11 Artful Fashion Shoots Inspired by Famous Paintings


Fashion month is in full swing! To capitalize on the runway spectacles that are happening in New York, London, Milan, and Paris, tons of museums — from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania — are opening exhibitions related to la mode. Art and fashion have had a long relationship, with major glossies inviting artists from Salvador Dalí to Barbara Kruger to direct or shoot their editorial content. But by far the most fun art-fashion fusions are the dozens of photo shoots replicating famous paintings by the likes of Klimt, Vermeer, and Lichtenstein. Here are 11 hilarious, odd, and sometimes even magical examples of fashion editorials inspired by art.

Nicki Minaj as Francois Boucher’s Bildnis der Marquise de Pompadour (1756) W magazine, November 2011 Photo by Francesco Vezzoli

Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli has reimagined Eva Mendes as Bernini’s The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa and transformed Lady Gaga into a member of the Ballets Russes. So it wasn’t much of a stretch when he photographed hip-hop star Nicki Minaj as various 18th-century French courtesans for W magazine’s 2011 art issue. The photos are based on actual portraits, including Francois Boucher’s painting of Madame de Pompadour, in which she’s wearing a big, green ruffled gown and holding a book.

Julianne Moore as John Currin’s The Cripple (1997) Harper’s Bazaar, May 2008 Photo by Peter Lindbergh

Julianne Moore posed as several famous paintings, including John Singer Sargent’s Madame X and Klimt’s shimmering portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, for this 2008 Harper’s Bazaar shoot. Weirdly, this isn’t the actress’ first art-themed editorial. In 2002, she posed as several Vermeer heroines — including the girl with the pearl earring — for Interview. The next year, she was portraying as Ingres’ scandalous La Grande Odalisque for Vanity Fair.

Devon Aoki as Hans Memling’s Virgin and Child (1475) The Face, 1997 Photo by Michael Sanders

Grungy youth-culture mag The Face, which launched the career of a skinny teen named Kate Moss in the ‘90s, paid homage to Renaissance painting with a dash of irony. In Michael Sander’s recreation of Hans Memling’s Virgin and Child, the beautiful Devon Aoki holds a creepy plastic doll in place of the baby Jesus.

Model as Edward Hopper’s The Automat (1927) The New York Times, 2006 Photo by Joel-Peter Witkin

Joel-Peter Witkin’s richly packed tableaux often reimagine old masterworks, such as Velázquez’s Las Meninas or Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but with the photographer’s signature morbidity. (Some typical motifs: corpses, skeletons, dwarves, invalids.) Witkin took a much lighter approach for “The History of Hats in Art,” a whimsical editorial for The New York Times using headgear from Prada, Ralph Lauren, and Alexander McQueen to recreate paintings by Manet, Picasso, and Edward Hopper.

Models as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1907-1908) Harper’s Bazaar, February 2002 Photo by Patrick Demarchelier

Gustav Klimt’s portraits of society women and bohemians all feature some pretty fantastic clothing; the painter himself was a “dress reformer” and had a long (sometimes romantic) relationship with (anti-)fashion designer Emily Floge. So it seems appropriate that Patrick Demarchelier would recreate his most famous painting, The Kiss, in a 2002 art-inspired editorial for Harper’s Bazaar that also featured interpretations of Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon, Andy Warhol’s portrait of Liz Taylor, and more.

Model as a Roy Lichtenstein painting Zink magazine Photo by Mike Ruiz

Though Mike Ruiz’s editorial “Masterpiece” for Zink magazine didn’t recreate any specific Lichtenstein paintings, the whole spread featured gorgeous blondes in flipped-hair wigs crying, clutching telephones, and covered in dots. They even had thought bubbles!

John Galliano as Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1801-1805) Harper’s Bazaar, March 2007 Photo by Simon Procter

The now-disgraced John Galliano, who lost his job at Dior after an anti-Semitic rant at a Parisian café, was once the most exulted, controversial, and flamboyant fashion designer in the industry. (Remember Zoolander‘s Derelicte? Yeah, that was a spoof of Galliano’s “homeless” collection.) Harper’s Bazaar captured him during better days in “Galliano’s Glorious Reign,” a series of photos that evoked Jacques-Louis David’s iconic portrayal of Napoleon on his horse.

Saoirse Ronan as Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-1852) Vogue, December 2011 Photo by Steven Meisel

This lush, romantic Grace Coddington-styled shoot paid tribute to the Pre-Raphaelites and the aesthetic movement of mid-19th-century Britain. Vogue couldn’t have found a better muse for the photos than the elven Saoirse Ronan.

Nicole Kidman as John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Charles E. Inches (1887) Vogue, June 1999 Photo by Steven Meisel

Before Julianne Moore posed as Madame X for Peter Lindbergh in Harper’s Bazaar, Nicole Kidman did it for Steven Meisel in Vogue. She also channeled a bunch of other Singer Sargent subjects, such as the wealthy Mrs. Charles E. Inches, pictured here.

Laetitia Casta as Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) Elle France, 1998 Photo by Friedmann Hauss

Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is another fashion favorite, with Julianne Moore, model Katja Borghuis, and Scarlett Johannson (to promote her film about the portrait) all posing as the anonymous sitter for various glossies. This 1998 version, with Laetitia Casta, was part of a larger editorial inspired by the Dutch painter.

Angela Lindvall as Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World (1948) Vogue, October 1998 Photo by Carter Smith

Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, of his polio-inflicted neighbor crawling across a field, is a rather odd choice for a fashion editorial. But you’ve got to hand it to Vogue — they sure made it look glamorous.