The Art That Made Us - To Kill A King

A major new art series for the centenary of the BBC. In collaboration with the Open University.

An epic story of creativity. How works of art from Britain’s past have shaped us. Some are surprising, others familiar – but all are at the heart of dramatic moments of change.

In the episode To Kill A King, Architect Amanda Levete climbs the Tulip Stairs in the Queen’s House, Greenwich, and reassesses Inigo Jones’ elegant and innovative design, while portrait artist Tai Shan Schierenberg encounters Van Dyck’s monumental portrait of the Earl of Pembroke’s family and finds signs of the dysfunction and tensions which point to the civil war to come.

This was a war that would be waged across three kingdoms, and artist Rita Duffy explores some of the poisonous propaganda it created in Wenceslas Hollar’s Teares of Ireland woodcuts, while photographer Platon examines the Puritan aesthetic through Samuel Cooper’s ‘warts and all’ miniature of Oliver Cromwell.

The battle between royalist and parliamentary forces brought bloodshed but ultimately the rise of a more questioning culture. Actor Anton Lesser performs excerpts of John Milton’s daring Paradise Lost, which laments the fall of the republic through the figure of a charismatic Satan rebelling against God, the king.

The restoration of the monarchy saw a new creative flourishing in works by playwright Aphra Behn and the intricate baroque carvings of Grinling Gibbons. But it is in the rise of a more scientific mindset that creativity would find greatest expression: artist Angela Palmer marvels at the artistry of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, and sculptor Thomas Heatherwick reveals the brilliant architectural deceptions in Christopher Wren’s dome of St Paul’s.

The Times – Art That Made Us: Eddie Izzard, Thomas Heatherwick and others on their inspirations

Financial Times **** BBC series Art That Made Us sets out to upset preconceptions 

Spectator  **** An impeccably rule-observing programme from the BBC


Duncan Singh

Executive Producer:

Russell Barnes / Denys Blakeway / Michael Jackson


Melanie Fall

Commissioning Editor:

Emma Cahusac


Andrew Mortimer



Production Company:

ClearStory Films