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Art History

Finding Streaming Videos


Movies can be research, too! The Library provides access to documentaries about the Arts (artists, art movements, technique, history) from the Films on Demand database. See below for search techniques, or browse more than 1,800 titles on Art & Architecture in Films on Demand.

San Francisco Public Library has access to thousands of movies about the arts with the Kanopy streaming database. You will need a San Francisco Public Library card and your pin number for the card to access Kanopy and the other great streaming collections available through SFPL.. 

Streaming videos from Films on Demand

Civilizations (477 mins total, 2018)

Survey the history of art, from antiquity to the present, on a global scale. This nine-part series reveals the role art and creative imagination have played in forging humanity, and introduces viewers to works of beauty, ingenuity, and illumination across cultures. Principal contributors Simon Schama, Mary Beard, and David Olusoga travel across the globe, visiting such cultural landmarks as the great mosques of Istanbul, the ancient cities of Mesoamerica, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta in India, the Aztecs' Templo Mayor in modern Mexico City, the funeral site of China's first emperor and many more. Narrated by Liev Schreiber.

Orsay, Chronicles of a Museum (53 mins, 2016)

The Orsay Museum is the home of a unique collection of art, unrivaled in the world with its tens of thousands of works of art. In December 2016, the museum celebrated its 30th anniversary. Its vitality is apparent: its energy is constantly put to use to stimulate curiosity and to invite the public to want to learn more. This program is an invitation to step into the inner workings of the museum to observe how it lives from day to day and discover the untold stories behind the masterpieces. It's an invitation to see what is normally hidden.

Great Artists: Series 1 (336 mins total, 2002)

This is a major 14-part series in which art historian Tim Marlow takes a fresh look at the most important artworks of some the greatest artists in history. Shot on location in over 50 galleries, museums, churches, and palaces throughout Europe and the United States, Great Artists (Series 1) is a comprehensive survey of the history of Western art. Both intelligent and informative, the series aims to provide an uncomplicated and accessible analysis of the works and artists featured.


Great Artists: Series 2 (264 mins total, 2003)
This 11-part series explores the lives and works of some of art history’s most influential artists including: Piero della Francesca; Holbein; Caravaggio; and Whistler. Shot in ten countries and in over forty churches and galleries, Tim Marlow takes us on a unique tour of the life and times of the artists and examines what makes them great. Each episode takes a fresh look at the artists, their work and the world in which they lived. We see how Goya’s masterful painting style and haunting visions combined to produce some of the most powerful images in the history of Western Art. We discover how the American painter Mary Cassatt, the only female artist in the series, challenged the male dominated world in which she lived, and against the odds, became the only American accepted into the group known as the Impressionists. And why Caravaggio, who lived a life marred by violence and even murder, produced some of the most remarkable art ever made.


Contemporary Arab Art Scene (23 mins, 2017)

We delve into the world of contemporary Arab art through the inter-connected stories of one man, three museums. We look at his art, his protégés and the people who collect it. From exhibitions in London's British museum to the region's largest ever retrospective to an Arab artist in Qatar, this episode of Inside The Middle East gets to know artist Dia Azzawi.

Films on Demand

Films on Demand logoFilms on Demand is an online library of streaming videos, covering a wide range of topics. CCSF Library's subscription includes the general academic and nursing collections. There are approximately 15,000 films.

You may want to create a personal user account with Infobase (the company that owns Films on Demand). Some benefits of creating an account are:

  • tagging and saving favorites for easy recall.
  • creating lists of films and segments that can be shared with other CCSF users.
  • more control over user settings (such as the playback rate and automatic startup of closed captioning)

To create an account:

  • Infobase 'Your Profile' button exampleclick "Your Profile" in the upper right corner of the screen in Films on Demand. Then,
  • click "New user? Sign up."

Note: This is a private account you make directly with Infobase, and as such, this may give them permission to track your behavior.

There are a few ways to find videos in Films on Demand.

Search by Keyword
  • In the Films on Demand search box, type your search terms.


Browse by Subject
  • Click on the menu (insert menu image)
  • in the 'Subjects' column, click "View All >."
Sample video:


Video Clip Shot with play button

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