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Thread: John Read RIP

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Country: Great Britain
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    From the Guardian

    John Read obituary | Television & radio | The Guardian


    John Read obituary

    His profile of Henry Moore revolutionised British television arts documentaries

    John Wyver, Thursday 18 August 2011 18.10 BST

    John Read, left, with Moore in the sculptor�s studio. He achieved an on-screen dialogue that was unique. Photograph: BBC

    The producer and director John Read, who has died aged 88, effectively invented the British arts documentary with his 1951 television programme Henry Moore � the first British film profile of a living artist. Read persuaded his managers at the BBC that the programme had to be shot on film, which was exceptional for the time, as almost all television programmes were broadcast live from studios using electronic cameras. John understood that to do justice to Moore's work, he required the precision, control and visual quality of 35mm film. He also wanted to shoot Moore in his studio and to film the sculptures in the open air, as Moore preferred. The argument that clinched it for him was that Moore's monumental bronzes could not easily � or cheaply � be brought into the studio.
    John refined the arts documentary with unparalleled skill and sensitivity over the next 40 years. Most notably, he produced five further BBC films with Moore, achieving a dialogue on screen between a major artist and a film-maker that, in its depth and sympathetic understanding, was unique.
    John produced definitive film profiles of many of the key figures of British modernism, including Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Barbara Hepworth. He captured astonishing footage of Stanley Spencer wheeling his canvases and paints around Cookham, Berkshire, in a pram. In his 1957 film with LS Lowry, he pioneered the use of recorded speech from an artist, offering the viewer an encounter with the painter that was revelatory in its intimacy. His films were shown around the world and won prizes at major festivals, yet he remained a self-effacing craftsman working within the BBC.
    John was born in Purley, south London, to Evelyn Roff and Herbert Read. His father was a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum who became the pre-eminent critic of the modern visual arts in Britain. When John was 10, after the family had moved to Edinburgh, Herbert eloped with Margaret Ludwig, known as Ludo, a music lecturer. There was a sense that, years later, Moore became the father missing from John's life.
    John's imagination was initially captured more by the cinema than by galleries, and he immersed himself in the culture of Soviet and British documentaries shown at film society screenings on Sunday afternoons. After the second world war, he studied at Jesus College, Oxford, where he directed a film that documented student life. The magazine Sight & Sound published his precocious argument Is There a Documentary Art? in 1948. The piece secured him a meeting with the documentary maker John Grierson, who offered him a job as an assistant. In 1949 he joined the BBC Television Service, where he worked until his retirement in 1983.
    The majority of the 100-plus films in his career were devoted to the visual arts, and his later subjects included Marc Chagall, Naum Gabo, Carel Weight and Peter Blake. At the start of his time at the BBC, he made women's and natural history programmes. He gave David Attenborough his first screen test, although as he later recalled, those above him thought "he was no good. They didn't like his teeth." He also wrote and produced documentaries about the atomic power station at Dounreay; Captain Scott's last Antarctic journey (making extraordinarily effective use of the photographs of Herbert Ponting); the invention of the hovercraft; and steam locomotives.
    All of his work is distinguished by a rigorous commitment to his craft and dedication to achieving exactly the right framing, the necessary camera move, the precisely apposite angle. With these images, many of them shot by the brightest and best British cameramen, he and his editors shaped suggestive and poetic sequences that had no need of a presenter to tell the viewer what they were seeing. His scripts were literary and intelligent, but also modest, stepping back from generalisations and grand assertions.
    John was witty and unfailingly generous with his time, ideas and encouragement. When I began nearly 30 years ago to make films with artists, his work was my primary inspiration (as it remains for me, and for others). After his retirement, he lived in modest circumstances in Belsize Park, north London, with his second wife, Louise Cot�. He remained fascinated by broadcasting gossip, though was often fiercely critical of what he saw as the failings of contemporary television.
    For him, as for others of his generation, making television films about the arts was akin to a crusade, a calling of high seriousness. "The basic reason for doing it," he said in 1983, "is simply that you've got to stand up for the imaginative world, the imaginative element in the human personality, because I think that's constantly threatened � People do have imagination and sensibilities, and I think that does need constant exposition."
    He is survived by Louise.
    � John Read, television producer and director, born 7 January 1923; died 26 July 2011

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: Ireland jimw1's Avatar
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    Sad loss....He was groundbreaking in his vision of the Arts and Documentaries.

    R.I.P. Sir

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