Here are a few examples of more or less obscure (this is why Loving Vincent is not on this list) representations and recreations of famous artworks through fine art photography, film, animations, and video installations.
In Derek Jarman’s stylised historical drama shot in 35mm film, Caravaggio (1986), the director creates an engrossing, dreamlike fictionalised account of Caravaggio’s life in keeping with his painting style, conceptual themes, and mixture of the sacred with the profane, whilst adding anachronistic elements which endow the enrapturing depictions with an eternal quality and emphasise Jarman’s artistic identification. The film evocatively depicts the creative tension of reconfiguring the emotional experience of reality through an artistic lens. As a controversial creative soul with a deviant personality, a propensity for transgressions, a significant personal focus on sexuality, and inclination towards the profane, Jarman felt a kinship with the Italian Baroque artist. The film recreates Caravaggio’s paintings, with some memorable shots depicting Tilda Swinton as Penitent Magdalene and in the “Death of the Virgin”, Dexter Fletcher who plays the young artist appears as Bacchus and in a moving cinematic adaptation of “Boy with a Basket of Fruit”. Other striking recreations are of “Saint Jerome Writing”, “The Musicians”, and “The Entombment of Christ”.
Too unusual and inaccessible to fall into the mainstream, yet not exhibiting those traits to a qualifying degree to be welcome by the avant-garde, Jarman’s filmography is characterised by ambiguity-occupying a liminal position between radical and traditional labels. Caravaggio (1986) is one of his less experimental films, as well as being the film debut of Tilda Swinton and Sean Bean, both of whom deliver beautiful performances.
Speaking of bringing Caravaggio to life (although some have argued the opposite effect is achieved), Rino Stefano Tagliafierro, an Italian film director and video artist, creates experimental animations of masterpieces, including uncanny movements and gestures of figures we are used to admiring in static images, incorporated in eerie artistic videos representing reflections on beauty, as well as in multimedia live performances and video installations inspired by artists including Caravaggio, Hieronymus Bosch, Waterhouse, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and more. The main criticism directed at Tagliafierro for his video “Beauty” revolved around whether it unintentionally constitutes a blasphemy rather than a tribute, which was the conscious purpose for it.
I am biased here because I appreciate atmospheric videos, especially when the atmosphere is both ethereal and sinister, but from what I have seen, the videos are just a brief, aesthetic distraction.
Richard Tuschman’s alluring, evocative photographs from his series “Hopper Meditations” resonate with quarantine moods, capturing the alienation, the quiet longing for something unknown, and the uncanny intimacy of Hopper’s iconic paintings. In domestic settings tinged with melancholy, characters are visibly introspective- their expressions are frozen in enigmatic moments of unknown contemplation. Even when they are not alone, there is a sense of disconnection and an unspoken distance between them. The characters inhabit the landscapes of their minds, whilst also being physically distant. The cinematic nature of the photographs, the element of suspense, the subtle voyeurism, and the consistent window-gazing acts resurrect the atmosphere characterising Hitchcock’s films and Gregory Crewdson’s photography.
Inge Prader resurrects the enthralling aesthetic decadence of Gustav Klimt’s iconic symbolist paintings from his Golden Phase, re-interpreting them through a high-end fashion lens. Inge Prader’s stunning photography depicts lavishly decorated scenes of sparkling sensuality, featuring models in theatrical poses filled with grace and fragility.
Prader recreates specific paintings by Klimt and the outcome is undeniably striking, impressive, aesthetically pleasing, and refreshing, no matter what your views about re-staging masterpieces might be.