At this point in the technology era you've probably seen your favourite pop culture references, your favourite tv shows and movies, and perhaps even your favourite muppet get turned into memes, but what about classical art? That's right, classical art memes are the new trend that's sweeping the Internet and as an art history major let me just say this might be my favourite trend ever. No longer can our parents frown upon us "always being on that dang phone" because this is art, obviously they're making each and every one of us who gazes upon them more cultured. Of course, this particular brand of culture comes with a little extra spice on top: those wonderful strips of text above or below the image that add a relatable context we just can't help but giggle at. Now that they've taken off, the Internet is chock full of that good ol art historical relatable content and it may be daunting to sift through. That's why I've got you covered with some of the best gems the creative minds of the Internet have to offer.
15 This one about stu(dying)
Obviously upon first glance this meme makes sense because the man is surrounded by books and seems to have a look of concentration on his face. But if you read into it a little harder, there's much more that sums up the life of a student cramming for an exam. First of all, there's the little crucifix propped up against the books, which in this context is definitely relatable as any student in such a situation would definitely be praying to God for help at this point. Then there's the robe the man is wrapped in, which, if you think about it, could also be read as a blanket. Who else would be wrapped up in nothing but a blanket in front of piles of books if not a cramming student, right? And finally, the piece de resistance, the skull in the top left corner. A true homage to stu(dying), the skull embodies death, and so in this context it represents the internal death of the student's will to go on and most likely their GPA as well.
14 This unfortunate group member
Let's be real, how many of us looked at this and thought "if this ain't me." I'll be honest with myself, I definitely did. I am the blemish of every group photo, as I have both a difficult time being serious for photos and a rather unphotogenic face if not shot at the right angle. I feel for this person, I'm sure they walked into the function really feeling myself. Such is the tragically common situation. We put our makeup on or wear our most flattering shirt or comb our hair in just the right way and tell ourselves "tonight I look GOOD. I can't wait to take photos with everyone." Even when you get there, you don't feel completely inadequate compared to your hot friends for once...but then the camera comes out. You try your best to hit what you thought was your most flattering pose but you miss the sweet spot by just a hair and suddenly you've gone from a solid 8 to a 5 at best all in the blink of an eye (or the flash of a camera). With all that being said, what I'm trying to say is, I feel you, unfortunate painting subject, I really do.
13 This sad content
If I'm not mistaken this is a painting of Adam and Eve, for context, because who has more of a right to be sad than one of the people who doomed humanity to live in sin. I respect Eve for looking like she's trying to talk some sense into him but girl, have some sympathy, it's not like you were the one who ate the apple first or anything. Now onto the context of the meme, hobbies am I right? But seriously though, I feel like people are always telling me to get a hobby, but what even is a hobby? Knitting? Stamp collecting? Exercising? I ENJOY NONE OF THOSE THINGS. I'm with Adam on this one, being social and somewhat active while also working and getting an education is enough of a commitment, excuse me if I'd rather wallow in self pity and watch Netflix in my limited free time than find a 'real hobby'. So yeah, take that, Eve, being sad is totally a hobby and I'll fight you on it if you disagree!
12 This one about *sexy times* gone wrong
Alright, so maybe we don't all know this struggle. It's not like "eating the booty like groceries" is exactly as common as kissing. However, I think it's safe to say it's pretty easy to put two and two together. Butts are great, all cute and jiggly and squeezable, but they're also where, you know, your past meals finish their journeys, if you know what I'm saying. So I think we're all clear on why the woman in the painting is making that face of utter repulsion, right? Also, as if this meme weren't already clever enough, the inclusion of a skeleton even implies that the kiss "tastes like death". So PSA to all those who partake in this activity, I guess: don't kiss someone with the fresh taste of butt on your mouth. Never thought I'd have to say that, but glad this meme cleared that up.
