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The second season of Genius has kicked off (April 24) on the National Geographic Channel, turning its attention to the world of art and Pablo Picasso after the first season dramatized the life of Albert Einstein.

Antonio Banderas stars as Spain’s greatest artist, following in the footsteps of Sir Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed him in 1996 Merchant Ivory film Surviving Picasso (with Clémence Poésy playing painter Françoise Gilot, the role played by Designated Survivor‘s Natascha McElhone).

It got us thinking about other great artists who’ve been portrayed in films — and the great actors who played them.

11. Robert Pattinson as Little Ashes (2008)

Surrealist Salvador Dalí has been played numerous times, most notably by Adrien Brody in Midnight in Paris and Robert Pattinson in this film about Dalí and his friends, the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and writer Federico García Lorca. Focusing on Dalí’s battle to suppress his sexuality, it was a brave and unusual performance so soon after his turn as vampire Edward Cullen in the first Twilight film.

10. Sally Hawkins in Maudie (2016)

It’s fair to say Sally Hawkins‘ 2017 film, The Shape of Water, overshadowed this one about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, and her unlikely romance with the reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke). But her performance here is every bit as resolved, with subtle touches and a mischievous sense of humor.

9. Colin Firth in The Girl With the Pearl Earring (2003)

Based on the bestselling novel by Tracy Chevalier, this film about the woman behind one of the world’s most famous portraits (Scarlett Johansson) also features the painter himself, Johannes Vermeer, aka a rather fetching and bewigged Colin Firth.

8. Juliette Binoche in Camille Claudel 1915 (2014)

Chocolat star Juliette Binoche plays French sculptor Camille Claudel, who was confined by her family to an insane asylum after she suffered a breakdown. She stayed there for the next 30 years, deprived of all her art materials, and this sombre and deeply affecting film takes place two years after she’s committed.

7. Tony Curran in Doctor Who (2010)

Who would you choose if you could travel back in time to let someone know the impact their work would have after their death? In season five Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor,” our favorite Time Lord (Matt Smith) does just that when he takes Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran), who died in penury in 1890 having never sold a single painting, to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

6. Salma Hayek in Frida (2002)

Salma was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, in a film that also starred Alfred Molina as Kahlo’s husband Diego Rivera. She lost out though, to another actress who depicted a creative genius: Nicole Kidman and her fake schnozz as Virginia Woolf in The Hours.

5. Ed Harris in Pollock (2000)

Ed Harris made his directorial debut with this biopic, as well as taking on the lead role of renowned American painter Jackson Pollock. It earned him a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar, while co-star Marcia Gay won hers for her supporting role as Pollock’s wife and fellow painter Lee Krasner.

4. Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner (2014)

Directed by Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky filmmaker Mike Leigh, this biopic about impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner follows the last quarter century of his lifer, as the death of his father takes a profound toll on him. Snubbed by the Academy and BAFTA, Timothy Spall‘s lead performance won him the Best Actor award at Cannes.

3. Emma Thompson in Carrington (1995)

Emma Thompson led a stellar cast as painter Dora Carrington, one of the feted Bloomsbury Group whose members also included writer Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), painter Vanessa Bell (Janet McTeer) and diarist Frances Partridge (Alex Kingston). Rufus Sewell and Samuel West also star, as artist Mark Gertler and historian Gerald Brenan.

2. Jeffrey Wright in Basquiat (1996)

The 1980s New York art world comes to life in this film by artist-director Julian Schnabel, with Andy Warhol (David Bowie), art dealer Bruno Bischofberger (Dennis Hopper) and gallerist Mary Boone (Parker Posey) all represented. Front and center though is Westworld‘s Jeffery Wright, whose performance as the neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat became his breakout role.

1. Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day Lewis gives the greatest performance of his career,” says the trailer. Well, not quite. But in 1989 his performance as painter Christy Brown was the best of his career, and won him the first of three Best Actor Oscars.

Did we miss any great actor-plays-artist examples? 

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.