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Art & Cinema: 6 Painters Who Influenced The Film Industry!

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Some people are crazy about music, others about TV shows, others are passionate about documentaries, regardless of their shape or form, everybody likes some type of entertainment. So, if you are like me, completely obsessed with the seven arts, this one’s for you. 

We are going to be talking about painters that served as inspiration for movie sequences, cinematography scenes that you know, but probably missed to connect to famous paintings!

Hence, there will not be movie biographies about painters, such as Loving, Vincent, Big Eyes, or Frida. Or any The Last Supper, by Leonardo DaVinci reference. Also excluding Shirley Visions of Reality, by director Gustav Deutsch, where the movie literally brings more than a dozen of Edward Hopper’s paintings to life. Now, let’s get to know the painters that influenced the mix between the third and seventh art! 


“The Kiss”, Gustav Klimt

The Austrian painter was born in 1862, he is worldwide famous for his beautiful colorful mosaic paintings. Klimt’s most famous piece is The Kiss, painted in 1907, on his “golden period”, which served as inspiration for a scene in the 2010 Martin Scorsese movie Shutter Island, it was an instant hit, with seven academy nominations. 

Both in the movie and the painting, it is visible: the love is strong and passionate. It’s subtle but noticeable by body language, their love and affection are consensual and warm. The woman’s eyes are closed as she trusts her lover, while he holds her very tight, showing how much he loves her, and in the case of Shutter Island, how badly he misses her. We do not know the story behind The Kiss, other than two people desperate for each other’s love and touch, it is an intimate moment, touching the heart of everyone.

Check out the scene!

“Ophelia”, John Everett Millais

Painting after a Hamlet character, Sir John Everett Millais, a member of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of painters, poets, and art critics, painted Ophelia. His most famous painting served as inspiration for the cover, and possibly the most iconic scene in the 2011 sensation Melancholia. Based on a William Shakespeare character, the girl in the painting floats calmly on the river, drowning herself on purpose, as does the girl from the movie. It is an enchanting piece of art, with a dark story behind it, paralleling the narrative of Melancholia.

Check out the scene!

“Wheatfield With Crows”, Vicent Van Gogh

Van Gogh is still to this day, one of the biggest and most influential painters of all time. The Dutch artist’s most famous paintings are The Starry Night, his self-portraits, and the sunflowers pieces, however, Wheatfield with Crows is definitely one you will never forget. The 1990 Akira Kurosawa film Dreams, took Van Gogh’s composition and practically gave life. The gorgeous shot is a faithful scene and does not disappoint the painter’s fans.

Also known for his mental problems, Vincent Van Gogh expressed his illness through art. At the beginning of his life, the paintings were still and dark, but as his mental state descended, the paintings got lighter, colorful, and distorted, as he is famous nowadays. You can feel the light, wind, and life through his paintings, they capture your eyes and attention, as does the motion. They are both such amazing pieces of art, it is unbelievable.

Check out the scene!

“Los Elefantes”, Salvador Dalí

Love him, hate him, you know Salvador Dalí. The surrealist Spanish painter is known for his wild but incredible arts, whether be melting clocks, or tigers jumping on naked women, he paints dreamlike insanity. In 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road had an interesting clip with giant animals with thin and long legs, reminiscent of the 1948 Dalí’s piece, The Elephants. In the paintings, there are two elephants, each carrying a tower on their back, and walking with long stilts. Though in the movie, the scene is in blue, while the painting is in red, there is no denying the two look very similar.

“Archtecture In The Moonlight”, René Magritte

In one of the last scenes of the classic The Truman Show, the 1956 René Magritte painting was the inspiration behind the shot. The setup of the portrait is unsettling, even though the architectural structures are simple, the whole is crazy, no one can imagine this as real life, except in Truman’s. Architecture in the Moonlight is a mesmerizing piece of art, the vain scenario, with deep blue contrasting with the bright white of stairs that lead nowhere, is so alike with the fake world Truman believed to be true. 

As his life is made up, Jim Carrey’s character doesn’t imagine his world to simply end with a staircase, but again, who does? Magritte painted for the surrealism movement, and it matches the exact energy of the insanity of the show. And up in the stairs, there is a big moon, maybe Peter Weir, the director of the film, had the idea of putting the maker of the show on the moon because of the painting, who knows?

Check out the scene!

“Freedom From Fear”, Norman Rockwell

A north-american illustrator, Norman Rockwell was the influence behind a segment on one of the first Christian Bale movies, Empire of the Sun. In an apparently blunt scene, the director visioned the shot exactly like Freedom from Fear, a 1943 painting. In a straightforward piece, of a mother leaning in, putting her kids to bed, tucking them and taking care, while the father from behind holds the newspaper, it is nearly the exact same as in the movie.

This just goes to show how complex and fascinating art truly is! It is everything and it is everywhere, if only you look close enough, you will find it too.


The article above was edited by Lívia Carvalho.

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Beatriz Kawai

Casper Libero '24

A journalism student in love with feminism, art, movies, music and sometimes politics