Do it yourself

Anna Filippova, November 8, 2013

The relationship between illustrated advertisements and masterpieces of the world art started as harmless footsie. Mona Lisa’s smile, Van Gough’s sunflowers, a girl on the ball, a black square, a red horse and so on. Hyper recognizable images did well in advertising even without any interesting message. But as time went by, illustrators became more daring and started changing the raw material by adding details, making collages, in other words, correcting the sublime. Sometimes it turned out to be a failure, but mostly it was a success.


However, it soon became too boring as recognition has its limits, and no one identifies something one has already seen a hundred of times. That’s why an illustrator’s task became more diverse, more complicated. Transforming the original demanded some intellectual and creative abilities. 


And that was when real magic began. Not the masterpieces, like those numerous checkpoints at Louvre and Uffizi, attracted an illustrator’s attention, but the personalities of the artists. They all go in for meditation in order to decode the style, to understand the inner logic of the artist’s works. An advertising illustrator becomes a diligent apprentice and learns how to imitate. He/she might also take efforts to achieve perfection in it, not for the quality of advertising or viewers’ intellectual demands, but just as a matter of pure professional idealism.


There’s a special case of working with classical visual art. It’s the advertisement for the museum service Maison de la France, made by a Spanish agency Rapp Collins Zebra. Every print there is a collage of two pictures, one drawn by a Spanish artist and another made by a French one. Manet + Goya, Goya + David, Degas + Velasques, Velasques + Delacroix. The illustrators had not only to study the technique of the artists, but make a delicate selection. That’s a kind of job that only those who are in love with painting can do.


Still, most of advertising parodies are made for money, not for love. That’s what makes Salvador Dali one of the illustrators’ favorites. 


Tiago Hoisel, a Brazilian illustrator from the Leo Burnett Sao Paulo agency, imitated the surreal manner of Dali for the advertisement for  AE Investimentos investment company. The slogan of the campaign was “Don't be lost in the weird world of investments”. Hoisel has evolved his ideas out of  “The Temptation of Saint Antony” by Dali and Rene Magritte’s art and his work “The Liberator” in particular. 

The series of prints for VW Polo Blue Motion is another response to surrealists. The illustrators also called up the works of a Master of nightmares Hieronimus Bosch. The advertising concept of Blue Motion is its low petrol consumption, or, as the artists from DDB Berlin said, “absurdly low one”. 

This is not the only case when Volkswagen uses art in advertising. There’s a series of illustrations inspired by Maurits Escher, who has somehow become very popular with the car manufacturing brands. His works also inspired advertisements for Audi and Nissan.


Vincent van Gogh is another perfect model for advertising parodies. Despite some obvious physiognomical signs of depression, his self portraits are extremely popular. 


There’s another bestseller – “The great Wave off Kanagava” by Hokusai. It’s mostly popular with Asian illustrators, but the best parody was made by the Swede. Sven Prim and Yasin Lekorchi used it to make a perfect ad for soy sauce Kikkoman.


There’s also been considerable excitement caused by Pablo Picasso’s heritage.


There are infinitely many examples of imitating in advertising. Mona Lisa, for instance, has been used not less than thirty times. Modern advertising industry is a great medium for cultural connotations. Like a Spirit of Dumps, it eats up everything it can get. But it can also be a reason to google the original or even go to a museum.