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To most people the word "art" will automatically be interpreted as "paintings" and "sculptures". Most people will think of figurative art as actual art and see modern art as bacially a lot of garbage or primitive, ugly stuff that anyone can do.

Art is also often referring to European art. When American artists are needed, chances are that it will be Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, James McNeill Whistler, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Roy Lichtenstein and/or Jeff Koons. Mexican artists are Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Japanese artists are Hokusai.


Aversions below.


  • All paintings are oil on canvas. All but murals. You very rarely get to see some graphic art like engravings or even just simple pen-and-ink-drawings.
  • If a famous painter is mentioned, expect one of these to be name dropped: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti (who is known by his first name only), Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Vincent van Gogh (whose surname is always mispronounced), Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol. Picasso is probably the most (mis/ab)used because of his recognizable style and strong association with cubism, which is still perceived as somewhat snobbish and a prime example of True Art Is Incomprehensible.
  • If a visually recognizable painter is needed, it will be probably one of those guys:
    • Da Vinci (a beard and him standing next to the Mona Lisa is all you need)
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    • Picasso (balding/wearing a beret and standing next to cubist art)
    • Dalí (because of his moustache).
    • Warhol (because of his glasses and haircut)
    • Van Gogh (because of his missing ear)
    • Toulouse-Lautrec (because of his small size)
  • Sculptors, sculptures, statues and monuments:
    • Classical Greek and Roman statues are still in our minds as the model to be followed and the ideal of beauty and form, as far as statues go. They were originally painted with vivid colours, but Classicism admired their simplicity and the elegance of white colour. It has stuck, hasn't it?
    • The statues of Ancient Egypt are very memorable and recognizable. For instance the statue of Queen Nefertiti. Her headband just screams Ancient Egypt. Have a look here.
    • Famous sculptors? There is usually just one name to be dropped, and that is Auguste Rodin. But there are enough statues available by other less name-drop-able artists.
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    • Michelangelo's David. Mr. Fanservice among the statues since the Renaissance. If tourists in fiction go to Italy and want to see some art, they will want to see David, never mind the many other nude male statues in Florence.
    • Venus de Milo. Her arms that broke off have probably made her even more famous than she would have been otherwise. A gorgeous ancient Greek statue of a goddess with naked upper part of her body. Quite a specimen of Ms. Fanservice.
    • Discus Thrower (a.k.a. Discobolus). A portrait of an athlete depicting the beauty of movement and sport. A much-referenced and imitated Greek statue by Myron.
    • Bartholdi's Liberty Enlightens the World, better known as the Statue of Liberty. The image of Eagle Land and a good way to introduce Big Apple Sauce.
    • Mount Rushmore. Four faces of American Presidents in a freaking mountain. Awesome! Very frequently, this is the image of Eagle Land.
    • Lincoln's Monument
    • Rodin's The Thinker. It has been imitated countless times as a Stock Pose. Rodin actually took it from Classical Greece. People positioned similarly are generally meant to convey introspection and melancholy.
    • Rodin's The Kiss.
  • Rembrandt van Rijn: His painting The Night Watch is well-known and recognizable.
  • Vincent van Gogh:
    • Starry Night
    • Sunflowers: Iconic painting of yellow flowers. They are gorgeous, but they are really just pretty flowers in a vase. The man was a genius. It's known as one of the most expensive paintings ever sold to a private collector.
    • It is a truth universally acknowledged that every shrink, ever, has a Van Gogh reproduction in their office. Most commonly, people expect Sunflowers or The Scream, forgetting that the latter is NOT Van Gogh (it was done by Edvard Munch).
  • Picasso only ever made cubism. Specifically cubism that resembles Les demoiselles d'avignon. Not only that, but he's also the only cubist ever. He was actually a master of realistic painting because you can stylize only if you know forms and shapes perfectly. Cubism in particular is abused by characters (in-universe). They are likely to state that True Art Is Incomprehensible or if they like it, they might be suspected to be snobs who only pretend that.
  • Andy Warhol: His name equals Pop Art. Usually you will see referenced just his color palette swaps portraits or his giant soup cans.
    • About the only other pop artist who's ever referenced is Roy Lichtenstein, for his paintings that look like comic book panels run through a color photocopier with the Enlarge setting turned Up to Eleven.
  • Jackson Pollock: Usually played for fun; one character will express high-flown opinions about Art, then another will say that the first is talking a load of Jackson Pollocks. Or a character will mistake his name for the ethnic slur for Polish people. His splashy paintings and unique method was not referenced before 1990.
  • Once in a great while, Piet Mondriaan, probably not by name, just a visual reference to one of his "Composition" paintings that are all straight black lines on white canvas with certain areas filled in with a solid primary color.
  • Norman Rockwell: All the people in his paintings are white. The Problem We All Live With is hardly ever shown, possibly because it doesn't exactly depict "traditional values" in a flattering light.
  • Leonardo da Vinci:
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti:
    • He painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Expect to see especially his portrait of God creating Adam, giving him life by touching his finger. A Stock Pose based on this image is called Sistine Steal.
    • David, his gorgeous sculpture. Quite the Mr. Fanservice of the Renaissance.
