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BLOG | January 5 2021

Artists in Cinema

Creative people take inspiration from other creative people! In this article we see how 3 paintings provided the inspiration for some cinematic works of genius.

In 1911 the Italian film theoretician Ricciotto Canudo defined cinema as “the seventh art”. So it’s quite natural that from its birth cinema took inspiration from other forms of art – from literature to sculpture to painting. Below are three artists who have charmed the world of the seventh art.


Trainspotting — The Mysteries of the Horizon

In his paintings, Magritte often represented the depersonalization of the individual. His men in bowler hats are all the same, faceless, as seen in Golconda with a cold gaze, or shown from behind as in The Mysteries of the Horizon.

Trainspotting by Danny Boyle tells the story of a group of friends who don’t fit into modern society and therefore try to escape from that reality through drugs. Mark, the main character, wants to understand who he is and in which world he wants to live.

Danny Boyle, Trainspotting, 1996. Twitter. René Magritte, The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955, private collection.
Artists in Cinema: Rene Magritte. Danny Boyle, Trainspotting, 1996. Twitter.
René Magritte, The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955, private collection. Pinterest.

The scene which alludes to Magritte’s painting shows Mark, split in three by opposing mirrors, in front of a passport which could lead him towards a new path in life. At that moment he is trying to figure out what his possibilities are, considering different horizons similar to the men in Magritte’s work.

You can also find references to Magritte’s works in the movies Maléna by Giuseppe Tornatore, in The Thomas Crown Affair by Norman Jewison, and in Twin Peaks by David Lynch.


Edward Hopper was a painter and exponent of American realism, who represented the life of American people in the 19th century in a very peculiar way. The cold light and tones, the geometries, and the characters’ loneliness reveal a soundless and empty world.

His works convey a sense of anguish, maybe because the people and the buildings depicted look almost fake, like mannequins. For this reason, we can find references to Hopper’s paintings in some of the best horror and thriller movies.

Psycho (1960) – House by the Railroad

Hopper’s House by the Railroad depicts a Victorian building, set in a desolate landscape next to a railroad, a symbol of modernity. There is absolutely nothing nearby, no vegetation, people, or any other signs of life.

Edward Hopper, House by the Railroad, 1925, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA. Wikipedia.
Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, 1960. Pinterest

35 years later Hitchcock took inspiration from this painting and built it as Norman Bates’ home (the main character of Psycho). As Bates says, he doesn’t have many guests at his motel since they redirected the highway. In his isolation, Bates’ madness grew and he thus became the murderer we all know.

In 1930 the collector Stephen C. Clark gave this painting to the MoMA in New York, where it still is today. However, if you want to visit the house set of the movie, it is still at Universal Studios in Hollywood.


If Hopper wanted to represent the normal reality around him, Escher did the opposite. Through his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints he tried to break down, analyze or overturn the laws of science. His impossible, symmetric geometries and objects explored mathematical and scientific concepts, defying space, time and gravity.

Beauty and the Beast — Eye

If you watch carefully, in the 1991 Disney movie Beauty and the Beast you’ll notice that in the scene of Gaston’s death, there is a close-up of his eyes. It lasts just one second, but if you stop the video you can see that there are skulls in his pupils.

This reminds us of Escher’s artwork Eye, a mezzotint made in 1946. Was this intentional? We don’t know, but the resemblance speaks for itself.

Gary Trousdale e Kirk Wise, Beauty and the Beast, 1991. Pinterest.
M. C. Escher, Eye, 1946, National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA. Wiki Art.

Harry Potter, Labiryth, Suspiria and Inception are just some other movies in which Escher’s paintings can be seen to be represented.

For further examples of these artists work depicted through the cinematic lens, please see the original article from the Daily Art Magazine here.

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