Find Art Search

Search the gallery

Exploring the World of Inspired Paintings

  • 14 min read

Exploring the World of Inspired Paintings

Above: British artist Joanne Short with her daughter Martha-Lilly Dyer in 2006 being inspired by a Chagall painting in France.

Let's take a deep dive into how renowned paintings and famous artworks have inspired filmmakers, artists, and other creatives throughout history. We will explore how inspired paintings and masterpieces have sparked the imagination of creatives in many creative industries, from Shutter Island's reference to 'The Kiss' painting, to Django Unchained's costume design inspired by Francis Bacon's 'Head VI',how Marc Chagall inspired a John Dyer painting that formed the centre of the artist's wedding to Joanne Short, and the fantastic makeup of artist Lexie Lazear.

Additionally, we investigate works by a variety of renowned painters such as Vincent van Gogh, Picasso, Munch, Magritte, and Hopper, delving into the importance of referencing the surrealist art style, romantic art, post-modern paintings and the correlations between art and film, their shared aims, and their historical interactions and even how Van Gogh's life influenced other creatives.

Above: 'Love Story', open-edition framed fine art print by John Dyer. This fine art print is of the painting the artist created for his wedding and that was partly inspired by Marc Chagall's work

We dive into modern artistic references, such as Elizabeth Siddal’s sitting for John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia', Daan Roosegaarde’s 'Luminous Bicycle Path', and do you remember Don McLean’s song titled 'Vincent'. Fascinated yet?

Read on to discover more:

  • Artists have been inspired by the great works of the past to create their own iconic pieces.

  • Paintings have been a source of inspiration for filmmakers and have provided an aesthetic backdrop for important plot points.

  • Works of renowned artists such as the wheat fields painting by Vincent van Gogh, portraits by Picasso and action painting by Jackson Pollock have served as sources of inspiration for many, inspiring people to create their own creative art.

How Artists are Inspired by Masterpieces

The idea that art can be inspired by other works of art is an age-old concept that has existed for centuries. Artists of all time periods have looked to the great works of the past for inspiration in creating their own iconic pieces of art. From Claude Monet’s homage to Edouard Manet’s 'Olympia' to Paul Gauguin’s 'Spirit of the Dead Watching' inspired by the same painting, these masterpieces are a testament to how influential the works of former masters can be.

Edouard Manet’s Olympia painting
Above: Edouard Manet’s 'Olympia' painting
Paul Gauguin’s 'Spirit of the Dead Watching' painting
Above: Paul Gauguin’s 'Spirit of the Dead Watching' inspired by Edouard Manet’s 'Olympia' painting

Vincent van Gogh’s famous paintings are a good example of the artist being inspired by masterpieces and other artists. In a letter to his brother Theo in 1888 Vincent wrote of many artists and artworks that he found inspiration in:

"I have arranged all the Japanese prints in the studio, and the Daumiers, and the Delacroixs and the Géricaults. If you come across Delacroix's 'Pieta' again, or the Géricault, I urge you to get as many of them as you can. What I should really love to have in the studio as well is Millet's 'Work 'In the Fields', and Lerat's etching of his 'Sower' which Durand-Ruel sells at 1.25 francs. And lastly the little etching by Jacquemart after Meissonier, the 'Man Reading', a Meissonier I've always admired. I cannot help liking Meissonier's things."

Van Gogh continued:

"But whatever they say, the most ordinary Japanese prints, coloured in flat tones, seem admirable to me for the same reason as Rubens and Veronese. I know perfectly well that they are not primitive art. But just because the primitives are so admirable, there is absolutely no reason for me to say, as is becoming the custom, “When I go to the Louvre, I cannot get beyond the primitives.”

Historical Japanese prints have inspired many artists and Vincent made a comment in his letter about the clarity he found in them.

"I envy the Japanese the extreme clarity of everything in their work. It is never dull and it never seems to be done in too much of a hurry. Their work is as simple as breathing, and they do a figure in a few sure strokes as if it were as easy as doing up your waistcoat."

Stylistic influences can be found in the works of Pablo Picasso, who was heavily influenced by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ 'Madame Moitessier'. Picasso’s 'Woman with a Book' is a clear reference to the original painting, with subtle changes that reflect the artist’s own creative vision. Art historians have seen this as a sign of respect from Picasso to the original work, as well as a celebration of the art form in its entirety.

