Paintings in Film | Individual Videos

Music Videos

At least in surrealist paintings a link can be seen to some music videos in the use both make of the free association of ideas and images. This section will look at the role paintings play in music videos.


Let’s start by asking the question “How many paintings does it take to make a music video?” Over 1,250 is one answer provided by this motion picture video by Boris Seewald:


Source: You Tube by Ralf Hildenbeutel


For further information see

Tamara de Lempicka (1898—1980)

She was a Polish-born Art Deco painter and one of the first women artists to also be a multimedia star. Madonna admires and collects her work, featuring it in the music videos Open Your Heart (1987) and Vogue (1990). In addition, Madonna used de Lempicka’s paintings on the sets of two of her world tours, Who’s That Girl (1987) and Blond Ambition (1990).


Open Your Heart

The very opening sweeping crane shot shot is of a gigantic de Lempika Andromeda, breasts lit up by equally large light bulbs astride the exterior of an Old World peep-show, below which to the left and right are two La Bella Raphaelas. Inside the club itself Madonna can be seen dancing on a stage in front of four peep booths consisting of male portraits by de Lempicka made of wood against green backgrounds:


Source: You Tube by THE QUEEN ♫!♫ ! ♫



This black-and-white video is set in an Art Deco 1920s/30s environment and the opening shot is of three de Lempikas on easels: Andromeda (again so Open Your Heart is also deliberately referenced), Femme a Guitar and Nana de Herrera.


Source: You Tube by Madonna


For visual ‘echoes’ of further de Lempika paintings see


Who’s That Girl (1987 Live in Tokyo)

At 0:36 and 0:39 Andromeda can be seen like in the Open Your Heart video then from 0:43—1:02 Blue Woman with a Guitar.


Source: You Tube by brody 789


Blond Ambition (1990 French Riviera)

The show was separated into five different sections the fourth of which Art Deco (1:03:00—1:26:10) was inspired by 1930s Hollywood films and contains the songs “Material Girl,” “Cherish,” “Into the Groove” and finally “Vogue.” The Art Deco set design is a quotation of de Lempicka’s Metropolis-inflected New York, ca. 1929, also a possible source of inspiration for the overall feel of the 1989 Express Yourself video, and during the performance of “Vogue” exactly the same three de Lempicka paintings as in the video for the song are faded in:


Source: You Tube by Stevie D


New York, ca. 1929 can be found at,-c.1929-large.html


while the following 2004 documentary describing de Lempicka as “the first ‘Material Girl’” contains numerous of her paintings:


Source: You Tube by Claude Varieras


describes its mission as to make the entire “world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. We are a platform for collecting and discovering art.” Their Tamara de Lempicka page


provides visitors with bio, high-resolution images of her works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date de Lempicka exhibition listings. Also included are related artists and categories, allowing viewers to discover art beyond this page.

René Magritte (1896—1967)

While it is surprising that the painter didn’t make more of the medium of film, the medium of film certainly made a lot out of him. First of all, here is a René Magritte home movie:


Source: You Tube by ladisca3



Secondly, Magritte was predestined to inspire music videos as in Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold Me”, directed by Steve Barron in 1982 featuring all sorts of typical Magritte images from bowler hats reflected in shards of glass and mise en abîmes to a veritable ‘Magritte Room’ (1:36 and 3:22) as well as the painter at his most Daliesque, for example the musical instruments in the desert, particularly the guitars melting away in the sun like the soft pocket watches (apparently inspired by the sight of a wheel of Camembert cheese!) of The Persistence of Memory from 1931:


Source: You Tube by skappyi


Thirdly, there’s this from the Japanese artist and director Kota Yamaji where he directly quotes Magritte as a source of inspiration:


Beauty (2014) by Italian (art) director and video artist Rino Stefano Tagliafierro is a digitally animated video that brings to life paintings from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. Here is the 2016 edit:


Source: You Tube Rino Stefano Tagliafierro


For an interview with the director on among other things the process involved in making the video see


Beauty has by now become the benchmark for all similar projects. 70 Million by the French-American indie band Hold Your Horses, for example released a music video in 2010 directed by David Freymond and produced by Here we see band members playing musical instruments (though only Chagall’s The Bride actually has an instrument in the original) as tableaux vivants of 25 western art history classics. The video obviously used chalk drawings as backdrops and a smoke machine for fog.


