The Shock of the New

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The Shock of the New
Directed by David Lewis Richardson
Narrated by Robert Hughes
Release date

The Shock of the New is a 1980 documentary television series written and presented by Robert Hughes produced by the BBC in association with Time-Life Films and produced by Lorna Pegram.[1] It was broadcast by the BBC in 1980 in the United Kingdom and by PBS in 1981 in the United States.[2][3] It addressed the development of modern art since the Impressionists and was accompanied by a book of the same name; its combination of insight, wit and accessibility are still widely praised.

Series outline[edit]

The series consisted of 8 episodes each one hour long (58 min approx.)[4]

  1. Mechanical Paradise - How the development of technology influenced art between 1880 and end of World War I.
  2. The Powers That Be - Examining the relationship between art and authority.
  3. The Landscape of Pleasure - Examining art's relationship with the pleasures of nature.
  4. Trouble in Utopia - Examining the aspirations and reality of architecture.
  5. The Threshold of Liberty - Examining the surrealists' attempts to make art without restrictions.
  6. The View from the Edge - A look at those who made visual art from the crags and vistas of their internal world.
  7. Culture as Nature - Examining the art that referred to the man-made world which fed off culture itself.
  8. The Future That Was - Robert Hughes slips down the decline of modernism while watching art without substance.

It was also shown on the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), although according to the PBS website the titles of the shows were changed slightly.

  1. The Mechanical Paradise - The influence of technology on art from 1880 to 1918
  2. The Shapes of Dissent - The relationship and conflicts between modern art and authority
  3. The Landscape of Pleasure - Artists' visions of paradise 1870's to 1950's
  4. Trouble in Utopia - Modern architecture
  5. The Threshold of Liberty - Surrealism
  6. The Sublime and Anxious Eye - Expressionism
  7. Culture as Nature - Pop Art
  8. The End of Modernity - The commercialisation of Modern Art.


The book of the series was published in 1980 by the BBC under the title The Shock of the New: Art and the century of change.[5] It was republished in 1991 by Thames and Hudson.[6]

Video releases[edit]

The televised edition of The Shock of the New is posted on the internet[7][8] and is published as a set of DVDs.[9]

Follow ups[edit]

In 2004 Hughes created a one-hour update to The Shock of the New titled The NEW Shock of the New.[10]


External links[edit]