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On the Portentous Influence of Magritte, Hopper, and Bacon in the Films of David Lynch


Great artist that he is, Lynch has appropriated the very elements and symbols from the paintings he’s loved (and emulated).

“Certain things light the heart and the mind simultaneously. It’s like a beautiful storm comes over us, a thrilling, beautiful storm, a deep love, and a flow of excitement in the brain.” That’s how David Lynch described the moment he finds inspiration in a recent interview. The description isn’t totally unexpected. If there’s ever been an artist willing to fish for ideas, to assimilate them, and to appropriate diverse ideas, it’s the Montana filmmaker. From his extravagant dream-logic to the extraordinary balance he strikes between humor and horror, between beauty and the grotesque, Lynch’s films are the product of his reinterpretation of the work of the creators who ignited his heart and mind.

A suggestive visual essay by Meno Kooistra shows us one of David Lynch’s greatest sources of inspiration: painting. Perhaps not surprisingly, the filmmaker began his artistic career making paintings and drawings. This led him to study art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

It’s been said that the truly great artist is one capable of using the work that most inspires and integrating it into a discourse all their own. Lynch is the paradigmatic example of that practice. His undeniable importance to the history of surrealist cinema, the clear influence of photography on his work, and his taste for symbolism is clear in his staging, cinematography, and in the characters he creates.

This video shows – comparatively – how  Lynch has used elements of surrealism from the work of René Magritte, the grotesque aesthetic of Francis Bacon, the realism of Edward Hopper and the epic, terrifying landscapes of Arnold Böcklin to create some of the most important films in American cinema. In their particular and enviable way, they invoke the muses.

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