There are several artists active in the NFT space who reimagine traditional art movements through their work. Several draw inspiration from work created during the classical revival period, specifically the European Renaissance.
Their referencing to this era comes in several different ways, including both in the techniques used or subject matter depicted. Some artists tokenize work that they originally created with paints on physical canvas, focusing on realism and anatomy of the human form. Others have used existing paintings from the Classical era and contemporized them by adding digital collage or manipulating the old artwork, altering the meaning of the original work.
In either case, an interesting visual and conceptual dialogue emerges when a contemporary digital artist speaks directly with this powerful artistic movement of the past.
Hans Hummel is a 3D artist who describes his work as “the intersection between new technologies and traditional design crafts’. We see this in his digital adaptation of Flemish still-life oil paintings through creation of custom made flower bouquets, but also through his reimagined takes of Eastern designs as well. With a strong focus on organic forms, his highly refined sense of lighting and realism is both painterly and visually striking.
Otherworld is a highly accomplished digital artist whose creations are inspired and derived from traditional paintings. In his artwork descriptions, Otherworld directly references what painting inspired the given artwork. The figures that he creates are ghostly, hollow faced beings with colorful and super saturated cloaks. The use of bright color electrifies the work and makes the characters jump off the page visually. He incorporates modern weapons of war which further contemporizes the scenes and feels as if there's a critique of modern society contained within. Otherworld is an interesting example of a modern day artist who is in a direct dialogue with the classical masters of the past.
1dontknows is a Thailand based artist specializing in digital collage with a focus on surreal manipulations of Renaissance paintings. He adds his own personal touch to the work through techniques like introducing dark circular ‘faceless’ faces, adding floral tattoos to the figures, and introducing surreal details between dismembered appendages. What is fascinating about his work is that the color pallet remains very consistent between the new elements that are introduced, and the content of the original painting. The result is a surreal combination of visuals that makes determining what was part of the original painting and what was introduced, unclear in an interesting and successful way.
Guillermo Lorca is a Chilean artist best known for his large scale oil paintings of mythical dream-like scenes. His realist but expressive brushstrokes evoke the talents of the classical oil painting masters. Although not a digitally native artist, Lorca has minted several pieces on the Ethereum chain. It will be interesting to see how he continues to embrace this new technology whilst creating original work using such a traditional medium and aesthetic.
Caravaggio, member of Tungsten Dao, is a Brazilian digital artist who infuses characters and iconography of crypto art with classical environments and architectural interiors. His glitchy looping artworks often incorporate church choir harmonies and similar sounds, further adding to the mood and atmosphere. Caravaggio often introduces elements of crypto art within classical painting frames themselves, resulting in layers of detailed depth within the piece as a whole.
Zhuk is a painter from Azerbaijan who works with large scale canvases. With an extensive background in creating physical pieces, her entry to the NFT space has been particularly successful, with collectors including Cozomo de’ Medici and Vincent van Dough acquiring her work. Zhuk is best known for her elegant and impressionist figurative depictions of the female form, originally painted and then digitised upon tokenization. Although working in contemporary times, her work feels that it could very well be found on the ceiling frescoes of an ancient Italian villa.
YuYu is an artist whose sometimes lighthearted and clever re-adaptations of classical paintings as self portraits make for a creative interpretation of renaissance artwork. By replacing his face and body with the existing figure in the classical artwork, YuYu blends the lighting and atmosphere of the painting with his portrait. His SuperRare genesis ‘The Swing’ , referencing the original painted by Rococo artist Fragonard, is available to collect as a primary sale and is perhaps his most iconic piece created to date.
Oliver Pocsik is a digital artist who manipulates existing classical paintings by adding quirky and unexpected details over top of the work, such as changes to the figures’ faces or clothing, as well as combining and introducing new elements. Whist maintaining a sensitivity to light, color and mood that is cohesive to the original work, he also embellishes in a way that is both jarring and seamless, resulting in interesting and highly detailed art.
As the physical presentation of digital artwork (through screens and projectors for example) continues to improve and develop, it will be interesting to see how these artists exhibit their work in the future, and how it either aligns or deviates from the traditional techniques of exhibiting paintings.
One characteristic of classical era painting is the way that it is framed and exhibited, often in a gold frame, located in a historical building, which further adds to the sense of history, sophistication and grandiosity. With these digital re-adaptations of classical themes, there's a lot of creative potential in the way that work is exhibited IRL.
Pushing the creative limits of how work is shown in the physical world will add more layers to the relationship between modern technology and traditional artistic techniques, thereby influencing the conceptual elements of the artwork itself.
These artists are some of the stand-out figures active in Web3 at the moment. Although different in their approaches to technique, concept and presence in the NFT marketplace, they are all highly accomplished and creative reinterpreters of classical themes.