MadameMoitessier, (1856), left, by Ingres, and Picasso’s Woman With a Book on the right

Above: 'Madame Moitessier', (1856), left, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Picasso’s 'Woman With a Book', on the right

The popular song by Don McLean, officially titled 'Vincent', is commonly referred to by its iconic opening line, "Starry, Starry Night". Inspired by a biography on Vincent van Gogh, McLean wrote the song as an ode to the artist and his struggles, particularly with mental illness. McLean empathizes with Vincent's experiences, acknowledging that he suffered for his art. It's worth noting that McLean references not only Starry Night, but other paintings by Vincent throughout the song.

Above: Don McLean performing 'Vincent'at the Van Gogh Museum

Above: Vincent Van Gogh Framed Open Edition Art Print. 'Starry Night'. Also available unframed.

The impact of masterpieces is still being felt today, with modern artists looking to the works of greats for inspiration. Great artists such as Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol have used the works of their predecessors to create art that reflects their own unique style. It is this source of inspiration that has kept the art world alive, with these works standing as an enduring testament to the power of art.

In Cornwall artist Ben Nicholson sparked the entire modern art movement when he discovered and was inspired by the paintings of naive artist Alfred Wallis in St Ives. This catapulted St Ives, a remote fishing village in the far South West of England to be the centre for modern art globally. Cornish artists such as John Dyer and Joanne Short continue this art movement to the present day, being inspired by the primitive and post-modern art of St Ives and creating their own inspirational paintings that influence the current generation of artists and collectors. 

Paintings that Sparked the Imagination of Filmmakers

Painting has served as a powerful source of inspiration for filmmakers for centuries, providing them with a wealth of material to draw on for their cinematic works. From the iconic 'Last Supper' painting by Leonardo da Vinci that served as the basis for the scene in the movie Inherent Vice. In the movie, a group of hippies/cult members gather around a long table at a hideaway house to sit and eat pizza. The way they are positioned by the photographer mimics Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper', resulting in a truly stunning cinematic moment.

The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci
Above: 'The Last Supper' painting, 180 × 350 inches, by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting covers the end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy

Above: A still from the film 'Inherent Vice' that recreates the 'Last Supper' painting by Leonardo da Vinci but with a group of hippies/cult members around a long table at a hideaway house who sit to eat pizza

Another example is the melancholic atmosphere of Vincent van Gogh's 'Wheat Field With Crows', which was the source of inspiration for a scene or vignette in the movie Dreams (1990) that was written and directed by Akira Kurosawa

Vincent van Gogh's apinting 'Wheat Field with Crows'

In the vignette an art student finds himself inside the world of Vincent van Gogh's artwork, where he meets the artist in a field and converses with him. Van Gogh relates that his left ear gave him problems during a self portrait, so he cut it off. The student loses track of the artist, and travels through a number of Van Gogh's works trying to find him, concluding with Vincent van Gogh's 'Wheat Field with Crows'. Paintings have proven to be a valuable source of creative material for filmmakers.

Above: a clip from the movie 'Dreams', directed by Akira Kurosawa and inspired by the paintings of Van Gogh. Watch to the end , or jump to 2.30 minutes in, to see the 'Wheat Field with Crows' vignette.

The ability of paintings to inspire filmmakers is evidenced by the variety of works they have been used in, from Lars von Trier's 'Melancholia', an apocalyptic art film, which has visual references inspired by John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia', to Guillermo del Toro's fantasy horror film 'Pan's Labyrinth', which was partly influenced by Francisco Goya's painting 'Saturn Devouring His Son'. The influence of these paintings in films is not just a coincidence, as the scenes they inspire serve to deepen the narrative of the story, such as with the Last Supper scene in 'Inherent Vice'.

Lars von Trier's 'Melancholia' inspired by the Ophelia painting
Above: A still from the Lars von Trier movie 'Melancholia' inspired by John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia' painting

John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia' painting 1851-1852. Oil on canvas

Above: John Everett Millais' 'Ophelia' painting 1851-1852. Oil on canvas

Artist John Dyer has been inspired by many famous paintings including the paintings of Russian-France artist Marc Chagall. Chagall's love affair with his wife Bella inspired and informed so many of his paintings. The theme of a wedding occurs in many Chagall paintings and inspired the inclusion of 'La Mariée' (the bride) painting by Chagall as a print in the film Notting Hill which is a romantic comedy. The character Anna sees the print in William's home and surprisingly later on gifts him the original painting.