Source: You Tube L’Ogre


Paintings: Names of “70 Million” by Hold Your Horses


Source: You Tube Hilário Pereira


A further juxtaposition of some (not all!) of the live action restaged paintings with their originals can also be found at


The paintings in the order in which they appear in the video are:


Leonardo, The Last Supper (1492–98)
Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (ca. 1485)
Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp (1632)
Holbein the Younger, Henry VIII (ca. 1536)
Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1665–66)
Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa (1818–19)
Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat (1793)
Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam (ca. 1511)
Magritte, The Son of Man (1964)
Mondrian, after various compositions
Frida Kahlo, after several self-portraits
Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar (1937)
Munch, The Scream (1893)
Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889)
Warhol, after various Marilyns
Unknown artist, Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters (ca. 1594)
Cenni di Pepo, Madonna and Child Enthroned with Six Angels (ca. 1280)
Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist (1606–7)
Manet, Olympia (1863)
Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830)
Otto Dix, Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926)
Klimt, The Kiss (1907–8)
Chagall, The Bride (1950)
Velázquez, Las Meninas (ca. 1656)
Van Gogh, Vase with 12 Sunflowers (1888)


Another music video in the footsteps of Beauty is Dust My Shoulders Off, performed by Jane Zhang, produced by Outerspace and directed by the Taiwanese director Leo Jen Shuai (both the original song and the video were released in 2016). The Chinese pop star Zhang plays an office worker wandering round the Art Institute of Chicago trying to take a call on her cell from her irate boss before disappearing into then reappearing as living works of art, for example as The Girl with the Pearl Earring. The following eleven paintings in the order in which they appear (some of which can be seen hanging in the gallery) are recreated and brought to life:


Edward Hopper Nighthawks (1942)

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait (1889) where we also see Mike Tyson bite the painter’s ear!

Jean-François Millet The Gleaners (1857)

Johannes Vermeer Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1665)

Andrew Wyeth Christina’s World (1948

Georges Seurat A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884)

Edvard Munch The Scream (1893) where a screaming man has his memory erased by the Men in Black

Salvador Dali The Temptation of St. Anthony (1946)

René Magritte The Marches of Summer (1939)

Maurits Cornelis Escher Ascending and Descending (1960)

Maurits Cornelis Escher Another World Gallery (1946)

René Magritte The Son of Man (1964), which then morphs into

Salvador Dali


As for the final painting, the explosion at 01:35 adopts the style of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (see More Films by Painters section). At the end, a dressed up Jane walks straight back into the café from Nighthawks and by doing so brings her journey full circle, leading us back to the real Jane still on the phone trying to get reception like at the start.


Source: You Tube JaneZhangVEVO


“Dust My Shoulders Off” Behind the Scenes


Source: You Tube JaneZhangVEVO


Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (professional name Lady Gaga1986- )

She references numerous art works in her music videos. The following three examples drew inspiration from paintings.


Applause (2013)


Source: You Tube by LadyGagaVEVO


Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Warhol’s various Marilyns:


Source: You Tube by LadyGagaVEVO


interview with BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James: “It’s very inspired by, especially in the beginning, Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon, the surrealist painters.”


There are also hints of Caravaggio in the play of light and dark, beauty and the grotesque. The final image is Gaga’s face in her zombie make-up within a pink triangle blowing a big pink bubblegum bubble about to pop. The monstrous face is reminiscent of the work of Bacon, particularly his dark self-portraits such as:–1973


See also


G.U.Y. – An Artpop Film (2014)


Source: You Tube by LadyGagaVEVO


a seashell headboard echoes the seashell from which Venus rises in The Birth of Venus.



The English band alt-J do a take on Raphael’s epic fresco School of Athens (1510-11) for their video Tessellate (2012), a modern-day school of philosophy as a gangster’s paradise. Much like in the original, each character in this scene describes mental states with their physical actions.


Source: You Tube alt-J


The music video for Beyonce’s Mine (2013) includes two masked figures as a noticeable quotation of Magritte’s 1928 painting The Lovers:


Source: You Tube beyonce VEVO


Kanye West’s Famous (2016)


inspired by American artist Vincent Desiderio’s Sleep, a 24-foot-long painting of nudes on a bed with tangled sheets. For his version West replaced the anonymous nudes with digitally-rendered bodies of famous celebrities including singer Taylor Swift.


The Sea The Sea’s Waiting (2014) hand painted and directed by Zachary Johnson:


Source: You Tube The Sea The Sea


Miley Cyrus We Can’t Stop (2013)


Source: You Tube by MileyCyrus VEVO


inspired by the works of modern and contemporary art of among others Ryan McGinley, Barbara Kruger, Guy Bourdin, and Valeria Lukyanova see











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