    • The Pietà, a sculpture of Virgin Mary with Jesus taken from the cross. Even though Michelangelo actually did three different Pietàs and other sculptors had done the motif earlier. It is a Stock Pose called Pietà Plagiarism.
    • Yet another ninja turtle namesake.
  • Raphael: His Sistine Madonna, and in particular the two little puttos on the lower frame. He has a ninja turtle named after him.
  • Donatello: Probably only because they named a ninja turtle after him.
  • French impressionists:
    • They are used in fiction fairly frequently. They evoke high class European art. However, Athena-brand poster print of one of the more well-known Impressionist works are particularly cliched examples. They have been the default wall decoration of the mousey middle-class British female first-year university student since the Sixties.
    • Claude Monet: Monet's Poppies Blooming. See it here.
    • Monet's many variants of water-lilies.
    • Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Have a look. Also, "Luncheon of the Boating Party."
  • H. R. Giger, for a scary piece.
  • Salvador Dalí: Known only for melted clocks. They appear everywhere.
  • Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. Ms. Fanservice of the Art World since the Renaissance. The beautiful blond lady who is naked standing on a big shell. Ladies from his other paintings resemble his Venus, but this painting is the most referenced.
  • Grant Wood's American Gothic. A famous case of Art Imitates Art and a stock pose troped as American Gothic Couple.
    • Expect people who don't know the name of the painting to call it "that painting of the farmer and his wife." Nevermind the woman depicted in the painting is supposed to be the man's daughter.
  • Edvard Munch's The Scream. It is the image of European expressionism and a trope image of The Scream. The distorted face and twisted lines are effectively creepy. The film franchise Scream did not reference the painting by its name only. The mask of the killer and the face is recognizable.
  • James Whistler's Whistler's Mother, which is actually called Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1. It pops up as one of the most recognizable American painting.
  • M. C. Escher is known (especially his Relativity) but is always without exception a "painter"; there is no such thing as a printmaker.
  • Georgia O'Keefe's flowers. The rest of her massive body of work is likely to be ignored.
  • Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.
  • In the UK: L S Lowry's "Matchstalk Men".
  • Famous photographers? Let's see...
    • Ansel Adams (for that weird "balancing rock" photo)
    • Richard Avedon (for all those immortal images of The Beatles)
    • Alfred Eisenstadt (for the snapshot of the sailor smooching the nurse)
    • Alberto Korda (for that picture of Che Guevara)
    • Dorothea Lange (for her pix of haggard-faced Dust Bowl migrants)
    • Diane Arbus ("circus-freak" photographer)
    • Robert Mapplethorpe (because he worked in porn)
    • Matthew Brady and Jacob Riis will have to be mentioned if American history is being discussed. Otherwise, forget it.
    • No mention of poor Louis Daguerre, even though he invented photography.
  • Architects? The only famous one is Le Corbusier. Michelangelo Buonarroti too, but he is better known as a painter and sculptor. In the USA Frank Lloyd Wright is well known. Other honorable name drops are usually Alvar Aalto, Leon Battista Alberti, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Antoni Gaudi, Walter Gropius, Victor Horta, Philip Johnson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, but then you would already know something about architecture. The general public will also know the name of Albert Speer, but more because of his association with Nazi Germany and being a close confident of Adolf Hitler.
  • Art movements?
    • Abstract expressionism: Jackson Pollock. Willem De Kooning. Francis Bacon.
    • Art Brut: Jean Dubuffet.
    • Art Nouveau: Alphonse Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley, Victor Horta, Antoni Gaudi, Louis Tiffany.
    • Baroque and Rococo: Peter Paul Rubens, Antoon Van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, David Teniers, Caravaggio, Antoine Watteau, Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Jacob Van Rusydael, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Canaletto, Caravaggio, Diego Velazquez, Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth and Nicolas Poussin.
    • Cubism: Pablo Picasso. Maybe Georges Braque and Henri Matisse may get a mention too.
    • Dadaism: Marcel Duchamp.
    • Dutch Golden Age painters: Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Frans Hals. Jan Steen, because his chaotic paintings make him stand out.
    • Fauvism: Georges Braque and Henri Matisse.
    • Flemish Primitives? Jan Van Eyck, Rogier Van Der Weyden and Hans Memling.
    • Impressionism: Claude Monet and Edouard Manet (will be confused with one another), Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
    • Neoclaccisism: Giovanni Piranesi, Jacques-Louis David, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Antonio Canova.
    • Performance art? Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic.
    • Pointillism: Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.
    • Pop Art: Andy Warhol. Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney maybe too.
    • Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphaël and Donatello. Usually this art style is associated with Italy, but other countries had notable painters to like Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Albrecht Dürer.
    • Romanticism: John Constable, William Turner, Eugène Delacroix, Caspar David Friedrich, Francisco de Goya and Gustave Doré.
    • De Stijl: Gerrit Rietveld, Piet Mondriaan and Theo Van Doesburg.
    • Surrealism: Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. If you known a bit more about art Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Giorgio de Chirico and André Breton might be mentioned too.
    • Symbolism: Edvard Munch, Félicien Rops, Odilon Redon.
  • When looking for a famous kitsch artist chances are it will be Maria Innocentia Hummel, best known for her Hummel figurines, and/or Margaret Keane, best known for her paintings of vulnerable angels and waifs with enormous doe-like eyes.

