Whether you realize it or not, the likeliest show you are to pick to watch on a free day when you do not have something new to watch on TV is a sitcom. Simply because everyone leans towards shows that generally bring much more humor, delight, and comfort into their life. Sitcoms are intelligent with excellent stories and characters whom most times depict our lives in one way or another. Because of my love for football, I enjoyed every bit there is in watching “Ted Lasso”. A multi-award television series that lies at the intersection of football (sports), humor, and drama. The show is not only praised for being light-hearted but also for how well it handles important and sensitive issues such as environmental sustainability, sports management, and leadership in general. The details are for another article but for this piece we focus on famous artworks in some of these shows. If you have been watching your sitcoms right then you have seen famous artworks or replicas of the original artworks since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Art is used in sitcoms mainly for sustainability and continuity or “rewatchability as one can remember and relate episodes but the main reason writers incorporate artwork in shows is to communicate an idea or to best narrate the story in its shortest form.

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet1
A still from Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) showing the robbers dressed in red overalls and Salvador Dali masks _©Art fervour

Money Heist: Salvador Dali’s face of resistance

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet2
Potrait of Salvador Dali_©Art Fervour

La Casa de Papel, the acclaimed Spanish TV series on Netflix, is where we begin. The robbers’ masks play a major role in the series. The assailants are wearing Salvador Dali masks and red overalls. The costumes serve as a physical representation of the theme of the show, which is resistance against the system, in addition to helping to conceal the characters’ identities. It was deliberate to use Dali’s face as a mask in particular. Expelled from art school for defying contemporary social norms by refusing to take his final exams. The works of many Spanish artists were produced with ideals that rejected modern capitalist society. However, the significance doesn’t end there. The Professor, who is in charge of the heist, has a strange resemblance to Salvador Dali. When the inspector asks him his name, he responds “Salva,” which is short for Salvador. Furthermore, Dali maintained this belief his entire life. His older brother, who passed away 9 months before the artist’s birth, was thought to be Dali’s reincarnation. When his mother passed away when he was 16 years old, he described it as “the greatest blow I had ever experienced in my life.” The Professor also mentions in the program that his father had been killed while robbing a bank. He was simply carrying out his plan, and the entire heist was a tribute to his father. This, along with the peculiar (and, to be honest, slightly frightening) expression, made the Dali mask the ideal accessory for this compelling series.

Bojack Horseman: David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet3
David Hockney, ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’, 1972 _©Art Fervour

Bojack Horseman debuted in 2014 to mixed reviews from critics. Since then, millennials have praised the adult comedy series widely for its satirical view of the entertainment industry and its realistic portrayal of depression, anxiety, trauma, sexism, racism, and many other modern issues. The interpretation of David Hockney‘s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” caught my attention when I first tuned in to the program. Bojack, like The Simpsons, is rife with pop culture and art historical allusions, which is what makes this show so relatable. However, the human portraits in these paintings have been replaced with animal figures in keeping with the theme of the show, which is that animals perform in realistic professions. Here are a few of our favorite pieces of show-related art.

The Simpsons: Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies       

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet4
The Simpsons’ version of Claude Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lillies_© Art Fervour

The Simpsons, which has been airing since December 1989, is the longest-running prime-time program in America. As the pinnacle of pop culture allusions, animated sitcoms have come close to foretelling numerous world events. Given all of that, it is not surprising that the show has frequently referred to several iconic pieces of art over the course of its lengthy run.  In “Crepes of Wrath,” the eleventh episode of season one, Bart travels through France and passes by several famous paintings by Monet, van Gogh, Manet, Rousseau, and others. 

Here is a fact for you: Claude Monet was an enthusiastic gardener who brought water lilies from abroad to grow in his pond in Giverny. In addition to painting the “Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies,” he also made the pond of water lilies that is located beneath the bridge.

