Thu
Jan 26 2012 1:00pm

Art History Through Sci Fi-Colored Glasses

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Pastiche? Mash-up? The best form of flattery? Whatever you want to call it, artists have enjoyed riffing on historical paintings for ages. For some, it’s a fun way to learn and explore issues of color, composition, and application of paint by intimately copying from a master. For others, it’s a means to tap into the feelings and emotions already assoctiated with the original image, (for humour or drama.) Seeing John Mattos’ great modernist takes on Star Wars made me want to seek out other views of science fiction via the classics. Here’s what I found....

John Mattos took on Marcel Duchamp’s mechanically abstracted Nude Descending a Staircase and brilliantly reset it with C3PO. Then took Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians to the Star Wars’ Cantina. 

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Tim O’Brien hears his master’s robotic voice.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Abbott Handerson Thayer, often noted as a painter of angels, punked up a bit by Greg Manchess. Unrelated but interesting, Thayer invented camouflage. (Greg’s version is available as a desktop wallpaper.)

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Cyril van der Haegen inserts unspeakable evil into N. C. Wyeth’s “The Giant.”

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

It’s a tough race to see what has been parodied more: the Mona Lisa, American Gothic, or Napoleon Crossing the Alps. Here is Michael Whelan’s extra charming take on the David classic for Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson’s novel Hoka.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Tristan Elwell invokes Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for the cover to Jo Walton’s novel Tooth and Claw.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Thanks to Zelda Devon for pointing me to this William Stout, an homage to Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen’s “The White Bear King.”

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Arthur Suydam’s “Uncle Sam,” originated by James Montgomery Flagg.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

A super-sweet Halloween recasting of Norman Rockwell’s “The Runaway” by Luke Radi.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

There are numberous renditions of Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want,” part of his series based on Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.” I couldn’t pass up this one from Carlos Pacheco, utilizing the most wholesome, all-American superheroes for this all-American scene.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Marvel did a marvelous (sorry) series of Wolverine paintings done in various styles. You should check them all out. This one by Paolo Rivera after Salvador Dali’s famous “The Persistence of Memory” (better known as That-Melting-Clock-Painting.)

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

The Muppets released a number of art history parody calendars. This one showing (the space alien) Gonzo as “Whistler’s Mother,” more formally known as “An Arrangment in Grey and Black.”

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Alan Beck has been charming con-goers for a long while with his Mouseopolitan Museum of Art — American, European, and pre-historic art, as well as movie classics, are all subject to Alan’s mouse-ification. Here we see John Singer Sargent’s scandalous (at the time) Madame X and Johannes Vermeer’s Lacemaker.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Ryan Pancoast recreated John Trumbull’s “Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton” (with Zombies) for Michael Stackpole’s At the Queens Command.

 

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Scott Altmann does all kinds of mash-ups here — Twilight meets Grant Woods’s American Gothic for Night Shade Books’s Garrison Keillor pastiche, The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Boris Vallejo taking on Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, AKA Venus on the Half Shell,  in service of Robert A. Heinlein’s “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

 


 

Dave Seeley invokes Michelangelo’s Pietá in this Star Wars book cover.

Historical art redone with science fiction figures

Historical art redone with science fiction figures


Irene Gallo is the art director of Tor Books.

39 comments
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
1. tnh
I love these so much.

I'll have to remember which Frazetta it is that quotes Poussin's Rape of the Sabine Women.
Rantz Hoseley
2. Rantz Hoseley
The Boris painting, riffing off Botticelli, is not a Kilgore Trout book... it's for Robert A. Heinlein's "To Sail Beyond the Sunset", his last novel. (That's Pixel, the cat that walks through walls, sitting on the shell)
Irene Gallo
3. Irene
Thanks! I was flipping through too many screens. I will fix now.
Rantz Hoseley
5. Cliff G.
Ryan Pancoast's painting looks like it was inspired by Trumbull's "Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton" instead of General Warren.
Irene Gallo
6. Irene
...and, thank you Cliff. Fixed.
(Our readers are teh smarts!)
William S. Higgins
9. higgins
The Boticelli painting is discussed in the text of Venus on the Half Shell, and so there is nothing subtle about placing a "swipe" of it on the cover. There is a site devoted to covers of the book.

