema: Beyond the Theory of Practice (2011), and voiced strong criticisms of film theory as distinct from discussions of other media: "Are you sufficiently happy with cinema as a thinking medium if you are only talking to one person?" [5]

On 3 May 2016, he received a Honoris Causa doctorate from the University of San Martín, Argentina. [6]

Nine Classical Paintings Revisited

In 2006, Greenaway began a series of digital video installations, Nine Classical Paintings Revisited, with his exploration of Rembrandt's Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. On 30 June 2008, after much negotiation, Greenaway staged a one-night performance 'remixing' da Vinci's The Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie [7] in Milan to a select audience of dignitaries. The performance consisted of superimposing digital imagery and projections onto the painting with music from the composer Marco Robino.

Greenaway exhibited his digital exploration of The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese as part of the 2009 Venice Biennial. An arts writer for The New York Times called it "possibly the best unmanned art history lecture you'll ever experience," while acknowledging that some viewers might respond to it as "mediocre art, Disneyfied kitsch or a flamboyant denigration of site-specific video installation." The 50-minute presentation, set to a soundtrack, incorporates closeup images of faces from the painting along with animated diagrams revealing compositional relations among the figures. These images are projected onto and around the replica of the painting that now stands at the original site, within the Palladian architecture of the Benedictine refectory on San Giorgio Maggiore. The soundtrack features music and imagined dialogue scripted by Greenaway for the 126 "wedding guests, servants, onlookers and wedding crashers" depicted in the painting, consisting of small talk and banal chatter that culminates in reaction to the miraculous transformation of water to wine, according to the Gospels the first miracle performed by Jesus. Picasso's Guernica , Seurat's Grande Jatte , works by Jackson Pollock and Claude Monet, Velázquez's Las Meninas and Michelangelo's The Last Judgment are possible series subjects. [8]


Documentaries and mockumentaries


Related Research Articles

Night Watch may refer to:

Ornella Muti Italian actress

Ornella Muti is an Italian actress.

Tulse Luper is a fictional character, created by film director Peter Greenaway.

"Born in Newport in 1911, Luper was, according to Greenaway's introduction to the exhibition catalogue, in Moab, Utah in 1928 when "Uranium was 'discovered' there. He was in Antwerp in 1939 when the Germans invaded Belgium. He was in Rome when the Americans arrived in 1944. He met Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest in 1945 and followed him to Moscow in the 1950s. He was at an East-West German checkpoint in 1963". The 92 suitcases thus tell Luper's story from 1928 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, sketching not so much the biography of one man as the story of a century related through some of its key events."

Roger Rees Welsh-American actor

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The Tulse Luper Suitcases is a multimedia project by Peter Greenaway, initially intended to comprise four films, three "source" and one feature, a 16-episode TV series, and 92 DVDs, as well as Web sites, CD-ROMs and books. Once the online Web-based portion of the project was completed, the "winner" having taken a trip following Tulse Luper's travels during his first writings about the discovery of uranium in Moab, Utah in 1928 to his mysterious disappearance at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the final, feature film was released.

<i>Prosperos Books</i> 1991 film by Peter Greenaway

Prospero's Books is a 1991 British avant-garde film adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, written and directed by Peter Greenaway. John Gielgud plays Prospero, the protagonist who provides the off-screen narration and the voices to the other story characters. Stylistically, Prospero's Books is narratively and cinematically innovative in its techniques, combining mime, dance, opera, and animation. Edited in Japan, the film makes extensive use of digital image manipulation, often overlaying multiple moving and still pictures with animations. Michael Nyman composed the musical score and Karine Saporta choreographed the dance. The film is also notable for its extensive use of nudity, reminiscent of Renaissance paintings of mythological characters. The nude actors and extras represent a cross-section of male and female humanity.

<i>Nightwatching</i> 2007 film by Peter Greenaway

Nightwatching is a 2007 film about the artist Rembrandt and the creation of his painting The Night Watch. The film is directed by Peter Greenaway and stars Martin Freeman as Rembrandt, with Eva Birthistle as his wife Saskia van Uylenburg, Jodhi May as his lover Geertje Dircx, and Emily Holmes as his other lover Hendrickje Stoffels. Reinier van Brummelen is the director of photography. James Willcock, known for his esoteric sets, is the art director.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Art museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands

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Jack Wouterse Dutch actor

Jack Wouterse is a Dutch actor. His career as a movie actor took off with his role in the 1992 film The Northerners, directed by Alex van Warmerdam. Wouterse made his international debut in an episode of the TV series Band of Brothers. He frequently worked with murdered Dutch director Theo van Gogh.

