Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway

Infobox Person
name= Peter Greenaway, CBE

birth_date= Birth date and age|1942|4|5|df=y
birth_place=Newport, Wales
occupation = Film director, Painter

Peter Greenaway, CBE (born 5 April 1942) is an English film director born in Wales. [cite web | last = Abbott | first = Spencer H. | title = Interview with Peter Greenaway | date = 1997-06-06 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-15]

Early life

Peter Greenaway was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, was raised in Essex, England and attended Forest School in North-East London. His family left South Wales when he was three years old (they had moved there to begin with to avoid The Blitz). At an early age Greenaway decided on becoming a painter. He became interested in European cinema, focusing first on that of Bergman, and then on French Nouvelle Vague film-makers such as Godard, and most especially Resnais.

Major work in film and the arts

In 1962 Greenaway began studies at Walthamstow College of Art, where a fellow student was musician Ian Dury (later cast in "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover"). Greenaway trained as a muralist for three years; he made his first film, "Death of Sentiment", a churchyard furniture essay filmed in four large London cemeteries. In 1965, he joined the Central Office of Information (COI), working there fifteen years as a film editor and director. In that time he created a filmography of experimental films, starting with "Train" (1966), footage of the last steam trains at Waterloo station, (situated behind the COI), edited to a musique concrete track. "Tree" (1966), is an homage to the embattled tree growing in concrete outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London. By the 1970s he was confident and ambitious and made "Vertical Features Remake" and "A Walk Through H". The former is an examination of variations of arithmetical editing structure, and the latter is a journey through the maps of a fictitious country.

The visual hallmark of Greenaway's cinema is the heavy influence of Renaissance painting, and Flemish painting in particular, notably in scenic composition and illumination and the concomitant contrasts of costume and nudity, nature and architecture, furniture and people, sexual pleasure and painful death. Greenaway's frequent musical collaborator composer is Michael Nyman, who has scored several of his films.

In 1980, Greenaway delivered "The Falls" (his first feature-length film) – a mammoth, fantastical, absurdist encyclopedia of flight-associated material all relating to ninety-two victims of what is referred to as the Violent Unknown Event (VUE). In the 1980s, Greenaway's cinema flowered in his best-known films, "The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982), "A Zed & Two Noughts" (1985), "The Belly of an Architect" (1987), "Drowning by Numbers" (1988), and his most successful (and controversial) film, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" (1989).

In 1989, he collaborated with artist Tom Phillips on a television serial titled "A TV Dante", dramatising the first few cantos of Dante's "Inferno". In the 1990s, he presented the visually spectacular "Prospero's Books" (1991), the controversial "The Baby of Mâcon" (1993), "The Pillow Book" (1996), and "8½ Women" (1999).

Later work in film and the arts

In the early 1990s, Greenaway wrote ten opera libretti known as the Death of a Composer series, dealing with the commonalities of the deaths of ten composers from Anton Webern to John Lennon, however, the other composers are fictitious, and one is a character from "The Falls". In 1995, Louis Andriessen completed the sixth libretto, "Rosa - A Horse Drama".

Greenaway has completed the artistically ambitious, "The Tulse Luper Suitcases", a multimedia project with innovative film techniques that resulted in five films. He also contributed to "Visions of Europe", a short film collection by different European Union directors; his British entry, is "The European Showerbath". In early 2005, he announced "Nightwatching", a film about the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, slated for release in 2007. "Nightwatching" is the first feature in the series "Dutch Masters", with the next project titled as "Goltzius". [cite journal
last = Morgan
first = Nesta
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = nightwatching
journal = film&festivals
volume = 2
issue = 2
pages = p.5
publisher = Wallflower Press, Film Culture Ltd.
location = United Kingdom
date =
url =
format =
issn = 1755-5485
accessdate =

On 17 June 2005, Greenaway appeared for his first VJ performance during an art club evening in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with music by DJ Serge Dodwell (aka Radar), as a backdrop, ‘VJ’ Greenaway used for his set a special system consisting of a large plasma screen with laser controlled touchscreen to project the ninety-two "Tulse Luper" stories on the twelve screens of "Club 11", mixing the images live. This was later reprised at the Optronica festival, London.

