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Art Imitates Art

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Certain works of art are so classic that they've become iconic. As such, they are frequently exploited for symbolic or comedic effect.

Many classic paintings and sculptures have found their way into popular media. So frequently are these images exploited that people who may have never seen the original works still recognize the images.

Specific Subtropes Include:

Works that are often imitated without a subtrope existing for it include:

Compare Truth in Television and Life Imitates Art, where this inspirational transition is made beyond the fourth wall. Not to be confused with the simple fact that artists imitate other artists.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Manga artist Suehiro Maruo loves integrating elements of famous paintings into his compositions. Examples: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, Hope by George Frederic Watts, The Plague by Arnold Boeckin, and (NSFW)The Guitar Lesson by Balthus.
  • The opening and closing credits for Elfen Lied take an immense cue from the works of Gustav Klimt, to the point of inserting the five mains into a Klimt-like painting.
  • Sound of the Sky's opening credits also contain numerous allusions to Gustav Klimt's work.
  • This picture of Shimoneta references Eugène Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.
  • One episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt featured Garterbelt being revived by God and forced to relive all of human history. References to famous paintings, photographs and film stills abound.
  • Shisunki Renaissance David-kun is a series built off of this trope. All of the characters are based off of famous art pieces, and there are many panels that recreate some famous artwork, including gag reactions.
  • During a montage in Berserk showing how the series' Layered World collapsed into a single plane of existence, one of the spread pages is full of monsters based on the demons shown in Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

  • Manet had a deep understanding of art history, having based Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe off of Judgement of Paris (ca. 1515) by Marcantonio Raimondi and Raphael, Pastoral Concert by Giorgione or Titian, The Tempest by Giorgione and La Partie Carrée by Antoine Watteau.
  • Most of the paintings and drawings on Aza Smith's Grindhouse and Watercolors are representational depictions of his ragdolls, which are considered artwork in it of themselves.

    Comic Books 
  • The last panel of Valérian's adventure "On the False Earths" references Luncheon of the Boating Party, a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
  • René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo have recreations of various famous paintings or sculptures scattered throughout the Asterix books.
  • A page in 2012's Swamp Thing #4 references The Runaway by Norman Rockwell.
  • Red Soul (third album of Blacksad) references "Connoisseur" by Norman Rockwell.
  • "Happy Batsgiving", one of DC Comics' double-page deeply-symbolic-of-upcoming-stories art pieces, is based on "The First Thanksgiving" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.
  • "Abandon All Hope", another of these, focusing on Justice League Dark and related characters, is based on the bottom right corner of "The Last Judgement" by Michelangelo.
  • In Suske en Wiske:
    • "Het Spaanse Spook" ("The Spanish Ghost"): Suske, Wiske and Lambik are zapped into Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "Peasant Wedding" where they have an adventure in the 16th century. They also meet Bruegel himself.
    • "Het Rijmende Paard" ("The Rhyming Horse") the painting of St. Martin Dividing His Cloak by Anthony Van Dyck is brought alive to teach humanity about sharing. By accident it's just his horse that escapes from the painting and needs to be brought back.
  • Happens a lot in De Kiekeboes too. In the story "Hotel O." all the rooms are named after famous painters and various references are made to these works. For instance a vase with sunflowers being brought to the Vincent van Gogh room.
  • Coincidentally, the same week in 2015 saw the release of TPBs of Lumberjanes and Prez (2015) which both had covers featuring female protagonists in parodies of Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware".
  • 2000 AD artists seem to love putting Judge Death in place of The Joker in homages to old Brian Bolland artworks (who has worked on both 2000AD and DC properties).
  • DC Comics Bombshells: The Batgirls (Alysia Yeoh, Felicity Smoak, Harper Row, Kathleen Duquesne, Mary Kane, and Nell Little), Cullen Row and Tim Drake all eat lunch on a steel girder posed like the subjects of the famous depression era photo "Lunch atop a Skyscraper" of construction workers eating high above New York's streets while working on Rockefeller Center.
  • The pose of Superboy cockily smirking over his shoulder at the viewer while pointing with his thumb over his other shoulder at the S symbol on the back of his jacket from The Adventures of Superman has been used on a couple of covers; Byron Stark is in a mirrored version of the pose on the cover of Superboy and the Ravers #3, and Kon himself uses it again on the cover of Convergence: Superboy #1.
  • The cover of Adventure Comics #247, portraying the three founders of the ''Legion of Super-Heroes behind a desk with name tags judging Superboy as unworthy of their "super-hero club" gets homaged occasionally:
    • The cover of Superman #147 revisits the theme with the Legion characters replaced by their evil counterparts.
    • The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 4 #88 sees the trio—lighting lad replaced by his sister—trying to reject Impulse but finding their buttons aren't working while Imp holds sparking wires behind his back.
    • The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 5 #48 depicts most of the Legion behind tiered desks with name tags watching tryouts for the club.
    • The cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #29 painted by Alex Ross features the same characters as the original but in a more realistic style with more dramatic lighting.
    • The cover of Simpsons Comics #68 has the classic set up, poses and props with Homer being rejected by other Simpsons characters all dressed as superheroes.
    • The cover of Dark Horse Presents #115 has odd characters dressed somewhat like the Legion trio rejecting Dr. Spin's application to their superhero club.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Venus de Milo is frequently used, usually in period pieces where the whole statue is shown and then the arms are "accidentally" broken off. This joke was used in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (1976) for instance and later stolen for Disney's Hercules (1997) too.
  • The end credits of Cinderella III: A Twist in Time feature depictions of the characters in parodies of famous paintings. Fox example, Gus appears as the Blue Boy, and the Grand Duke is in The Scream.
  • The end credits for Lilo & Stitch features a snapshot of a Thanksgiving dinner styled like Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • In Cycle 5 of America's Next Top Model, when there were five contestants left, the challenge was to for each "recreate" a classic work of art, being Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother, The Vitruvian Man, The Birth of Venus, and Girl with a Pearl Earring.
  • The painting of 19th Century Tavern-Goers used in the opening of Cheers at least tried to match up imagery of the patrons with characters on the show as the actor credits flashed by.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Terror of the Autons", a Time Lord messenger appears as a man in a bowler hat and business suit, but floating in mid-air. This is a shout-out to Rene Magritte's painting "Golconda", which has similarly dressed men falling into a cityscape like raindrops.
    • The Fourth Doctor's iconic silhouette with wide-brimmed hat, long scarf and overcoat was inspired by the stage garb of the late-nineteenth-century cabaret singer and comedian Aristide Bruant, as immortalised in famous posters for him by Toulouse-Lautrec.
    • In "Warriors' Gate", the ruined Gate is copied from Caspar David Friedrich's painting Klosterfriedhof im Schnee (Monastery Graveyard in the Snow).
    • The Silence look incredibly like Edvard Munch's The Scream; Word of God says the in-universe explanation for this is that they've been subconsciously influencing our art and culture for centuries.
    • "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": The Stenza travel pod is visually reminiscent of the "Nancy style" of art nouveau glassware.
  • In the ad campaign for Nip/Tuck, women getting plastic surgery are positioned to resemble classical works, including Venus de Milo.

