Artist Reimagines Celebrities as the Subjects of Classical Paintings

Lizzo as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Lizzo

When we look at classical paintings, the subjects tend to feel archaic and distant. From the elegance of their clothes to the stiffness of their poses, it can be hard to relate to portraits from the 17th or 18th century. Even if we know the subject's history, it's hard to picture them in real life, outside of the frame. The art project by french artist Kyès seems to turn this around by inserting contemporary celebrities into digital paintings that evoke the opulence of Rococo and Neoclassic portraiture.

With the help of Photoshop, Kyès helps us picture what our favorite actors and musicians would have looked like if they had posed for a painter centuries ago, with a sensible outfit for the era. For example, Christopher Walken wears a powdered wig and a green military outfit, while Lizzo wears a purple gown and a ruffle collar, complete with a handheld fan. The contrast between past and present is even more fascinating in pieces depicting celebrities with face tattoos, such as rapper Lil Wayne and former boxer Mike Tyson.

Although Kyès started by featuring French rappers in his work, his portfolio has expanded, and now includes the likes of Anya Taylor-Joy, Rosalía, Mick Jagger, and The Weeknd. However, true to his roots, there are plenty of French figures in his work, like actress Hafsia Herzi and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard.

The uniqueness of his work has also led Kyès to get cover art commissions for independent musicians, boosting another artist's work by embellishing it with his regal visual language.

Kyès’ attention to detail is key in making these digital paintings come alive. The delicate renderings of their faces and the complexity of their clothes wouldn't be enough if it weren't for the careful work on the lighting and the expressions of each subject. Just from looking at the portraits, you can tell the artist has not only an extensive knowledge of classical painting techniques, but also the utmost respect for its legacy.

Scroll down to see some of his finest work thus far. You can stay up to date with his work by following him on Instagram.

French artist Kyès helps us picture what our favorite actors and musicians would have looked like if they had posed for a Neoclassical portrait centuries ago.

Christopher Walken as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Christopher Walken

His digital paintings feature the key elements of Rococo and Neoclassic art.

Rihanna as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Rihanna

Pharrell Williams as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Pharrell Williams

The contrast between past and present is arguably the most fascinating in pieces depicting celebrities with face tattoos, such as rapper Lil Wayne and former boxer Mike Tyson.

Lil Wayne as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Lil Wayne

Mike Tyson as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Mike Tyson

Although Kyès started by featuring French rappers in his work, his portfolio has since expanded.

Jodie Comer as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Jodie Comer

Miley Cyrus as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Miley Cyrus

Millie Bobby Brown as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Millie Bobby Brown

The Weeknd as the Subject of a Classical Painting

The Weeknd

Beyonce as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Beyoncé

Scarlett Johansson as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Scarlett Johansson

Norah Jones as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Norah Jones

Lil Nas X as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Lil Nas X

Cardi B as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Cardi B

Rosalía as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Rosalía

Úrsula Corberó as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Úrsula Corberó

Mick Jagger as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Mick Jagger

Anya Taylor-Joy as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Anya Taylor-Joy

He does still includes French celebrities, though.

Marion Cotillard as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Marion Cotillard

Hafsia Herzi as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Hafsia Herzi

Vanessa Paradis as the Subject of a Classical Painting

Vanessa Paradis

Kyès: Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kyès.

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Regina Sienra

Regina Sienra is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Based in Mexico City, Mexico, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications with specialization in Journalism from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has 10+ years’ experience in Digital Media, writing for outlets in both English and Spanish. Her love for the creative arts—especially music and film—drives her forward every day.
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