The Most Popular Art Memes

The Most Popular Art Memes

Memes have introduced a whole new way to interact with others. In today’s society, the foundation of any good friendship is held together by sending funny images and videos to each other. We have risen above the need for conversation to a wordless land filled with funny images of Pedro Pascal's Met Gala look and Apple's latest VR headset. Nothing is safe in a world with memes—from politicians to tragedies—if someone on the internet can make fun of it they will. Fine works of art are no exception, the rich variety that artwork lends to memeable images has allowed memes made from classic art to branch into an entire category of its own. In today’s article, we explore some of these fine works of art and their shift into the world of memes.

Joseph Ducreux and Archaic Rap Memes (2009)

Ducreux was an 18th-century French artist who painted emotive portraits that were uncommon during that time. The self-portrait used for this meme presents Ducreux pointing at the viewer with an open-mouthed grin on his face. By today’s standards, the image reeks of cringey “ladies’ man” energy that is oddly reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s overuse of the finger gun in Spider-Man 3. The image gained popularity when it was posted with the words “Disregard Females, Acquire Currency.” This archaic reinterpretation of popular rap lyrics from Lil Wayne’s “Money on the Mind” was a hit. Many iterations of this template were recreated with different archaic interpretations of modern-day rap lyrics. Including such variations as “Gentlemen, I inquire who hath released the hounds?” and “Remove thyself from mine path wench. Step aside, step aside.”

Samuel Johnson Reading (2012)

This work depicting British writer Samuel Johnson was painted in 1775 by Joshua Reynolds. It gained popularity as a meme in 2012 after it was posted with the caption “Dafuq did I just read?” The meme was often used as a way to express disgust or bewilderment, emotions often felt when spending time online.

The ”y tho” Pope (2014-2015)

This artwork of Pope Leo X was painted by Fernando Botero in 1964. The exaggerated features and rounded face are all part of Botero’s style of painting. First posted in December of 2014 with the text “y tho,” this image has gained millions of views and countless iterations.

Medieval Art Memes (2015) and Morgan Bible Edits (2019)

One can only assume that life in the Medieval times was wild because the art we have from Medieval manuscripts is absolute madness. People suffer gory deaths with the most pleasant looks on their faces and the majority of animals are borderline unrecognizable (Check out these derpy depictions of cats). Medieval art is rife with memeable images, entire accounts, and subreddits that have been dedicated to medieval art memes. Many of these memes are sourced from the Morgan Bible or Crusader’s Bible, which was created in the 1240s. Medieval art’s versatility has made these kinds of memes' popularity more lasting than most and has even given way to Medieval covers of modern songs.

Angry Man Pointing at Hand (2019)

The man in this image is cropped from John L. Krimmel’s The Village Politicians from 1819. The image was first used as a meme in 2016 but it didn’t gain popularity until three years later in 2019. It spawned many iterations from “The Government when you win the Lottery” and “12yo me trying to find my pulse in biology class.”

Brian Morabito’s “Museum Tours”

The popularity of Tik Tok has given way to a new way to incorporate classic art into meme culture. A famous comedian, Brian Morabito, has gained a huge following for his “Museum Tours” series. In these videos, Morabito adds dialogue to paintings on display in museums. The dialogue is witty and often out of left field but always entertaining. His videos have featured works such as The Picnic by Thomas Cole, The Football Players by Henri Rousseau, and The Temptation by Pietro Longhi.

 

What is often funny about memes is their relatability to the viewer so it seems an almost natural progression for art—which is so often focused on human nature and emotions—to make its way into the realm of memes. If you’re looking for a good meme to send to your friends that will not only make them laugh but will also show just how cultured you are, then look no further than a classic art meme. 

What is often funny about memes is their relatability to the viewer so it seems an almost natural progression for art—which is so often focused on human nature and emotions—to make its way into the realm of memes. If you’re looking for a good meme to send to your friends that will not only make them laugh but will also show just how cultured you are, then look no further than a classic art meme.


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