11 This satisfyingly realistic gem
For those of you who aren't familiar with Renaissance art, or any historically religion-centric art for that matter, it is pretty damn common for some crazy, otherworldly thing to be happening and for all the spectators to look this is absolutely nothing new. In the case of this painting, most of the figures (including actual flying heads, wtf) are just chilling, going about the activity as if it's their job, but then there's the marvelous figure in red robes. In the original context, the red robed figure's pointing probably had some religious meaning like "behold, for she has risen" or something grand like that, but this meme relates the red robed figure to us modern spectators who are more than just beholding the scene, we are thoroughly taken aback. The insertion of the text "are you seein' this shit bro" makes us feel like the red robed figure is just as stricken as we are, because ya know that, Renaissance painters? People flying is anything but casual.
10 This harrowing tale
Ah yes, we all know the struggle...well not "all", but if you haven't personally experienced it you can at least imagine it. Perhaps you've even been on the other end of this tragic situation. It's a tale as old as time: person A meets person B and they hit it off. Hit it off so well, in fact, that person A even considers perhaps venturing into person B's bed chamber. But then, in a moment of ill luck, person A looks down only to find the tiniest feet imaginable. And no, in this situation the punchline to the joke "you know what they say about feet" is not big socks...I don't think I need to spell this out any further. Honestly, the expression on the woman's face says it all as she is faced with this situation: worrying and planning an escape if things go south, but trying to play it cool by keeping a soft smile glued to her face. Of course, since this is a painting, we don't know how her story ends. All we can do is meme it and hope her situation worked out well.
9 This accurate use of Bosch
Okay so rant time. One of my greatest frustrations in discussions of Bosch is that he is often grouped into the Surrealist movement, despite having been active hundreds of years prior to its creation, simply because his subject matter is "like, totally crazy, man." But here's the thing: Surrealists were focused on painting from their subconscious, and Bosch did not even slightly care about that shit. Bosch was actually a super intense Christian, belonging to one of the most extreme confraternities (basically religious frat boys) in the Netherlands, so his subconscious was probably thinking about how great God is. Bosch's wild subject matter is actually based in his extreme religiousness, as he intended to frighten people out of sinning with his horrific depictions of Hell. That being said, it's only just to compare being exposed to everyone around you in a previously dark club to some next level version of Hell. Plus, considering dancing and premarital sex were horrible sins in Bosch's time, this meme honestly would have most likely made Bosch proud.
8 This polite potato lover
In reality, anyone who knows the Biblical story of Salome asking for Saint John the Baptist's head on a platter can infer that Salome actually is meant to appear happy to have received exactly what she requested. However, the shady look in her eyes paired with the intense gaze of the male figure beside her has lead this meme's creator to understandably different conclusions. For real though, Renaissance painters love making the ladies look shady (Exhibit A: Mona Lisa), which is great and all except it totally confuses the message. So here we have a woman who is supposed to be happy to have received a head (for some messed up reason), but instead we have a woman who looks like she has to awkwardly tell this super extra house guest that she'll just put the head next to the potatoes, when in her own head she's regretting having ever invited this dude to her party in the first place and debating whether or not she should she call the cops. Yikes.
7 This wild group of pals
New year, new me up in this joint (ha, get it)! Seriously though, if there's any art historical period that is the most memeable, it's definitely the Middle Ages, especially illuminated manuscript illustrations. They decided that there was no reason to try to be realistic when depicting religious iconography, and in fact went as far as to say it was sacrilegious. While I have no idea what the hell the religious moment this painting is supposed to depict, I can honestly say that the guy being carried does indeed look like a bonafide joint. I mean, I really hope his two friends didn't actually try to smoke him, but considering, in the context of the meme, they were high enough to roll him into one, I wouldn't be surprised. The argument is often made that weed is a drug that doesn't do any significant harm to anyone, but if these guys actually did set their friend on fire, I think we might have an outlier here. So to all those "above the influence" public service announcers out there, here's your next campaign.
6 This homage to Zoolander
I'm just going to assume that everyone reading this has seen Zoolander or at least knows of the part in which Zoolander says "what is this, a school for ants?" when shown a model for the school he wants to build. If not, then I advise you to get yourself some popcorn and play some catch up so you can fully appreciate the comedic gold that is this meme. Now, back to us who DO understand the meme, it's really just astounding to discover that Giotto was so ahead of his time. He probably painted this with some kind of message in mind along the lines of "God's children are bigger than the church", or maybe some obscure biblical reference? Honestly who even cares what it was "supposed" to mean when the obvious divine intention for this work of of art was to be the ultimate precursor to the work of contemporary art that is Zoolander. Thanks Giotto, you're truly an inspiration.
