Gallery: Original Portraits of Cultural Icons by Noma Bar


We’re always on the lookout for cool pop-culture related visual art, so we can’t thank the good folks at Brain Pickings enough for drawing our attention to Israeli artist Noma Bar and his book Guess Who: The Many Faces of Noma Bar . This 2007 volume collects 50 of Bar’s minimalist vector portraits of iconic figures from the world of film, science, literature, politics, music, and more. We’ve picked out ten of our favorites from the book; check ’em out after the jump.

Bar’s portraits are primarily of single figures, though he did work up this ingenious image of Pulp Fiction‘s John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson by seizing on their iconic hairstyle and the guns that they wield throughout the picture.

Bar is well-known for his use of negative space in his illustrations (see his 2009 volume Negative Spaces); here, he uses negative space to compliment his portrait of Bill Murray with the imagery of his most famous film.

This Woody Allen portrait ran with a piece on the longtime New York filmmaker’s first film in his current European cycle, the London-shot Match Point. To illustrate the filmmaker’s new Anglophilia, Bar fleshes out Allen’s image with London landmarks like the Tate Modern, the Norman Foster building, and the London Eye.

Bar’s portrait of Charlie Chaplin ties together the enduring image of his Little Tramp (or “Little Fellow,” as Chaplin called him) with one of his most famous scenes: the eating of the shoe in The Gold Rush.

As the final Harry Potter movie crosses the staggering $1 billion mark worldwide, this image — which effortlessly ties together the iconography of the character with what he represents to the book and movie business — seems particularly appropriate.

Bar worked up this early portrait to illustrate a Time Out London article concerning a BBC program (or, as the Brits would spell it, “programme”) called The Search for Shakespeare. The program asked new questions about the Bard; Bar, seizing on that angle (and, of course, on Shakespeare’s most famous line) made the question mark central to his illustration.

This portrait of Albert Einstein was commissioned by The Economist for a piece that ultimately did not run. But it is one of Bar’s most ingenious pieces, primarily due to the simple yet clever combination of two distinct icons.

Hey, Ricky Gervais, turn that frown upside-down — or, as the case may be, turn that smiley-face icon right-side up.

One of Bar’s pricklier portraits, transposing the work-in-progress visage of the King of Pop with a harsh reminder of the accusations that plagued him throughout the last two decades of his life.

This truly wonderful illustration of Bob Dylan grabs you with its easy yet ingenious grafting of Dylan’s two most recognizable instruments (guitar and harmonica) onto his face. But look closer and you’ll also find musical notations sprinkled into his distinctively messy coiffure. Bravo, Mr. Bar, bravo.