La mariée au bouquet devant la fenêtre (1957) Marc Chagall

Above: Chagall painted many wedding paintings and 'La mariée au bouquet deviant la fenêtre' (1957) is another wonderful example.

John Dyer's own wedding and love affair with fellow artist Joanne Short was captured in paint by the artist and the painting the artist created was the feature piece in the church, standing in front of the alter at Gunwalloe Church Cove in Cornwall.

The theme of the couple epitomised by Chagall's paintings inspired a series of early works by John Dyer which includes paintings of the artist and his bride floating across room settings celebrating their lives together.

Above: John Dyer Open Edition Cornish Art Print. 'Cat on a Kashmir'

Paintings have the power to influence and inspire filmmakers and creatives in a variety of ways, from the aesthetic of the painting itself to the narrative or symbolic implications of the work.

By exploring a variety of different works, filmmakers have been able to craft stories that are both engaging and thought-provoking. Paintings have provided a unique resource for filmmakers.

Art Inspired By Art: Vincent van Gogh, Picasso and Other Masters

From Vincent van Gogh's iconic 'The Starry Night' to Picasso's 'The Weeping Woman', painted masterpieces created by the world's renowned artists have been sources of inspiration for many.

Vincent Van Gogh's masterpiece 'The Starry Night', painted in 1889, is a representation of the view outside his east-facing window at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum. This painting is an oil on canvas masterpiece, and is currently housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Picasso's 'The Weeping Woman' is a portrait of Dora Maar, a French photographer and artist. This iconic painting was created in 1937 and hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.

Jackson Pollock is another renowned artist who has served as a source of inspiration for many. His pioneering technique of drip painting has motivated individuals to generate their own abstract art pieces in a similar style and action painting influenced many paintings by Damian Hurst.

The works of the masters have also been used as the basis for various installations. Daan Roosegaarde's 'Luminous Bicycle Path'installation exhibit in Brabant was inspired by Vincent van Gogh's 'The Starry Night'. This eco-friendly path was constructed with the use of solar-powered LEDs and glow-in-the-dark technology and was unveiled to commemorate Vincent van Gogh's 125th death anniversary.

Make-up artist Lexie Lazear has gained recognition for her creative reimagining of iconic works on her face, utilising Instagram to showcase her artistic talent.

Lexie Lazear's amazing face make up inspired by paintings

Above: Califorinian make-up artist Lexie Lazear's amazing face make up inspired by paintings. On the left  in inspiration is from Vincent van Gogh's painting 'Starry Night over the Rhone' and on the right by Gustav Klimt's 'The Kiss' painting. Courtesy of Lexie Lazear Instagram

Above: 'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt. Available as an open-edition museum print either framed or unframed.

The works of Vincent van Gogh, Picasso, and other renowned masters have served as sources of inspiration for many. Jackson Pollock's drip painting style or 'action painting' has inspired many and Lexie Lazear's creative facial transformations demonstrate that people are not only appreciators of art, but also capable of producing their own creative pieces. Furthermore, installations such as Daan Roosegaarde's 'Luminous Bicycle Path' show us that the works of the great artists will continue to inspire and motivate us for generations to come.

When Art and Film Become One: Nine Movies Inspired by Art

Art and film have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship since their inception. For centuries, painters have provided filmmakers with a wealth of creative inspiration, from the selection of their colour palette to the composition of their shots.

Here are eight notable movies that were inspired by famous paintings.

  • 'Django Unchained' was inspired by Thomas Gainsborough's 'The Blue Boy', which served as the basis for the costume design.

    'Django Unchained' was inspired by Thomas Gainsborough's 'The Blue Boy', which served as the basis for the costume design.
  • A clockwork orange featured a scene inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's 'Prisoners Exercising', which captures the oppressive atmosphere of prisons.

    A clockwork orange featured a scene inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's 'Prisoners Exercising', which captures the oppressive atmosphere of prisons.
  • Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' was influenced by Pieter Bruegel's renowned painting, 'The Tower of Babel'.

