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Bought with Love: The Secret History of British Art Collections

Wed Jul 17, 9-10pm, BBC4

Episode one
The complicated personal life of Henry VIII was a cultural disaster for Britain. The separation of the Church of England from the Catholic church ushered in an age of isolation and visual and aesthetic austerity during which only a few visionaries swam against the tide.

This three-part series sees the likeable Helen Rosslyn exploring the vocations of the likes of Thomas Howard. Known as the ‘collector’ Earl of Arundel, Howard’s compulsive importing of Italian Renaissance paintings eventually sparked something of a revolution in the appreciation of art in Britain.

As a film, this feels worthy enough but – like so much of BBC4’s recent documentary output – a little safe and predictable. Increasingly, there’s the sense of a channel which is content to tick over, avoid risk and preach to the choir. Let’s hope we aren’t seeing the beginning of our very own age of cultural austerity.