Essay about Appropriation of Images in Art

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The appropriation of images in art is a phenomenon new to the twentieth century. Found objects, contemporary images, and images from the past are all appropriated by artists and used in their work. Three twentieth century artists, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenburg are all very influential and appropriators. Although these artists appropriated many different images for many different reasons there is one image that they all have in common, the Mona Lisa. Each of these artists appropriated and used this image in different ways.

First, what exactly is appropriation in art? Art History, by Marilyn Stokstad states quite simply that appropriation is the representation of a preexisting image as one's own (1155). Marcel Duchamp could be considered the first appropriator with his ready-mades. Duchamp took everyday objects and made them art simply by saying it was art. Duchamp did this to try and destroy the art object. Duchamp was fascinated with the concept of ready-made for years. Duchamp used the image of the Mona Lisa in a 1919 piece entitled L.H.O.O.Q.. Duchamp created this image in reference to his alter ego. Rrose Selavy. He feels that Rrose's fame, for those versed in Dada and Surrealism, is equal to that of the Mona Lisa's. This is why Duchamp drew the unmistakable mustache and beard of Salvador Dali on the face of the Mona Lisa's face. Perhaps Duchamp felt that Dali's fame as a surrealist paralleled that of the Mona Lisa.

Andy Warhol, another appropriating artist used the image of the Mona Lisa in his work. Andy Warhol, a pop artist of the sixties brought American life and culture back to art. This was after the abstract expressionists destroyed the notion and produced very personal and internal works....

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...g that really holds their appropriations together is Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

Today appropriation is a necessary part of artmaking in our high speed visual and information based society. Some people feel that appropriation is not necessary in art. I feel that this idea is ridiculous. If an artist needs to appropriate found or ready-made objects, contemporary images or art historical images to help in conveying his or her feelings, then so be it. Appropriation in art is here to stay.


Coplans, John. Andy Warhol. England: Curwen.

D'Harnoncourt, Anne and Kynaston McShine. Marcel Duchamp. New York: MOMA, 1973.

Hertz, Richard. Theories of Contemporary Art. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Kotz, Mary Lynn. Rauschenberg/Art and Life. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990.

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.

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