The Simpsons: Wheatfield with Crows          

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet5
The Simpsons’ version of Claude Monet’s Wheatfield with Crows _©Art Fervour

The dark blue tones of the sky and the crows, which are frequently thought of as a symbol of death alone with ravens, reflect the depression and agony in “Wheatfield with Crows,” which is said and believed to be van Gogh’s final painting. In “Homer the Whopper,” the season opener of The Simpsons’ 21st season, Homer Simpson plays “Everyman,” a superhero who borrows abilities from every other superhero. Picasso’s “Guernica” is also vandalized in the episode. Marge and Homer visit a gallery in “Mom and Pop Art,” episode 19 of season 10 of The Simpsons. There, they find one of Warhol’s soup cans, and Homer promptly nods off (this is, after all, typical Homer Simpson behavior, right?) inside the gallery. A Warhol painting of soup cans has been pierced by Homer’s hand when he screams “Andy, no!” after waking up from his dream. (Traditional Homer Simpson, section 2)

Gilmore Girls: Renoir’s Dance at Bougival

10 famous artworks In major sitcom shows - SHeet6
Renoir’s Dance at Bougival _©Art Land Magazine

The oddball small town of Stars Hollow hosts The Festival of Living Art in this episode of Gilmore Girls, where locals dress up as famous works of art. Paintings like Renoir’s Dance at Bougival, Da Vinci‘s The Last Supper, and Parmigianino’s Portrait of a Young Girl Named Antea have been recreated. The local clown Kirk (Sean Gunn), who plays Jesus in The Last Supper, takes his role a little too seriously and gets into a fight with the pizza delivery man who plays Judas. Kirk is playing Jesus because he is, of course, the only local clown who can pull off the role. Rory (Alexis Bledel) steals the show as “A Young Girl Named Antea,” while Lorelai (Lauren Graham) has trouble remaining motionless as “the Renoir girl”.

Doctor Who: Van Gogh

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Doctor Who- Van Gogh_©Art Land Magazine

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) travel through time in this episode to meet Vincent van Gogh after the latter’s painting The Church at Auvers at the Museé d’Orsay was found to have an alien-like creature in its window. It turns out that Provence has been plagued by a monster that only Van Gogh can see. Following the monster’s destruction, the Doctor transports Van Gogh into the future so he can witness how he is hailed as the greatest painter of all time.

Mad Men: Mark Rothko 

Mad Man- Mark Rothko_©Art land Magazine

And we conclude just how we started with a show that is big as Casa De Papel. Mad Men.

There are numerous allusions to abstract expressionism and other 1960s-era abstract art in Mad Men. The majority of the works of art that adorn the offices and homes of the characters in Mad Men were specially created for the series and were inspired by some of the greatest modern masters. Mark Rothko is specifically mentioned in Season 2, Episode 7 when Bert Cooper, one of the firm’s partners, buys a red Rothko painting for his office. A number of the characters engage in a stereotypical encounter with modern art as they stand in front of the painting in bewildered awe and debate whether or not it “means” anything. The effect of a Rothko is best described by one of the account executives, Ken Cosgrove, who says: “I don’t think it’s supposed to be explained. Perhaps it [means nothing]. Perhaps you’re just supposed to go through it. Since it makes you feel something when you look at it, it must be something very deep. You might sink in.

Reference:

Art land Magazine: The Best Artworks Appearances in TV Shows [online] Available at: https://magazine.artland.com/art-in-tv-shows [Accessed date: 24 October 2022].

Art Favor2019: Did you Spot these Famous Artworks in your Favourite TV Shows? [online] Available at: https://www.artfervour.com/post/did-you-spot-these-famous-artworks-in-your-favourite-tv-shows [Accessed date: 27 October 2022].

Abir Pothi 20221: Vintage artwork hidden away on the sets of friends [online] Available at: https://abirpothi.com/the-vintage-artwork-hidden-away-on-the-sets-of-friends [Accessed date: 24 October 2022].

Artnet: Do TV shows Ever Get the Art World right? Here Are 14( Even More) Memorable Episodes That Try, Ranked by Believability [online] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/tv-art-world-1558549 [Accessed date: 30 October 2022].

Sufficient Velocity: The Art of the Sitcom [online] Available at: https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/the-art-of-the-sitcom.86649 [Accessed date: 24 October 2022].

America The Jesuit Review: Why Sitcoms Matter: The importance of being funny [online] Available at: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/794/television/why-sitcoms-matter [Accessed date: 28 October 2022].

Author

Chan Simon is a fresh architecture school graduate from the University of Juba with a passion for evening the playing field. He is currently a design studio teaching assistant in the architecture department at the School of Architecture, Land Management, Urban and Regional Planning (University of Juba).

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