Meme Art, The Unexpected Where You Least Expect It!

Memes are a strange phenomenon that continue to surprise me both in terms of quantity and range of quality. The ones that interest me the most are the ones that surprise.

Answer: Sponge Bob Squarepants

The above meme uses a oil portrait completed in the 1700s by the French painter Joseph Ducreux. He primarily painted self portraits that are so fancy and so audacious that they make the perfect platform for memes!

There is something very familiar about an oil portrait. Any observer will know that someone did this by hand, most likely the person commissioning the piece was rich, and it took an immense amount of time to produce it.

In the case of the Ducreux memes, the main element that breaks the immersion of the viewer is the bold lettering. This feature is the trademark of most, if not all, memes. That is why I decided to make my meme art in a different way. I still think of them as memes in spirit, but the goal is to make them so understandable, that the bold lettering is not needed. This has the added benefit of opening them up to more interpretations from and engagement with the viewer.


This particular piece is entitled Pokey Crossing the Alps and is based on the 1801 oil painting by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps. My version replaces Napoleon’s Horse with Gumby’s horse, Pokey, because…reasons. There are actual reasons for me as an artist (I probably think way too hard about these), but I will cover those in a future blog post 🙂

My Meme Art Series is one of my favorite series to make and talk about because there are so many messages that can be communicated by combining two elements in each piece. More meme art by yours truly is coming soon!

-Mark Wilhelm

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