  • In MAD's "20 Dumbest People, Events and Places of 1999", the illustration for #2 was a parody of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" with Hillary Clinton looking across a field towards the U.S. Capitol.

  • Queen have a song called "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke", which strongly resembles the painting already mentioned in the Discworld examples.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Kermitage Collection is a collection of famous paintings redone to star The Muppets, including The Mona Moi (Piggy), Whistler's Weirdo (Gonzo), The Birth of You-Know-Who (Piggy again), American Gothique (Piggy and Kermit), Jester at the Court of Henry VIII (Fozzie) and so on...
  • An often-reprinted Sesame Street coloring book features Muppetized versions of a variety of famous paintings.

  • The final scene of 1776 is intended to be blocked so that the final positions of all the actors at the curtain calls to mind the Savage/Pine engraving of the Signing, although it's rarely exact.
  • The first act of Sunday in the Park with George ends with a Tableau recreating Georges Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The act also has scenes recreating Seurat's paintings Bathing Place, Asnières and Woman Powdering her Nose.
  • In Marat/Sade, when Marat finally gets killed, he poses as in Jacques-Louis David's painting of his death.

    Video Games 
  • Tales of Monkey Island
    • In "Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal", there is a Desingeograph of the "Vitruvian Pirate", which Guybrush calls "Pirate Da Vinci", on the Illuminopictoscreen; this "Vitruvian Pirate" is definitely a spoof of Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.
    • In Chapter 4, the provocative painting of Chieftain Beluga hanging above W.P. Grindstump in Club 41 is most likely a parody of the 1636 painting Danaë by Rembrandt van Rijn.
  • Mr. Goemon (the Arcade Game) has enemies surfing on the crest of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
  • The title screen of Policenauts has a figure traced from da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, but in a spacesuit and pointing a gun.
  • Buried deep in the bizarre abandoned MMO/chat room Worlds is the "Escher Tribute" area, based on the ever-famous Relativity, with physics to match. Can be seen here at about 29 minutes in.
  • Mystical Fighter for the Sega Genesis has copies of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa on fusuma midway through the first stage.
  • The cover art for You Are Empty copies Dmitry Moor's famous Red Army recruitment poster, except the soldier's face and hands are skeletonized.
  • In EarthBound, the melting clock from Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory is trying to kill you.
  • Rin's Act 3 ("Distance") in Katawa Shoujo has both Hisao posing like The Thinker and armless Rin posing like Venus de Milo, and a promotional montage incorporating all the girls' handicaps makes up a version of Vitruvian Man.

    Web Comics 

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Picture Pastiche


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