Mass Appeal: Top 10 Most Parodied Artworks in Art History

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Much-loved by calendars, greeting cards, postcards, murals, and pop culture, these ten works are the most parodied images in contemporary culture. Each of these over-commercialized treasures stays relevant through the ages, finding its way back into our lives time and time again. Take a look: you may know the image in its various parodied forms, but do you know the artist?

Vitruvian Man

Leonardo Da Vinci, Human Proportions (Vitruvian Man), 1492

This sketch is perhaps one of Leonardo’s most famous drawings. Adopted as a sort of logo image by centuries of medical doctors, Vitruvian Man is a balance of science and art in an effort to display man’s proportions for perfect health.


Guerrillero Heroico

Alberto Korda, Guerrillero Heroico, 1960

This famous photo of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara has been re-appropriated and mass produced by artists such as Andy Warhol and Jim Fitzpatrick. Initially released as a copyright-free image to inspire other revolutionary propaganda, its commercial release arguably diluted the original purpose and is now a subject of many an art law debate. Fitzpatrick wants the copyright of his rendition given to Guevara’s heirs. Socialist scholars argue that the image should remain available to the masses. And for now, it does.


Waterlilies Series

Claude Monet, Waterlilies Series, 1840 – 1926

Who hasn’t had a calendar with Monet’s lovely waterlilies? This series is made up of 250 oil paintings, which depict Monet’s garden at his home in Giverny and were the artist’s primary focus of work for the last thirty years of his life.


American Gothic

Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930

A symbol of The Great Depression and considered one of the most authentic American scenes, this painting is frequently parodied in contemporary art and media for its stern poses and traditional gender roles. Tourists who visit the site, known as the Dibble House, in Eldon, Iowa are known to dress up in similar garb to the figures and pose accordingly.


Café Terrace at Night

Vincent Van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888

Featured prominently in two Hollywood films as well as in an episode on BBC’s Doctor Who, this painting has long been a popular image in mass media and print reproductions. Painted as a street scene in Arles in 1888, visitors can still pay homage to the site and stand where Van Gogh painted. The artist’s use of orange and yellow at saturated tones are often noted for their strong depiction of harsh, bright lights against a peaceful sky.


Son of Man

René Magritte, Son of Man, 1964

You’ve seen the 1999 version of The Thomas Crowne Affair, right? Pierce Brosnan looked pretty good in that bowler hat as he and his associates reference the painting in the film’s final robbery scenes. This dapper chapeau was a recurring feature in Magritte’s paintings as he explored themes of visibility – that which is hidden and that which is revealed.


Dogs Playing Poker

C.M. Coolidge, Dogs Playing Poker, 1903

This work is actually titled A Friend in Need and part of a series of oil paintings made by Coolidge as a commission for Brown and Bigelow to advertise cigars. It has since become a much referenced artwork in pop culture as a must-have element of kitsch decor for any stylish 70s household.


The Kiss

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (Lovers), 1908

The Kiss is a glorious, gilded painting and Klimt’s brilliant hybrid of Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau style. It’s considered his most popular work and long loved by romantics. Klimt was inspired by illuminated manuscripts, Byzantine mosaics, and religious Renaissance paintings.


The Scream

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893-1910

Munch created four versions of this painting in various media. It is considered a masterpiece of Expressionist art for its unique portrayal of the psyche through figure and color. In addition to being an often-parodied artwork, it is also one of the most stolen paintings and was the subject of many a high-profile art heist.


Mona Lisa

Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa, 1503-1506

Ah, mysterious Mona. That smile, those eyes. Considered the most parodied art of all time, Leonardo’s Mona is an enigmatic seductress beloved by poets, artists, and filmmakers. From The Simpsons to Salvador Dali, the portrait has been copied in various forms of pop culture and enjoyed by all art enthusiasts.


FEATURE IMAGE: The cast of The Sopranos recontextualized within Leonardo’s The Last Supper. Source: