Paintings are often inspired by works of literature, art imitating art and all the rest of it. Recently I wrote an article entirely about my favorite paintings of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But there are so many intriguing paintings I think could inspire wonderful novels. Here are seven of the works of art I think deserve novel adaptations.
1. The Fortune-Teller | Georges de La Tour
Image Via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I recently saw this painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stared at it for a solid fifteen minutes. It’s fascinating, from the colors, to the unique expressions on each of the wonderfully diverse faces of the characters. I’d love to read about the lives of this gang of thieving fortune teller women, fleecing unsuspecting rich folk in beautiful clothing. I must know more of their escapades!
2. Portrait of Cornelia, Clara, and Johanna Veth | Jan Veth
Image Via Wikipedia
This painting hangs in Amsterdam’s Rijks Museum, and I was captivated by the faces of these three women, the artist’s sisters. Their individual looks and expressions fascinated me, and I’d love to know what they were thinking, their relationships with one another and what happened in their lives. There seems to be quite a significant age gap between the two seated and the younger in the middle, though you can sense the closeness between all three. The dark colors lend a somber air to the painting, but their eyes shine with a different sort of feeling.
3. A Convent Garden | John Brittany
Image Via National Gallery of Ireland
The model for this painting was actually Brittany’s wife, not a nun, but the bright colors and interesting garb of the nuns in the painting hint at the peace they have found with their vocation. However, I wonder does this woman have an inner world that does not match up with her pious lifestyle, or maybe she has ambitions to flee? Perhaps she has a secret.
4. The Cheat | Georges de La Tour
Image Via The World According to Art
Another de la Tour, but so much goes on in each one of his works, I want to know the bigger story! Again, each character wears a different, amusing expression. Why is the man cheating? What are they playing for? What does he stand to win, or lose? What is the relationship between the lady with the wine, and the woman she is speaking with? Servant and mistress? Friends? Lovers? I have so many questions and I would like them answered in novel form please.
5. Thanksgiving | John Currin
Image Via the Observer
John Currin’s knack for the uncanny is unlike any other. This strange Thanksgiving scene also features, it would seem, three sisters, long-necked and strange, preparing a plucked turkey for roasting. What is the one on the right feeding the one in the middle? Why is the seated character so withdrawn, how does she feel about the younger two? They are clearly well off, in lavish surroundings with an unlit chandelier above them. Where is the rest of their family? What is it about this painting that is so uncomfortable? What lies beneath?
6. The Two Fridas | Frida Kahlo
Image Via The New York Times
Kahlo’s work was highly personal, almost always dealing with herself, or selves, but it is easy enough to imagine these two characters not as Frida but as the protagonists of a strange modern fairytale. Maybe they could be medical marvels touring Europe with their strange surgeon father who charges members of the public to come and look at them, or witch sisters whose twin hearts can predict the future. Who knows? I want to.
7. Christina’s World | Andrew Wyeth
Image Via ThoughtCo
I saw this painting for the first time as a kid, and for the first time in real life just this year in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and it has always unsettled me deeply. When I see it, I can’t stop looking at it. In real life, the model was disabled by polio, but it could depict so many things. Why is this girl out on their prairie, what is she looking for? There is a desolate desperation in Wyeth’s eerie landscape. Who is she? What has been done to her? What has she done? What is she waiting for?
7. The Garden of Earthly Delights | Hieronymus Bosch
Image Via Wikipedia
I feel like this could make a wonderful trilogy, considering it is already a triptych. Starting with the pious characters of the first panel, the strange beasts surrounding them, the pink world in the middle of the lake, moving into a more densely populated second installment, when the characters’ journey become more complicated, and culminating in a darker final book in which many demons are faced, and secrets revealed
Featured Image Via The Metropolitan Museum of Art