    Fritz Lang's Metropolis was influenced by Pieter Bruegel's renowned painting, 'The Tower of Babel'

  • René Magritte's 'Empire of Light' was referenced in 'The Exorcist', as was Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'.

    René Magritte's 'Empire of Light' was referenced in 'The Exorcist', as was Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'.
  • Francis Bacon's 'Head VI' was used as the basis for the Joker's makeup and costume in The Dark Knight.

    Francis Bacon's 'Head VI' was used as the basis for the Joker's makeup and costume in The Dark Knight.

  • 'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt served as the inspiration for the scene in Shutter Island.

    Shutter Island - The Kiss

  • 'Nighthawks' by Edward Hopper was referenced in 'Pennies from Heaven'.

    'Nighthawks' by Edward Hopper was referenced in 'Pennies from Heaven'.
  • Francisco Goya's 'Saturn Devouring His Son' provided the source of inspiration for the Pale Man in 'Pan's Labyrinth'.

    Goya - Saturn devouring his son

These movies demonstrate the sheer power of art in inspiring creative endeavours, as these works of art have been reinterpreted in the form of cinema. René Magritte's 'The Empire of Light' conveys a captivating juxtaposition of surrealistic elements and is of the Surrealist style, while Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' is a quintessential example of Modernist art. The intense colours of the sky in 'The Scream' are indicative of heightened anxiety and fear, and 'The Kiss' is widely regarded as a classic representation of passionate desire and romantic love. Francis Bacon's 'Head VI' is thought to have been a major influence on the Joker's chaotic makeup and iconic purple costume.

These works of art have been utilised by filmmakers to create captivating cinematic experiences. Through the use of visuals alone, painters and directors alike strive to transport their audience into a world of their own creation, confined within the boundaries of a frame. In this way, art and film have come together to create a unique experience.

What have we discovered?

The power of works of art and paintings to inspire and evoke emotion is clear. From capturing the imagination of filmmakers, forming the basis of scenes in films to inspiring artists and people to create their own pieces of art. Masterpieces of art have a profound and lasting impact on the world.

The paintings of contemporary British and Cornish painter John Dyer are filled with narrative, and transport viewers on a journey through the narrative into a story that is their own. Figurative art is very powerful as storytelling device as our brains are hard wired to respond to figurative elements from birth. In many ways figurative art is much more powerful than abstract art and it is notable that  most paintings that have inspired belong to this genre of art.

"Every painting I create tells a story, a different story or memory to each person who views. A painting is not a static trapped image but a portal to time, memories and events lived and to come." John Dyer

Movies such as Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Midnight in Paris (2011), and Pollock (2000) are a few examples of the creative inspiration that painting has brought to film.

Above: 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' painting by Johannes Vermeer 1665

The clear relationship between art, paintings and film, shows us how timeless paintings can be and how they can spark imaginative projects, longevity through the generations and serve to inform our lives forever.

Inspiration for Paintings

How do you get inspired to create a painting?

To inspire a new painting, explore your environment, seek out new life experiences, and draw inspiration from not only your inner self but from museum visits, art books, culture, nature, media, and other artists. Challenge yourself to push beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone and take risks with creativity - the result will be a unique and beautiful painting or work of art.

Creativity is a process of exploration and experimentation. Take the time to explore different techniques, materials, and ideas. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - they can often lead to unexpected and exciting results. With practice and dedication, you can create a painting. It is only through mistakes that we learn, so adopt the mantra of 'there is no wrong way' when creating - follow your instincts.

What is inspirational painting?

Inspirational painting is a form of art that speaks to the heart and soul, connecting with its viewers on an emotional level to leave you feeling refreshed and uplifted. It encourages reflection and can provide clarity when faced with difficult decisions or help you relax in times of stress.

It can be a source of inspiration, helping to bring out the best in us and remind us of our potential. It can also be a reminder of the beauty of life and the importance of cherishing the moments we have. All of the artists we represent at The John Dyer Gallery create inspirational paintings that are uplifting and celebrate the world and our place in it.

What does it mean when an artwork or painting has inspired?

Being inspired by an artwork or painting means to take influence from its elements, such as subject matter, composition, colours, or techniques, and view it through a personal lens to create something new. It is therefore a personal reflection on the original piece, with the finished product being a unique combination of both inspiration and creativity.

This process of being inspired by art is a great way to express yourself and explore your creativity. It can also be a great way to learn more about the original artwork and the artist who created it.

What are the five main inspirations for artists?

As artists revel in their creative expressions, there are five main sources for them to draw inspiration from; the beauty of nature, studying other artists' creations, personal life experiences, branching out to learn something new and connecting with the artistic community.

John Dyer at work painting the Maasai tribe in Kenya

Above: John Dyer being inspired and at work painting the Maasai tribe in Kenya

The beauty of nature can be seen in the changing of the seasons, the colours of a sunset, or the sound of a babbling brook or crashing surf on the beach. Artist John Dyer not only finds inspiration in Cornwall but travels the world to find inspiration from endangered environments, rainforests, wildlife, harvests, savannah landscapes and tribal people. His education project Last Chance To Paint allows him to inspire tens of thousands of young people through his art. Studying other artists' creations can help to spark new ideas and provide insight into different techniques. Personal life experiences, good or bad, can be a great source of inspiration, as they can provide a great source of material to work with and by reacting creatively to them it can help to heal a bad experience or to capture the joy of a good experience.

Artist John Dyer painting the last two Northern White Rhino on earth in 2023

Above: Artist John Dyer painting the last two Northern White Rhino on earth in 2023

Inspired Paintings by Cornish Artists

As we have discussed, paintings inspire other areas of creativity, and paintings are undoubtedly inspirational to look at and own, but the artists who create them also need to be inspired to create inspired or inspirational paintings.

Cornwall is, and has historically been, a hotbed of artistic inspiration connected to the county's landscape and seascapes. From the 1950s to the present day, Cornwall and its Cornish artists have led the art world with their naive, modern, post-modern and now contemporary paintings routed in Cornwall's history and landscape.

Artists John Dyer and Joanne Short paint in a direct and inspirational way as they celebrate the natural world and their lives within it.

John Dyer is famous for his paintings celebrating nature and wildlife worldwide and his quirky depictions of life on the coast with autobiographical content. As an official Artist for the Earth with and the artist in residence for the acclaimed environmental Eden Project, he is known as one of the world's leading environmental artists. He uses his art and fame to inspire children worldwide with 'Last Chance To Paint', a project he founded in 2018 to highlight what we all stand to lose as climate change accelerates, tribal peoples are disturbed and forcibly moved from their land, and environments are degraded.

Joanne Short is Cornwall's most inspired colourist artist, and her gorgeous oil paintings bring joy, harmony and positive energy to all who view. Joanne has been the artist in residence for several well know botanical gardens, including the Giardini Hanbury in Italy and the sub-tropical garden on St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. Her paintings are some of the best-known floral and garden paintings, and when painting outside, she immerses herself in the landscape surrounded by flowers and nature.

Ted Dyer's paintings have been inspiring people for generations. Now in his 83rd year and still painting, the artist is recognised as one of Cornwall's leading oil painters. Ted Dyer's stunning landscape and seascape oil paintings bring the beauty and magic of the Cornish coast to all who view.

Be Inspired in Your Home: Buy Paintings & Prints Online

The John Dyer Gallery exhibits the most inspirational works of art, exclusively representing John Dyer, Joanne Short, and Ted Dyer's paintings and museum-quality art prints. If you are looking for inspired paintings to enrich your home, decor and life, we invite you to explore the gallery as we are sure you will find your perfect piece of art, original painting, signed print, art poster print or open-edition for you.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog article, and if you have, please join our newsletter so you receive updates on new blogs, exhibitions and new paintings and prints as they are released. When you confirm your email, you will receive a £10 thank you voucher.


Follow our Blog


Have you seen some art in this article you are considering purchasing?

If you would like help or advice in choosing and investing in the perfect piece of art for your interior and art collection, please feel free to get in touch. We are delighted to answer your questions and can suggest additional art prints or original paintings that will be perfect for you.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Explore The John Dyer Gallery

Discover the leading Cornish artists, new original paintings to buy online, wall art prints, signed prints, limited edition prints and artist designed gifts.

Art from features in many publications

Just a few of the publications who have featured our gallery, art and artists.