“Succession,” the TV comedy-drama series about how blistering family feuds can be is enjoying a popularity that puzzles me. The backbiting is so unrelenting that it’s hard to tell predator from prey.

The war lovers

Rotten Tomatoes rates this warfare an astounding 88% based on 84 reviews. So, rather than argue with success, I applaud, instead, the production choices made for all the art seen in the background.

Valentina Di Liscia, writing for Hyperallergic, applauds this, too, noting how Peter Paul Rubens’ painting "Bloody Tiger Hunt", seen in the promotional poster for the first season, epitomizes this family’s warring.

Di Liscia is currently studying for her master’s degree in art at my alma mater where I studied for the same degree. Maybe that’s why I agree with her every word.

But I don’t think so. Truth is not an opinion and there’s truth in what she says when she points out that Rubens’ painting “sets the stage for what was to come” in the TV series.

Art as play-actor

Of course, you don’t need art writers to tell you that the sheer brutishness in Rubens’ chaotic arrangement of tigers, men, and horses encapsulates the wild goings-on in “Succession.” You might say the painter is one of the actors.

While Rubens gets a Kudo here, not everyone in the art world credited his work, particularly the out-of-control looking "Bloody Tiger Hunt".

Van Gogh thought it “bombastic.”

Delacroix said Rubens "overpowers with all his liberty and boldness." And Ruskin saw an "unfortunate want of seriousness and incapability of true passion." Funny, that’s pretty much how "Succession" comes across to me.

Di Liscia also mentioned the show’s use of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s "Dante and Virgil" seen in the background of a family dinner in the second season.

She calls it “a telling scene.”

By way of explanation

Bouguereau’s painting illustrates a scene from Dante’s "Divine Comedy" when Virgil, who guides Dante through Hell, stops to watch two damned souls in a bitter fight.

Virgil and Dante are us watching the embattled Roy family members clawing at each other, presumably into perpetuity.

My compliments to “Succession” producers for using these paintings in such telling ways.

Not all film producers use visual art as well. I’m thinking of the 1996 film “The Devil’s Advocate” using Frederick Hart’s wall sculpture from the Washington National Cathedral to tell its tale.

Movie madness

But the meaning of the artist’s work got badly twisted. While Hart’s sculpture suggests the Creation of humankind with nude figures emerging from chaos, the film sets these figures in motion to writhe in orgiastic acts.

And because “The Devil’s Advocate” is about Satan (played by Al Pacino), Hart’s wall sculpture on Satan’s wall not only misused it, but it also flips it from a divine message to a demonic one.

Hart sued the moviemakers, Warner Brothers, successfully compelling the company to cut several scenes from “The Devil’s Advocate” where the distorted sculpture could be seen.

Meanwhile, Bouguereau and Rubens are likely doing a victory dance for the knowing way their works are used in “Succession.”