We tend to think of appropriation as a postmodern thing, with artists in all media drawing on, referring to, and mashing up the most influential works of the past. But we forget that this has been happening for centuries — millennia, actually — as Renaissance painters paid tribute to Greek art, ideas circulated within the 19th-century French art scene, and Dada hijacked the course of art history, mocking and inverting everything that came before it. After the jump, we round up some of the best, most famous, and all-around strangest artworks inspired by other artworks. Some are homages, some are parodies, some are responses, and a few seem to function as all three.
Paul Gaugin’s Spirit of the Dead Walking, inspired by Édouard Manet’s Olympia
Édouard Manet caused an uproar when he debuted his painting Olympia at a Paris salon in 1865. But it wasn’t the subject’s nudity that scandalized viewers — it was her steely, straight-ahead gaze and details like the flower and shawl that suggest she’s a courtesan. The image has been taken up by a number of artists over the years, including Paul Gaugin, whose 1892 painting Spirit of the Dead Walking shows a subject who is, in the words of Dr. Jeanne S.M. Willette, “flipped over opposite of Manet’s Olympia, denied the autonomy and the confrontation of the courtesan of the Salon of 1865.”