I wish I knew which artist painted the Dell edition, which, as I recall, carried the blurb "NOW AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT LURID COVERS!"
Sorcha O
10. sushisushi
Oh, wow, I'd never seen the C3PO Descending a Staircase before. That's amazing, on so many levels.
Del C
11. del
You missed one. Paul Kidby's cover for Terry Pratchett's Night Watch is a Discworldified version of the Rembrandt painting sometimes known by that name, with Sam Vimes in the front.
Steve Taylor
12. teapot7
Lovely collection - thank you so much for gathering them together.

Here's another - a Norman Rockwell done for a sf themed contest on cgtalk.com. I don't know my Norman Rockwell enough to know if this is a copy of a specific painting, but the style is indisputable:

http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=137&t=672574
Irene Gallo
13. Irene
Thanks for the links, guys. I'm sure there are houndreds of others. Keep listing them if you know of any.
Bernadette Durbin
14. dexlives
The cover for Paladin of Souls is based on a Renaissance painting of one of the saints; unfortunately, I don't remember the title and Google wasn't being helpful this morning.
Rantz Hoseley
15. dave9401599
Great stuff, hope to see more!
Rantz Hoseley
16. arnique
@del beat me to it! Paul Kidby's riff on Night Watch by Rembrandt for Night Watch by Terry Pratchett was terrific. I liked how Nobby Nobbs replaced the golden girl in the original. :))
Rantz Hoseley
17. Duncan Long
Beautiful collection. I hate to admit it, but I'd seen a couple of the
sci-fi versions before without realizing they'd been modeled off the
originals. In the case of Boris Vallejo's “To Sail Beyond the Sunset,"
I think he outdid the original in terms of beauty. -- Duncan Long, Science Fiction Illustrator for Asimov's SF, Harper Collins, etc., etc.
Moshe Feder
18. Moshe
What great fun. Thanks, Irene, for tracking it all down for us.

Makes me wish I could afford to buy some paintings!
Rantz Hoseley
19. Gary J
Baen Books (notorious, I've been told, for horrible covers) selected a bunch of old masters to be retouched as new covers for the "ring of Fire/1632" series. The cover of 1634: The Ram Rebellion is Liberty Leading the People. Grantville Gazette #4 is Rembrandt's The Night Watch. There are others.
Rantz Hoseley
20. Joseph Francis
Not sci-fi, but one I did

http://www.digitalartform.com/assets/Unicorn_sfw_05_800.jpg
Rantz Hoseley
22. Goose
Extremely creative! Studied the originals often. Surprise!
Rantz Hoseley
23. Alexanderer
Hans Holbein's "Sir Thomas More"
http://www.canvasreplicas.com/images/Sir%20Thomas%20More%20Hans%20Holbein.jpg
and
Alana Bograd's "Power Puncher"
http://alanabograd.com/zoom/984x588/287503.html
Greg Morrow
24. gpmorrow
The Pieta shows up a lot in comics, most prominently Superman holding Supergirl in the Crisis on Infinite Earths comics. Most subsequent appearances are homaging that cover at least as much as they are homaging the original.
Rantz Hoseley
25. Michael O.
Though not as close as the Sunset cover, the cover for Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil also cites Botticelli:

