Paintings in Film | Films 'inspired' by Paintings | Woman looking at painting

Films ‘inspired’ by Paintings

Popular paintings that may—or may not?—have been the inspiration behind films… Without denying the sheer enjoyability of such speculations it is sometimes a bit of a leap of faith to claim that not just one or a few sequences but a whole film or at the very least the whole ‘feel’ of a film has been inspired by one single painting. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to ignore an obvious trend to indulge in this. That is why McIver’s study (see bibliography) is so valuable because it focuses precisely on how filmmakers use images from paintings and on the links between the two art forms.


By now almost a standard archival reference work of films stills featuring paintings including details not only of the films, but also of the relevant painting, for example such as style, genre and colours along with additional descriptions of where it appears in the film

Favourite art work that inspired a movie or scene


The Famous Art Works that Inspired 15 Films

The paintings that inspired the movies

The influence of paintings on filmmakers


When art imitates art: Films inspired by the world’s greatest artworks (includes Jonathan Kiefer’s video essay art film about films that pay homage to famous paintings)


“Caravaggio: How He Influenced my Art” by Imogen Carter (includes filmmakers among those artists who claim the painter as an important influence)


Vugar Efendi is a 23-year-old filmmaker, video essayist, photographer and writer. His triptych of short films Film Meets Art I—III explores the relationship between the two different art forms of cinema and painting or as he puts it himself on his website: “Art inspires cinema, cinema inspires art. As lover of both, I just wanted to look into films that are inspired by famous paintings throughout history…. All art forms feed off from each other, and film is no different.”


See also for an interview:


Parts of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006) seem to have been inspired by the court portraits of the queen and her family by the Rococo artist Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), whose pastel colours in particular are clearly in evidence in one sequence where a woman can be seen painting Marie Antoinette.


Belle (UK 2013 by Amma Asante)


Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the illegitimate biracial daughter of an 18th-century English aristocratic admiral and a former African slave who was sent to England as a child and from the1760s brought up at Kenwood House by Lady and Lord Mansfield, who was also instrumental in bringing about the end of the British slave trade. The ‘inspiration’ behind the film is Lord Chief Justice Mansfield’s commissioned 1779 double portrait Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray—Dido’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825) went to live with the Mansfields after her mother died and her father remarried—once thought to be by the German neoclassical painter Johann Zoffany yet now attributed to an unknown artist. The painting is reproduced in the film with the actresses’ faces instead of those in the original though Dido pointing at her cheek and her feathered turban are not featured. The original painting is shown on screen at the end of the film. Dido is painted on an equal eye-line to her white cousin, an absolute rarity for the time. The director—who is herself of Ghanaian descent—explains why the painting inspired her film in comments that could also reflect the situation in contemporary cinema and period costume drama films:


Around the time of the 18th century, we really were — people of color were — an accessory in a painting. We were there rather like a pet to express the status of the main person in the painting, who was always white. And for anybody who’s lucky enough to see the painting, what you see is something very, very different. You see a biracial girl, a woman of colour, who’s depicted slightly higher than her white counterpart. She’s staring directly out, with a very confident eye. This painting flipped tradition and everything the 18th century told us about portraiture. What I saw was an opportunity to tell a story that would combine art history and politics.


See also Belle Featurette – Behind the Painting (2014) which features the British-Nigerian screenwriter Misan Sagay, who wrote the script to Belle:

Source: You Tube by Movieclips Coming Soon

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