5 This optimistic person
Back to Medieval art! Woohoo! Oh boy did they ever struggle with conveying emotions accurately. Like I know you're not trying to make it realistic guys, but come on, at least don't make people being stabbed in the head look happy. The second comment on this tumblr post turned meme is even more accurate in describing what it looks like the person being stabbed is thinking: "lol what can you do"...which is fair, I guess. I mean once you're in the process of being stabbed it's not like you can just walk away like nothing happened, but considering, oh I don't know, the excruciating pain, I highly doubt that would be the actual expression on the unfortunate victim's face. Either way, it's really something to aspire to, to have that high of a pain tolerance and to accept death with such immediacy. All in all, paired with the two comments, this is a truly inspirational meme.
4 This one featuring a lit Jesus
Which period is second most memeable to Medieval art? That's right it's BYZANTINE ART! Pretty similar to the Medieval era, Byzantine art tenets included an aversion to things being too realistic for fear of being sacrilegious, but at this point the paintings were at least getting a but more dimension, as in looking less like the figures had just been flattened by a steamroller. The thing is, it is often thought that skill itself was lacking within the active art community in the Byzantine era, which could possibly explain why this artist's attempt to make the eyes look a little more alive actually made them a little more high. Unfortunately, for the average person their natural eye colour is not complemented by tinges of red, but it's nice to imagine Jesus Christ as your friendly neighbourhood hackeysack playing stoner. It's like that saying that became popular when Easter fell on 4/20: #420praiseit, right?
3 This inspirational human/food hybrid
Omg #healthgoalssss, talk about achieving those New Year's resolutions!! Now that January 1st has passed and we're still getting used to writing 2017 instead of 2016, it's safe to say that at least half of us who made resolutions vowed to be healthier in some way, so what could be more inspiring than this plant person turned meme? If we are what we eat, then right now I'm five nights in a row of frozen pierogies and sour watermelon candies but if this guy can do it why can't I? I yearn for my skin to glow like the dew of a fresh apple, my hair to flow like plump grapes, and my nose to smell of a ripe pear. Okay, maybe I've taken the metaphor too far, but you get the gist. The glowing skin would be nice at the very least, not to mention all the other health benefits of not exclusively eating carbs. I just dream of a world where one day we all will turn into plant people...one day.
2 These relatable babies
I think we can agree that Van Gogh is one of the best known artists of all time, but that being said his babies weren't...the best. As a member of the Post-Impressionistic movement, Van Gogh was less concerned with things looking completely realistic and more with light and the representation and symbolism of colour in painting. But...these babies...Vincent, please. It's nice and all that the colours probably mean something, and I gotta shout out the shading on that middle baby but wow, Van Gogh really must've not given a shit about children. His other people don't necessarily look realistic but they also don't look morphed, confused, and uncomfortable like these babies do. Good thing Van Gogh's painting are still popular in the meme era and we can look at these babies with humour! Because you know what? Confused and uncomfortable? That's my forte (and it's probably the same case for a lot of you as well). Now he has blessed us with yet another way to describe our feelings, so say it with me folks: "I feel like a Van Gogh baby."
1 This person getting L I T
Here it is, folks! The meme that I will argue until I die started it all. It's a perfect mixture of all the best things art memes have to offer. First, you have your Medieval imagery (hey, there's even a Twitter page!), which will never steer you wrong. This one in particular is just magnificent to behold. The concept that people were getting so lit in the Middle Ages that they basically just lost their spines is pretty great. And to string music, no less. Then this meme also sprinkles in a bit of that sweet Millennial lingo for good measure. To clarify, I do indeed mean the word 'banger'. Because these days 'your song' isn't powerful enough. Even 'your jam' doesn't have the same connotation that 'banger' does. 'Banger' is only associated with songs that make you absolutely lose your mind; ones that you can't help but dance to no matter who you're with. So yeah, I have a deep appreciation for the word 'banger' being paired with an image of someone getting lit to someone playing a string instrument. The Middle Ages, those were the good old days, man. The days before the 'real' music died.