https://www.google.com/search?pq=heinlein+i+will+have+no+fear&hl=en&tok=jtVxxuQV0lzuzVMxZjlI-w&cp=16&gs_id=g6&xhr=t&q=heinlein+i+will+fear+no+evil&safe=active&client=firefox-a&hs=pvU&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1086&bih=708&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=zyMwT46eJaixsAKc9PmfDg
Rantz Hoseley
26. DarthCalvert
There are two particular examples missing from the list that should be noted: Paul Kidby's take on Rembrandt's "Night Watch" for the Sir Terry Pratchett novel of the same name and his spoof of Joseph Wright's "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump" for the cover of "The Science of Discworld."
Irene Gallo
27. Irene
DarthCavert. You reminded me that Experiment on a Bird was also used by Stephen Youll for a World Con cover.
Rantz Hoseley
28. theseamster
At the risk of being terribly pedantic, why are the parody images first and then the originals second? This seems totally backward to me. I would much rather see the original first (while scrolling down the page) and have the reveal of what direction the other artist took for any given image. I'd be surprised if I was the only person who felt this way.

Regardless, lots of neat images; thanks for posting them.
Rantz Hoseley
29. the duder
the one of the runaway child talking to the police man sends a much differend messege than the parody version. In short, Spidy looks like a pedo... and the cop looks like he wants to help. I suppose it's just the outfit.
The cathulu one is priceless too.
Rantz Hoseley
30. guderian
Cyril van der Haegen's unspeakable evil seems to be ctulhu
Irene Gallo
31. Irene
@29 Duder,
Hmmm...I think you are right that the narrative chnages a bit, but, to put a better spin on it:

The halloween bag takes ayway any hint of the boy being a runaway. To me it becomes more a father/son moment.
Rantz Hoseley
32. Roman G
The "Nude Descending A Staircase" homage would have made much more sense (and been less cheesy) if the 'bot were the Maria-bot from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."
Rantz Hoseley
36. 1nkling
I'm suprised theres no mention of James Hance and his work on here.
He has done some great scifi/classic art mashups. Such as:

http://www.jameshance.com/images/archive/death.jpg
http://www.jameshance.com/images/archive/mona.jpg
http://www.jameshance.com/images/paintings/kiss.jpg
http://www.jameshance.com/images/paintings/creation.jpg
http://www.jameshance.com/images/paintings/meep.jpg
http://www.jameshance.com/images/paintings/dark.jpg
Rantz Hoseley
38. Avi Katz
Here's a version I did of Napoleon Crossing the Alps:
http://www.avikatz.net/sf/napalien.htm
It was made as a poster for Tel Aviv's "ICon" and there was a contest to see who could name the source of the most names scratched in the rock... I trasure a copy signed by Orson Scott Card
Rantz Hoseley
40. jediknight
Which was the classic painting that inspired the original 1977 poster of Star Wars?? Would appreciate if someone could post the answer.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/87/StarWarsMoviePoster1977.jpg
Rantz Hoseley
41. Scrap Sculptures
Amazing.............!!!
Very great and creative works. I'm really impressed with those creations. You just prove that art has no limitation and you have an unexceptional talents.
Bruce Arthurs
42. Bruce-Arthurs
Here's a long webpage filled with dozens of reworkings of La Ravissement de Psyche, by Bouguereau. Some excellent, some not-so-excellent, some just plain weird. (A My Little Pony version?)

Oddly, they missed the best reworking I've seen, here. This was a submission to a Photoshop contest on Worth1000, but I've always thought it would make a great book cover someday.
Rantz Hoseley
43. Gary E
Jean Jackson has some great MST3K-themed pastices at http://stores.ebay.com/mst3kprints. My favorite is her "Cezanntillite of Love", which inserts a certain spacecraft into Paul Cezanne's "Gulf at L'Estaque". There's a copy hanging in our living room.
Kevin Maroney
44. womzilla
The mark of a brilliant parody/homage is that it is more than just a simple copy of the work being homaged, with a few bits transformed. The best of them incorporate key elements from a variety of related works.

The Paolo Rivera Wolverine piece is a standout--it combines a great many of Dali's trademarks to make a piece that is clearly new. While the forked stick and the overall composition are clearly from "Persistence", the overall effect draws deeply on "Atavistic Vestiges after the Rain", "Apparition", and other landmark works.

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