Many great artists succeeded in immortalizing mundane scenes of everyday life or fictive portraiture through their paintings. What they do not know is that later on, their work was integrated into a different genre – film! Let’s take a look at 7 scenes from well known movies that were directly taken from works of art!

1. Herbert Ross and Edward Hopper

Art & cinéma : Hopper/Ross

One of Hopper’s greatest masterpieces was reproduced in the 1983 film Pennies from Heaven. Directed by Herbert Ross, the scene was recreated with every last detail being done to the tee.

The atmosphere is dark and gloomy. The waiter, the two seated men and the young woman lost in her thoughts – it all serves to imitate the eery ambiance evoked by Hopper’s handiwork. Ironically enough, this film was shot in Chicago which is also where Nighthawks is now housed, at theArt Institute of Chicago.

When Edward Hopper inspires our artists

2. Paul Thomas Anderson and Léonard de Vinci

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How could we not notice this blatant reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in this scene from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice? Released in 2014, it serves as a modern version of the 15th century masterpiece as men in draping garb gather together and feast, insatiably.

3. Martin Scorcese and Gustav Klimt

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In Martin Scorsese’s lauded Shutter Island (2010), he nods to the emblematic Kiss by Gustav Klimt (1908-1909). The scene in which Teddy Daniels (Leonardo Dicaprio) embraces the mirage of his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams) is a brilliant cinematic bow to the gold-encrusted artwork.

The ochre tones of the room in which they find themselves, their passionate gestures and the busy floral pattern of Dolores’s dress is reminiscent of that of Emilie Flöge, the painter’s companion at the time. Whether in a painting or on the big screen, one can easily feel desperation and ardour through this distressed embrace.

When Klimt inspires our artists

4. Terry Gilliam and Botticelli

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The Birth of Venus (1484-1485) has greatly inspired popular culture. In what is perhaps the most famous tribute to it, Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of the Baron of Münchhausen (1988) the director transposed Botticelli’s image into a larger-than-life shell containing divinity as interpreted by Uma Thurman.

Her first appearance shows Venus in the nude, her long red hair being her only means of privacy. She emerges from the water in a scallop shell, her stance typical of Greek statuary. The placement, gestures and setting are identical to those of the Italian painter’s masterpiece.

5. Jean-Luc Godard and Dominique Ingres

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Jean-Luc Godard pays homage to Dominique Ingres’ La petite Baigneuse (1828) in his film Passion (1982). This director is well known for a unique use of the female nude in his films. A woman with her bare back to the spectator, wearing a turban and holding a red sheet occupies the foreground.

This scene is a beautiful curtsy to the work of the French painter as the atmosphere evoked in the film is in keeping with the work to which it references. Several naked women are lounging in this hammam, the postures are similar and Godard even integrated the young woman in the blue turban worn into the background.

6. Jacques-Louis David and Sofia Coppola

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In the film Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola, we have an impossible-to-miss reference to Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David (1800-1803). The immaculate rearing horse led by Marie’s lover in a red cape with a fixed gaze is a beautiful tribute to the French painter’s politically-charged masterpiece.

#7 John Everett Millais and Lars Von Trier

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Lars Von Trier concealed a number of artistic references in his film Melancholia (2011). The most obvious being the poster used to advertise the film. After her marriage, Justine (Kirsten Dunst), is plunged into a deep melancholy, overwhelmed by existential thoughts. This shot defines the film and is characteristic of Romanticism, a rich artistic period wherein artists capitalised on themes of depression and despondency.

The Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais already depicted a similar scene in his work Ophelia (1851-1852). An unfortunate character in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Ophelia allows herself to be drowned, floating peacefully on the water and giving rise to a moment that is dark, delicate and deadly. Surrounded by lilies, Justine (like Ophelia) seems to have already drifted far, far away and is no longer of this world.


Would you like to discover more scenes inspired by famous paintings? Filmmaker Vugar Efendi has put together a whole series of tributes and settings from artistic masterpieces in a series of videos (Film meets Art)! On KAZoART, our artists are also very inspired by cinema and by the great figures to which they brilliantly pay homage.