Art, History

How an 18th Century Painter Turned Into an Internet Meme

Joseph Ducreux’s unorthodox 18th-century self-portraits make the best classical art memes

Kamna Kabir
Oct 19, 2020 · 4 min read
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Source: Wikipedia

Rap music and self-portraits of an 18th-century french painter often do not have much in common. Joseph Ducreux is an exception. His unorthodox self-portraits have become meme-worthy thanks to its ability to be juxtaposed with popular rap lyrics.

Unlike his contemporary peers and predecessors, Ducreux was not interested in constrained self-portraits with minimal expressions and a formal posture. Instead, his self-portrait features a rather unorthodox image of himself yawning, stretching, and often breaking the fourth wall.

In these portraits, he often dressed informally in bright clothes and while exaggerating his pose, he would almost seem to have fun with the audience. These paintings are like performances in which he comes to life, breaks his character, and either becomes a part of the audience’s world or takes the audience into his world.

With his candid expressions, he seems to build trust and take the audience into his psyche. Through these art forms, he reinforced physiognomy — the belief that facial features could be used to depict the personality.

Enter Reddit & Tumblr

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Fast-forward to two centuries, memes on Reddit and Tumblr started picking steam — people started using Ducreux’s self-portraits to put an archaic spin on popular rap lyrics.

From ‘Disregard Females, Acquire Currency’ (an archaic reinterpretation of Notorious B.I.G’s 1995 hit Fuck bitches, Get money) to ‘Although my troubles number fourscore plus nineteen, a wench is not among them’ (a reinterpretation of Jay-Z’s I’ve got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one), the internet memers superimposed Ducreux’s image with rap lyrics.

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Perhaps the reason why this meme-template became so popular was that the circumlocutory and verbose jokes provide the reader with a satisfactory challenge of ‘decoding’ the lyrics back to original verses while testing your knowledge of pop-culture. In all these memes, Ducreux’s wry grins, sassy comical expressions soar from the canvas, and give these paintings a new life and meaning.

In Conclusion

In a way, Ducreux’s paintings resonate with this generation. While painting these portraits, Ducreux questioned the status-quo of being a prestigious artist and developed artworks that often offended the elite of those times. Today, while juxtapositioning Ducreux’s images with archaic rap lyrics, the memers add a flair to the lowbrow art form of memes.

I personally, found the memes to be intriguing and searched for more of his paintings. Surprisingly, as I sought more information, I fell in love with his art. Perhaps, this is the grand plan!

The memes have brought this generation closer to yet another obscure painter of yesteryear and has solidified Ducreux‘s legacy. There are few better ways to honor the work of an unusual artist than to make it our own and let them go viral.

If you have enjoyed reading this story, you might also like to read about the ‘Top 7 Worst Typos in Bible’

Source: Pintrest & KnowYourMeme.com

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Kamna Kabir

Written by

Aspiring Writer, Ardent Learner and Former Data Engineer. https://www.kamnakirti.com/

The Collector

The aim of this publication is to learn from our history and culture in order to understand the dynamics of politics and improve the current state of movements for feminism, racism, and LGBTQ.

Kamna Kabir

Written by

Aspiring Writer, Ardent Learner and Former Data Engineer. https://www.kamnakirti.com/

The Collector

The aim of this publication is to learn from our history and culture in order to understand the dynamics of politics and improve the current state of movements for feminism, racism, and LGBTQ.

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