Aversions and exceptions to this trope:

  • Lampshaded in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Vamps are preying on college freshmen, killing them and stealing everything from their dorms. They have a running contest to see which artist has the most posters: Monet or Klimt. Monet is winning, if only because the only Klimt people have posters of is The Kiss.
  • Subverted inThe Autobiography of Jane Eyre, episode "Critical Examinations of Art" (episode 5). Jane teaches her little brilliant student Adele about modern art styles and important painters, and Adele made pictures in these styles with crayons. At first they are pretty standard like Picasso's cubism, abstract art, Gustav Klimt, or Vincent van Gogh, but she also painted her dog in pointillism, and her last picture looks like it was inspired by the painting The Son of Man by surrealist René Magritte. It's a man whose face is obscured by an apple. Though in-universe, it's not sure Adele knows about that painting because it's presented as a picture of her father, which is rather disturbing.
  • Averted with Bojack Horseman. If you see a piece of art in the background (and there are many), it is almost definitely a reference to a real piece of art, but an animal version. Some are easier to spot than others, since they can be anything from world-famous to rather obscure:
    • The painting we see pretty much every other episode hanging in BoJack's study, is based on a real painting called Portrait of an Artist, a.k.a. ''Pool with Two Figures'', by David Hockney. Mr. Hockney, like BoJack, is a man that experienced depression while living in L.A., despite the luxuries his success allowed him.
    • Shepard Fairey is referenced twice: An OBAAA poster is seen in an alley, and later, when Mr. Peanutbutter runs for governor of California, his poster is a very obvious reference to Obama's 2008 campaign HOPE poster (the latter pretty much falls under political small reference pools). Although most people have probably seen both works, it's not as well known that they were made by the same person (or that said person was/still is a renowned street artist).
    • Sarah Lynn has a painting of herself as John Everett Millais' Ophelia hanging over her bed. This actually doubles as very subtle foreshadowing: If you actually know the painting and what scene it depicts, you get a hint of what happens to Sarah Lynn at the end of the episode


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