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Art History

Series supporting Primary Art and Design. In a clip filmed in 1957, LS Lowry describes his unique way of painting.


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This is Monet's garden.

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He's one of the world's most famous and best-loved artists,

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and lived here for 43 years.

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Claude Monet loved gardening,

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As soon as he moved here in 1883,

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he set to work transforming the grounds.

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Monet was not only creating a beautiful garden -

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he was composing the subject matter for many of his paintings.

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It's amazing - with all these flowers and vibrant colours,

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it's just like stepping into one of Monet's paintings.

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You may recognise this pond and bridge from one of Monet's

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famous paintings - Waterlily Pond, one of my favourites.

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I'll try to capture it in a Monet-style painting of my own.

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I'm doing a rough sketch to work out my basic composition.

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The Impressionists got their name from one of Monet's early works,

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called...

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He captured the impression of early morning light using vague shapes

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and concentrated on light and colour, rather than precise outline.

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You can get the same effect by half-closing your eyes.

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I won't squint through my painting - not very practical!

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I've got something to look through - an old plastic folder.

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If I hold it in front of me, it softens the hard edges,

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so I can concentrate on the light and colour.

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Another Impressionist technique is to use thick brush strokes.

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Up close, they don't look much, but from a distance, look superb.

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Given how big some of Monet's canvases were,

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you'd HAVE to view them from a distance.

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To create my Impressionist painting, I'm not using brushes.

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I'm using my fingertips.

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I'm going to start with a nice light green for the willow.

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I'm using acrylic paint. Monet would have used oils,

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but acrylics give the same effect and dry a lot quicker.

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Monet believed things should be painted where they were -

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to paint the garden, he'd stand in the garden, whether it be 3 degrees

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or 33 degrees, like today.

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Phew!

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Painting here in Monet's garden,

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I feel a little like the Great Master himself.

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I like that.

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This is a film about a man who became an artist because he missed a train.

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This happened many years ago.

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He left the station in a Manchester suburb

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and started to walk up the road wondering what to do.

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He came to some streets of terraced houses,

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which lay at the foot of an immense mill.

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As he took in the scene, he was filled with the urge to paint it.

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And at that moment, he decided to become an artist.

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His name is Laurence Stephen Lowry. What was there in these sooty streets

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to make Lowry wish to spend his life amongst them,

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painting a world in which other people could see no beauty?

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I really don't know why I paint these streets.

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I just paint them, that's all, as far as I can see.

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There's something about them that attracts me in a pictorial sense.

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But I do feel that the pictures that I like the best

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are pictures done entirely from... call it imagination if you like.

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I start on an empty canvas

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and prefer to paint from the mind's eye.

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And, er...

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Often I haven't the slightest idea what I'm going to put on the canvas.

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In that case, I suggest something,

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call it a chimney or church or anything else...

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..going along slowly and adding things

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and, in a strange sort of a way, it seems to come.

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I work like that until the canvas is completely filled.

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My figures may be long and thin and their boots may be enormous,

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but I don't mind it at all. I see them like that,

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so I paint them like that. If they call them matchstick figures,

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well...let them do it. I don't mind at all.

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Of course, they're intricate pictures

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and they're full of figures and detail.

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It all takes balancing, which is not easy to do.

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You work on this, as I say, not working too often,

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or too rapidly, until I find that the time comes

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and you can do no more with the picture.

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When you're satisfied with that, you leave it as complete.

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This is his actual studio,

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just as he left it almost 100 years ago.

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'This was where Cezanne really started to experiment

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'using what's normally a very mundane subject - the still life.

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'And all around his studio are the actual objects he painted.'

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Still-lifes had traditionally been a way for an artist

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to show how superbly realistically and perfectly they could paint.

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But Cezanne wasn't interested in that at all.

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He wasn't interested in a photographic likeness.

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He was interested in a whole new way of seeing things

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and then putting them onto his canvas.

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I've arranged some of his objects

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in what's a fairly pleasing shape for me, I think.

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He never followed perspective

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the way traditional artists saw perspective.

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If he wanted to see into the top of a bowl,

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he would go and prop it up with something,

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so, instead of seeing sort of a flat bit,

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he would tilt it up so he could see that sort of a view of it.

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So I think I'll tilt that basket,

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move that back here and sit the basket up there.

