Art on the BBC: The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci – the man, his art and his TV career

The Guardian | Sam Wollaston

Janina Ramirez, the art historian, is walking purposefully towards me, along a corridor. It has become a television bugbear for me, the “approach” approach to presenting, walk and talk. Like the – worse still – camera whirling around the head thing, AKA helicoptering. I mind less if the walk is connected to what they are saying, if they are pointing things out as they go. But Ramirez is talking about the Mona Lisa and she is not in the Louvre, she is in Blenheim Palace. It is walking for the sake of walking and I find it a little unsettling. Ramirez is great and has lots of interesting things to say. She makes me want to sit and listen, not feel as if I am walking backwards and worrying about tripping over.

While I am moaning, here is another little one that is specific to art on TV and also on show here: the slow pan over a work. You don’t look at a picture in a gallery like that, do you, unless you are drunk? You look at the whole thing, then you might focus on areas or details. And that is fine, if the camera zooms in for the expert to point something out or explain something. But the slow pan is meaningless. Both of the above, I think, are about television’s fear of stillness. Everything has to keep moving or, they seem to think, people will get bored. There is a similar fear about a different kind of stillness – a lack of noise – which is why silence must be filled with music. But stillness – both kinds – can be powerful and make you sit up and listen…read more

Image: A man studies an electronic display of The Vitruvian Man, 1490, by Leonardo da Vinci. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo