The Great Photoshop Hoax- Van Gogh paints DiCaprio


Over the course of his career, his fame and talent have won him many accolades including a Golden Globe aware and the leading spot in this summer’s block buster film. But Leonardo DiCaprio has recently received a major and that he never would have expected; a portrait by Van Gogh.

Of course, the painting is not a real one- history had it that the two men belonged to very different eras and no such collaboration was ever feasible. (Although it is fascinating to imagine what conversation would have taken place between the two cultural icons as the portrait took place).

The ‘portrait’ was submitted as part of a competition for photoshop masters. The actor’s face is grafted onto Van Gogh’s own self portrait and adapted using mimicked brush strokes. It is one of many photoshopping exercises submitting to ‘Worth 1000’ who ran the contest ‘Modern Renaissance’ calling on entrants to imagine a modern public figure in classical art.

The image touches a nerve for many art historians about forgeries and art heists…

The image caused something of a stir online with many suggesting it cheapened Van Gogh’s original. The Guardian seemed most upset and denounced it as a ‘diverting travesty’ before scolding its maker, ‘photoshopping masterpieces may be fun, but ultimately digital art – serious or not – is just a spectral echo of the real thing’.

The Guardian’s response seems to suggest the original piece has somehow between defaced by the photoshopper; a sentimental confusion, as if someone had doodled comical glasses on Van Gogh’s 1889 piece. It is worth remembering that the original remains in tact, and that no tribute alters the original except in the mind’s eye.

Perhaps one of the reasons why this image has proved disturbing to so many people is how eerily convincing it is. Yet, the brush strokes seem every bit as real as the daubs of acrylic that came from the Dutch artist’s own hand. There is something about mimicry that we find inherently disturbing, it is synonymous with a hoax or a trick. Furthermore, any imitation that is not serious is thought to be necessarily mocking- however something more lighthearted lies between the two. There is no dark message behind this portrait beyond the humour of the photoshopper. This is no art heist, it is an open and obvious joke; albeit one that touches on our sensitivities about originality and ownership.

What do you think about the role of photoshop and tributes to classical art? Comment below or click here to join the conversation via the Fawn Review Facebook page.