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'Cezanne would spend days fine-tuning his compositions,

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'sometimes using coins to tilt things by just the right amount.

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'He often took so long,

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'he had to use artificial fruit to stop the real fruit from rotting.

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'Cezanne loved painting still-lifes.

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'He had complete control over the arrangement

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'and it would stay put there for months,

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'unlike his fidgety portrait sitters.

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'With a still life, he could do something really special,

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'just with some plain old fruit. He even boasted

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'that he would astonish Paris with an apple.'

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He created the shape, the roundness,

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by different colours, rather than by different tones.

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He would have apples in the foreground, which we would assume

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would be bigger than way off in the background,

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but he ignored all that sort of perspective.

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For example, this line of the table

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is completely out of whack. On purpose, of course.

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'Finally, I think I can see what Cezanne was doing

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'and I'm really pleased with my painting.'

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I think I've done all I can now.

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'In Cezanne's still-life paintings, the rules of the picture

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'were important than the rules of real life. There was nothing

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'to stop him painting a fruit bowl all wonky if he wanted to.

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'This was what people couldn't get their heads around,

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'but he didn't care. He knew he was onto something.'

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1066 is the best-known date in English history.

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Harold, the last Anglo Saxon King of the English,

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lost his eye to an arrow and his crown to William, Duke of Normandy,

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at the Battle of Hastings. A great deal of what we know,

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or think we know about the event, is captured in the Bayeux Tapestry.

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The first thing to say about the Bayeux Tapestry

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is that it's not a tapestry at all. Technically, it's an embroidery.

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A tapestry is woven on the loom.

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An embroidery is stitched onto the fabric - in this case, linen.

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The images in the Bayeux Tapestry are terribly familiar -

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men going like that, going overseas and meeting kings.

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When you see it for real, it's quite a surprise just what it looks like,

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in terms of its proportions. That's only half of it, way down there.

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It's displayed on a U-bend on the outside of it, here in its gallery.

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It's now accepted that the tapestry was made in England,

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which was top nation at tapestry making at the time.

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It was sewn by English craftsmen, but probably designed by a Norman,

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and commissioned and paid for by William's half-brother,

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Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.

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In the main central band,

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there are depicted over 600 men,

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200 horses, 50 dogs...

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and three women.

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Anglo-Saxons are recognised by their moustaches,

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Normans by their hair, cropped aggressively short at the back.

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The more you look at the tapestry, the more sophisticated it appears.

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To take a simple example,

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Harold is here shown eating a meal before sailing to France.

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He and his companions are on the first floor of a large house.

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But for economy of space in the tapestry,

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the upper floor is also the meal table.

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Holding up the roof on the right,

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there is a man who points the way down the stairs to Harold,

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who is now seen boarding his ship to Normandy.

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Where necessary, scenes are separated by highly stylised trees.

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In the borders, drawings of fables and fantastic beasts

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comment on the action.

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One or two scenes appear to be out of order,

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and have sometimes been dismissed as mistakes.

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But the ordering is no more an accident

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than is the use of flashback in a novel or a feature film.

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Westminster Abbey, Edward the Confessor's burial place,

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is shown before his funeral procession

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and two-layered deathbed scene.

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This is not because the designer forgot that you do not bury a king

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before he dies. Rather, it's done in this way

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so that the man offering the crown to Harold in the next scene

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can point to Edward, bequeathing him the kingdom just before his death.

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What everyone knows - or thinks they know - about the Battle of Hastings

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is that Harold was killed with an arrow in his eye.

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Is the tapestry the original source of that story?

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It's the earliest known source of the story, but it's a very plausible one.

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And although, sometimes, people have thought that the arrow in the eye

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was part of a restoration and wasn't in the original,

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the stitch-holes at the back of the tapestry show clearly

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that it WAS in the original. And as I said, it really is quite plausible,

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because so many arrows were flying around.

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Of course, further along, there's another man falling down,

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obviously dead. THAT could be Harold.

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The most plausible explanation is that they're both Harold,

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because these are two scenes shown as in a cartoon, where you have to

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draw your figure several times, in order to show the change.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

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Series supporting Primary Art and Design. Mark Speight paints in Monet's garden, Rolf Harris reproduces a still life in Cezanne's studio and, filmed in 1957, LS Lowry describes his unique way of painting. Also looks at the history and details of the Bayeux Tapestry.