On 30 June 2008 after much negotiation, Greenaway staged a one-night performance 'remixing' de Vinci's The Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie to a select audience of dignitaries. The performance consisted of superimposing digital imagery and projections onto it with music from the composer Marco Robino.


*"Death of Sentiment" (1962, 8 min)
*"Tree" (1966, 16 min)
*"Train" (1966, 5 min)
*"Revolution" (1967, 8 min)
*"5 Postcards From Capital Cities" (1967, 35 min)
*"Intervals" (1969, 7 min)
*"Erosion" (1971, 27 min)
*"H Is for House" (1973, 10 min)
*"Windows" (1975, 4 min)
*"Water Wrackets" (1975, 12 min)
*"Water" (1975, 5 min)
*"Goole by Numbers" (1976, 40 min)
*"Dear Phone" (1978, 17 min)
*"Vertical Features Remake" (1978, 45 min)
*"" (1978, 41 min)
*"1-100" (1978, 4 min)
*"Making a Splash" (1984, 25 min)
*"" (1985, 26 min)
*"Hubert Bals Handshake" (1989, 5 min)
*"Rosa" (1992, 15 min)
*"Lumière et compagnie" (fragment "Peter Greenaway", 1996, 55 sec)
*"The Bridge" (1997, 12 min)
*"The Man in the Bath" (2001, 7 min)
*"Visions of Europe" (fragment "European Showerbath", 2004, 5 min)


*"The Falls" (1980, 185 min)
*"The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982, 103 min)
*"A Zed & Two Noughts" (1985, 115 min)
*"The Belly of an Architect" (1987, 120 min)
*"Drowning by Numbers" (1988, 118 min)
*"The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" (1989, 123 min)
*"Prospero's Books" (1991, 129 min)
*"The Baby of Mâcon" (1993, 122 min)
*"The Pillow Book" (1996, 126 min)
*"8½ Women" (1999, 118 min)
*"The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story" (2003, 127 min)
*"The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea" (2003, 108 min)
*"The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish" (2003, 120 min)
*"Nightwatching" (2007)
*"Untitled Old Testament Project" (TBA)
*"Augsbergenfeld" (TBA)
*"55 Men on Horseback" (TBA)

Documentaries and mockumentaries

*"Eddie Kid" (1978, 5 min)
*"Cut Above the Rest" (1978, 5 min)
*"Zandra Rhodes" (1979, 5 min)
*"Women Artists" (1979, 5 min)
*"Leeds Castle" (1979, 5 min)
*"Lacock Village" (1980, 5 min)
*"Country Diary" (1980, 5 min)
*"Terence Conran" (1981, 15 min)
*"Four American Composers" (1983, 220 min)
*"The Coastline" (1983)
*"Fear of Drowning" (1988)


*"Act of God" (1980) [imdb title|0080330|title=Act of God]
*"Death in the Seine" (French TV, 1988) [imdb title|0094977|title=Death in the Seine]
*"A TV Dante" (mini-series, 1989) [imdb title|0098428|title=A TV Dante]
*"M Is for Man, Music, Mozart" (1991) [imdb title|0102364|title=M Is for Man, Music, Mozart]
*"A Walk Through Prospero's Library" (1992) [ imdb title|0128835|title=A Walk Through Prospero's Library]
*"Darwin" (French TV, 1993) [imdb title|0106672|title=Darwin]
*"" (1999, 90 mins)


*1991 "The Physical Self", museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
*"100 Objects to represent the World" (1992) at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Hofburg Imperial Palace Vienna.
*"Stairs 1 Geneva" (1995)


External links

* [ The Official Peter Greenaway Site]
* [ The Cinematic Endeavours of Peter Greenaway]
* [ The Early Films of Peter Greenaway (BFI site}]
* [ Greenaway Fan Site]
*imdb name|id=0000425|name=Peter Greenaway
* [ "Inside Peter Greenaway’s Kitchen" by Manuela Gherghel (master's thesis in English)]
* [ "Greenaway & Food" by Danilo Jon Scotta (in Revue EDIT : )]
* [ Peter Greenaway "Graphis" interview March 2000]
* [ Interview with Peter Greenaway on 'Pillow Book']
* [ Interview with Peter Greenaway on 'The Medium is the Message]
* [ Peter Greenaway VJ performance]
* [ Video interview with Peter Greenaway (May 2006)]

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