Wouter Barendrecht was a film producer. With Michael J. Werner, Barendrecht was the co-chairman of Fortissimo Films, a company he founded in 1991 in Amsterdam.

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Benjamin Davies (actor) Scottish actor

Benjamin John Gareth Davies is a Scottish actor and producer and film director.

Vertical Features Remake (1978) is a film by Peter Greenaway. It portrays the work of a fictional Institute of Reclamation and Restoration as they attempt to assemble raw footage taken by ornithologist Tulse Luper into a short film, in accordance with his notes and structuralist film theory. The footage consists mostly of vertical landscape features, such as trees and posts, shot in the English landscape. It contains four restoration attempts, each with a documentary-like introduction.

<i>Goltzius and the Pelican Company</i> 2012 film by Peter Greenaway

Goltzius and the Pelican Company is a 2012 historical film by writer-director Peter Greenaway.

<i>Rembrandts JAccuse</i> 2008 film by Peter Greenaway

Rembrandt's J'Accuse is a 2008 Dutch, German and Finnish documentary film directed by Peter Greenaway about criticism of today's visual illiteracy argued by means of a forensic search of Rembrandt's painting The Night Watch. Greenaway explains the conspiracy about a murder and the motives of all its characters who have conspired to kill for their combined self-advantage.

<i>View of the Dam and Damrak at Amsterdam</i> (Boymans van Beuningen) painting by Jacob van Ruisdael

View of the Dam and Damrak at Amsterdam, also known as The Damrak in Amsterdam, is a 17th-century oil on canvas painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Jacob van Ruisdael. Since 1866 it is in the collection of the Museum Boymans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

<i>View of the Dam and Damrak at Amsterdam</i> (Frick Collection) painting by Jacob van Ruisdael

View of the Dam and Damrak at Amsterdam, also known as Quay at Amsterdam, is a 17th-century oil on canvas painting by the Dutch Golden Age painter Jacob van Ruisdael. It is since 1910 in the Frick Collection in New York. It is currently not on view.

Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann was a Dutch and American art historian and writer.


  1. Abbott, Spencer H. (6 June 1997). "Interview with Peter Greenaway" . Retrieved 15 February 2008.
  2. "Peter Greenaway Biography (1942–)". Filmreference.Com. 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  3. Morgan, Nesta. "nightwatching". film&festivals . United Kingdom: Wallflower Press, Film Culture Ltd. 2 (2): 5. ISSN   1755-5485.
  4. "Peopling The Palaces at Venaria Reale – Enciclopedia del cinema in Piemonte" . Retrieved 12 February 2011.[ dead link ]
  5. Laurie, Timothy (2013), "Critical Cinema: Beyond the Theory of Practice", Media International Australia, 147: 171
  6. Peter Greenaway llega a la UNSAM » Noticias UNSAM
  7. "Leonardo's Last Supper" Archived 21 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine , Peter Greenaway's official site.
  8. Roberta Smith, "In Venice, Peter Greenaway Takes Veronese's Figures Out to Play," The New York Times 21 June 2009 online.
  9. "TULSE LUPER 'A LIFE IN SUITCASES' BY PETER GREENAWAY". Luperpedia Foundation. 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Peter Greenaway". Luperpedia Foundation. 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  11. "3x3D". imdb. 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  12. "The Sea in Their Blood (1983)". imdb. 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  13. Greenaway, Peter. "Act of God". Archived from the original on 19 January 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  14. Aitken, Ian. Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film 3-Volume Set. pp. 2–3. ISBN   9781135206208.
  15. Greenaway, Peter (1991). The physical self : a selection by Peter Greenaway from the collections of the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam = De keuze van Peter Greenaway uit de collecties van Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 27/10/91-12/1/92. Rotterdam: Het Museum. ISBN   90-6918-088-X.