#art history
#ND Stevenson

In an Emoji History of Art, ND Stevenson Playfully Recreates Iconic Paintings

May 2, 2024

Kate Mothes

Gustav Klimt, “The Kiss.” All images © ND Stevenson

More than 100 years after it was first exhibited, art historians still debate whether Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” submitted to the 1917 Armory Show in New York, was a wry joke or sly commentary on modern art—or both. That’s because the sculpture, a urinal the artist signed “R. Mutt,” was just a standard piece of plumbing. But Duchamp is also known to have coined the term “readymade,” in which he displayed objects like bicycle wheels or snow shovels as artworks unto themselves, posing the fundamental question that still thrills theorists: “But is it art?”

If Duchamp were around today to know what an emoji was, he’d probably love comic artist ND Stevenson’s take on “Fountain,” composed of a slew of what we might consider 21st-century digital readymades. A few years ago, the artist figured out that he could add countless icons to the standard Instagram stories template, resizing and rearranging them to create original compositions.

Starting with a basic background image, Stevenson adds numerous elements, like a fork standing in for a pitchfork in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” or an upside-down red exclamation point in place of a necktie in René Magritte’s “The Son of Man.” For Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” a bowl and a cloud provide the basis of the subject’s famous blue-and-white head wrap; a toilet stands in for Duchamp’s urinal; and numerous flowers, evil eyes, books, cheese, and urns make up the patterns of Klimt’s embracing figures in “The Kiss.”

It’s worth diving into Stevenson’s post for more emoji recreations.


Left: Grant Wood, “American Gothic.” Right: Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”

René Magritte, “The Son of Man”

Left: Jacques-Louis David, “The Death of Marat.” Right: Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain”

Georges Seurat, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”

Left: Edward Hopper, “Nighthawks.” Right: Salvador Dalí, “The Persistence of Memory”

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, “The Swing”

Left: Michelangelo, “The Creation of Adam” detail of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Right: Francisco Goya, “Saturn Devouring His Son”

Vincent van Gogh, “Sunflowers”

#art history
#ND Stevenson


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