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While the words “classic art” might make your eyes glaze over, I would invite you to give it a second chance, perhaps this time with a modern twist. While it can be hard to imagine, the artists of the past had a lot more in common with us than we might think, one just has to look past the old clothing and scenery. 

The “Clasycal” Instagram page shares memes that use classic paintings as their foundation. Funny, painful, relatable, or a combination of all three, these memes showcase the fact that some things just don’t change. Be sure to upvote your favorites and comment your thoughts below. 

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Mycroft1967
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Lol. Worked in retail. Had a guy try to smuggle a full sized football out in his pants. It was noticed.

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At first glance, a lot of classic and even classical art seems irrelevant to the modern day and age. Dead people in old clothing, next to aged buildings. But when you look past the outward material indicators and instead focus on the emotions on display, it becomes a lot easier to relate. Certain themes have permeated media and culture for millennia with good reason.

On top of the very real talent and creativity presented by the artists, there is a good bit of innovation on display from the many people who add texts and “remix” the ideas in this artwork to reflect modern experiences and emotions. Memes, ultimately, are about a bit of shared information and experience, beyond all else. 

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Will Cable
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's the face of a person who has just realised they left their ringtone on and their phone in the other room and someone is calling them at 2am

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Plus, most artwork is meant to be enjoyed and explored beyond just a “first glance.” Try it yourself, pick any post here, ignore the text, and just take in the details, the lines, and the colors. Think about why the artist made every choice that you see in front of you. And reflect on how much you would have missed if you just stuck to “one glance.” At the very least, it will be a nice exercise in slowing down. 

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Still, art tends to be a bit intimidating or confusing for the non-initiated. This is why the introduction of meme formats can actually be a great gateway to viewing art with a modern twist. The jokes help highlight the more interesting aspects of each image, which can be a gateway for the viewer to understand some of the emotions the artist was attempting to convey. Or at least get a little laugh out of the whole thing. 

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While these days, we would most likely see these pieces as part of some refined movement, discussed by stuffy men in wigs even when they were made, the reality is that every “new” art style tends to be seen as disruptive, tacky and ugly by the critics of the time. The wonderfully vibrant rococo was described as a style for degenerates and that it was a “ridiculous jumble of shells, dragons, reeds, palm-trees, and plants."

Some cultures didn’t even see art as a value in itself. Ancient Egyptians did not have a word for art and classified painting and drawing as a practical craft, on par with masonry and sculpting. The purpose was to convey information, not to express some deep-seated ideas and inspire emotions in people. In fact, for most of Egyptian history, artists wouldn’t even display their subjects aging, since it wasn’t really important in the grand scheme of things. Modern archeologists might disagree. 

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Similar to rococo, the even better-known baroque was described as a “plague on good taste, which infected a large number of artists." In fact, the critics of the time not only thought it an inferior style, they actually believed that it had a measurably negative effect on people and would cause poor moral judgment, which is a lot of power to ascribe to a painting. That means that some of the art displayed here was at one point transgressive and even edgy. 

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EmBree
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I have no problem with admitting that I'm wrong. Not that it has ever happened.

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This phenomenon most likely goes back centuries, as the self-appointed arbiters of “good taste” tend to dislike anything too different from established trends. A simple glance at movie and music genres will show that at one time or another, nearly every popular style has been referred to as “not real” cinema or music. Fortunately, this has almost no effect on its popularity. 

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While attaching little texts to all these images might seem like dumbing them down, it’s important to point out that not all art was taken that seriously even when it was being made. It’s also a great way to introduce people to all sorts of art pieces they would never see unless they frequented museums. And if you want some more exposure to classic art memes, Bored Panda has got you covered, you can find our other collections here, here, and here

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Will Cable
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Guy on the left in red "What was that George....what do you mean we've got the wrong guy"

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sturmwesen
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

my mom told me not to get tattoos because my body was my temple...guess what: temples have murals

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Cat Chat
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7 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This always gets me when I watch period shows where women get ridiculed and/or feel guilty for not providing a son.... and think if they only knew 😏🤷‍♀️

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BC
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7 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yeah nah, my mates know not to hand me the baby. But I’m a really good aunt when they can wipe their own nose!!!

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Note: this post originally had 136 images. It’s been shortened to the top 50 images based on user votes.