1- Marcel Duchamp,  L.H.O.O.Q. (1919).

2- Eugene Btaillee, La Jaconde fumant la pipe, Le Rire, 1887

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

Subject: The Mona Lisa, painted in the 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), and the most celebrated portrait in the world.

 Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The use of appropriation has played a significant role in the history of the arts. In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, or recycle. Notable in this respect are the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp.

L.H.O.O.Q. is a cheap postcard reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa onto which Duchamp drew a moustache and beard in pencil. The masculinized female introduces the theme of gender reversal which was popular with Duchamp, who adopted his own female pseudonym. La Joconde instantly became his most famous readymade and a symbol for the international Dada movement, which rebelled against everything that art represented, particularly the appeal to tradition and beauty.


Left: Robert Colesscott, Les Demoiselles d’Alabama, 1985

Right: Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907

The concepts of originality and of authorship are central to the debate of appropriation in contemporary art. Above we see a contemporary example of appropriation, a painting which borrows its narrative and composition from the infamous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso. Here Colesscott has developed Picasso’s abstraction and ‘Africanism’ in line with European influences. Colescott has made this famous image his own, in terms of color and content, while still making his inspiration clear. The historical reference to Picasso is there, but this is undeniably the artist’s own work.