Series 2, Episode 25: Art Strike
FIRST CRITIC Michael Palin
SECOND CRITIC Eric Idle
CHERUB Terry Gilliam
BUMPKIN Terry Jones
SOLOMON Graham Chapman
AUCTIONEER John Cleese
(Cut to An Gallery. A large sign says: ‘Italian Masters of the Renaissance’. Two art critics wandering through. They stop in front of a large Titian canvas. The canvas is about ten foot high by six foot wide.)
First Critic: Aren’t they marvellous? The strength and boldness… life and power in those colours.
Second Critic: This must be Titian’s masterpiece.
First Critic: Oh indeed – if only for the composition alone. The strength of those foreground figures … the firmness of the line…
Second Critic: Yes, the confidence of the master at the height of his powers.
(At this point a man in a country smock and straw hat and a straw in his mouth comes up to the painting and with a very businesslike manner presses the nipple of a nude in the painting. Ding dong sound of a front doorbell. He stands tapping his feet and whistling soundlessly beside the painting. He nods at the critics. Cut to the top of the painting to see that one of the figures has disappeared leaving a blank. The camera pans down the painting as we hear footsteps; as if coming down a lot of stone steps. Eventualy the camera comes to rest beside where the country bumpkin is standing and a door opens in the painting. We do, not see who has opened it, but can assume it is the cherub.)
Bumpkin: Hello sonny, your dad in.?
Bumpkin: Could I speak to him please? It’s the man from ‘The Hay Wain’.
Bumpkin: The man from ‘The Hay Wain’ by Constable.
Cherub: Dad… it’s the man from ‘The Hay Wain’ by Constable to see you.
(Sound of footsteps. Cut to another close up on the painting and we see the main figure disappearing. This figure suddenly puts his head round the door.)
Solomon: Hello? How are you? Come on in. ‘
Bumpkin: No, no can’t stop, just passing by, actually.
Solomon: Oh, where are you now?
Bumpkin: Well may you ask. We just been moved in next to a room full of Brueghels … terrible bloody din. Skating all hours of the night. Anyway, I iust dropped in to tell you there’s been a walk-out in the Impressionists.
Solomon: Walk-out, eh?
Bumpkin: Yeah. It started with the ‘Deieuner Sur L’Herbe’ lot, evidently they were moved away from above the radiator or something. Anyway, the ImpresSionists are all out. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy’s
brought out the eighteenth-century English portraits, the Flemish School’s solid, and the German woodcuts are at a meeting now.
Solomon: Right. Then I’ll get the Renaissance School out.
Bumpkin: OK, meeting 4.30 – ‘Bridge at Arles’.
Solomon: OK, cheerio – good luck, son.
(The door shuts and we hear Solomon’s voice over.)
Solomon: Right – everybody out.
(We see various famous paintings whose characters suddenly disappear.)
Voices: I’m off. I’m off. I’m off, dear. (etc.)
(Mix through to front room of a suburban house. A man is sawing his wife in two in the classic long box.)
Radio: Here is the News… (the man pauses for a moment and looks at radio, then resumes sawing; we zoom in to close up on the radio. There is a window behind it; as the radio talks, a group of paintings with picket signs pass by) by an almost unanimous vote, paintings in the National Gallery voted to continue the strike that has emptied frames for the last week. The man from Constable’s ‘Hay Wain’ said last night that there was no chance of a return to the pictures before the weekend. Sir Kenneth Clarke has said he will talk to any painting if it can help bring a speedy end to the strike (a ghastly scream out of vision; the sawing stops abruptly) At Sotheby’s, prices dropped dramatically as leading figures left their paintings. (Cut to Sotheby ‘s)
Auctioneer: What am I bid for Vermeer’s ‘Lady Who Used to be at a Window’? Do I hear two bob?
Voice: Two bob!
Auctioneer: Gone. Now what am I bid for another great bargain? Edward Landseer’s ‘Nothing at Bay’.
(Pull out to reveal man standing beside auctioneer with the painting (the stag is missing). Cut to a group of famous characters from famous paintings who are clustered round the camera. Botticelli’s Venus is in the centre jabbing her fingers at camera.)
Venus: All we bloody want is a little bit of bloody consultation.
(Fade sound of them all shouting and jostling etc. Bring up sound of radio out of vision.)
Radio: At a mass meeting at Brentford Footban Ground, other works of art voted to come out in support of the paintings. (animation cut to Brentford football ground with famous statues in the stands) The vote was unanimous. (they all put their hands up) with one abstention. (cut to close up of ‘Venus De Milo’; cut to TV Centre and slow zoom in) Meanwhile, at Television Centre work began again on a sketch about Ypres. A spokesman for the sketch said: he fully expected it to be more sensible this time.