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Claude Monet, Gustav Klimt and five other artists who influenced Twin Peaks by David Lynch

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With Agent Cooper, Laura Palmer and other inhabitants of the world’s most famous fictional city of America returning to screens, we admit it has become this year`s most exciting television event. The fans deconstruct each new series discovering both obvious and hidden puzzles that have been densely sown by a mischief Lynch throughout the movie. Like 25 years ago, the art lovers are provided with plenty of food for thought.

From paintings to moving pictures

Both the old and the new series of Twin Peaks abound in allusions to the works of the artists of different eras and movements. If we only take the 8th episod of the last season — a fateful, symbolic and the one that became classics right after its premiere airing — we can easily trace at least a dozen of them.
Menno Cuistra, the creator of the Netherlandish VoorDeFilm resource, dedicated a short video essay to the influence of Lynch`s favorite artists on his filmmaking right after the appearance of the 8th series.
Such domination of the picturesque references in the director’s works is a non-random and even natural phenomenon. David Lynch began to look for his place in art from drawing. He studied at Art school in Boston, then he spent a couple of weeks in Austria in the hope of getting into the pupils of the expressionist Oscar Kokoschka. Having failed, the future director continues his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He was engaged in painting, sculpture and photography there.
David Lynch — Boy Lights Fire, 2010
In his interviews, Lynch likes to tell a story how he was inspired by the idea that he should deal with the moving, and not static pictures. One day he was studying the canvas, which had recently been covered with a black paint layer with green leaves over it, when suddenly a gust of wind passed through the painted foliage enlivening the image.
David Lynch. Bob Finds Himself in a World
This incident inspired the young artist to experiment with animation first, then with film. And a grant from the American Institute of Cinematography led him to Los Angeles, where Lynch would settle forever. But even becoming one of the most famous directors of his time, he would not abandon painting. Today he has more than 500 artworks: paintings, photographs, sculptures, lithographs.

In 2016, the documentary "David Lynch: Life in Art" was released. On one of the shots, above the desk of master, a detail of Hieronymus Bosch`s "The Garden of Earthly Delights" reproduction can be seen. We`ll get back to his Surrealist fellow a bit later.

You'll recognize her from a thousand

Who killed Laura Palmer? This request would have reached the tops of the world search engines if the TV series went on screen some decades later. Initially, Lynch had not plan to give an answer to it, but under pressure from the public and the management of the television channel he had to do this. As for us, we will answer the question where he took inspiration for creating one of the most recognizable female images in the serial space.

Laura had suspiciously much in common with Claude Monet’s first wife, Camilla Donsier. Not reaching adulthood, they were both in relationships with men much older than they (for this reason, the artist even concealed his relations with a future wife from his relatives). Camille also died in a terrible agony, being still very young: at the age of 32, presumably from cancer.

Edouard Manet. The Monet family in their garden at Argenteuil

She also posed, but not as a model for the magazines for adults She was one of the most desirable models among French impressionists. Except her husband, who kept on painting her till the deathbed, she was a model for both Manet and Renoir.

In Camille’s eyes was the same defenseless, a desperate and disarming expression of a girl in trouble that kept us in front of the screens during the full-length film "Fire Walk with Me", the prequel of the serial, telling about the last days of Laura Palmer’s life.
Monet was so fascinated by the face of dead Camilla, that he could not help but capture it, and it was done in the best traditions of Impressionism. "I found myself staring at the tragic countenance,' he wrote to his friend later, 'automatically trying to identify the sequence, the proportions of light and shade in the colors that death had imposed on her immobile face. Shades of blue, yellow, gray, and I don’t know what. That’s what I had become… But even before the thought occurred to record the face that meant so much to me, my first involuntary reflex was so tremble at the shock of the colors. In spite of myself, my reflexes drew me into the unconscious operation that is but the daily order of my life".
The posthumous image of Laura was most probably inspired by the painting of Monet. Reconstructed by Lynch in similar Impressionist tones, it produces the same magnetizing effect. It even appeared on the cover of one of the issues of the Esquire magazine: a photograph of a dead body wrapped in polyethylene was published with the signature "Woman of the Year".
It seems that the actress for the role of Laura-Camilla was chosen by Lynch himself, an it was obiously done under the impression of Magritte's painting. It appears that the creators of the series borrowed even the heroine’s hair from the "Ignorant Fairy". The red curtains, one of the main visual symbols of "Twin Peaks", are also in the painting.
René Magritte. Ignorant fairy
Ignorant fairy
1950, 50×65 cm
René Magritte. Collective invention
Another metaphoric rhyme related to Laura Palmer can be found in Magritte`s "Collective Invention". Her lifeless body was washed up on the shore like a Magritte’s half-woman half-fish. The death of a girl was, to some extent, the result of collective actions of relatives and friends who ignored her rapid fall into a hole, although it happened almost under everyone’s nose.

People and animals

Being a student of the art academy in the past, Lynch is certainly well acquainted with the history of art and the works of the painters of different eras. No wonder that the images from this or that painting are often embodied in his films. It remains only to guess whether he introduces them there intentionally, or they emerge from the depths of the subconscious, regardless of the director’s intention.
Gustav Klimt. Portrait of a Lady
1916, 60×55 cm
Actress Sherilyn Fenn who played Audrey Horne, a spoiled and bored daughter of the richest resident of Twin Peaks, even has a birthmark (the real one) similar to the one of the heroine of Gustav Klimt `s portrait.
As for the refined, sometimes reminiscent of the puppet Ken (Barbie's friend), Agent Cooper as if stepped off another Magritte’s painting. So did a white horse from the vision of Laura Palmer’s mother. It is just as relevant in the home interior as the horse against the background of the red curtains, seemingly, the common fetishe of Magritte and Lynch.
René Magritte. Pure reason
  • René Magritte. Pure Reason, 1948
  • The fans of the series have not yet agreed on whether to consider a white horse a simple hallucination or an important symbol.
Speaking of animals in the series, it’s hard to ignore the owls. Even a person who did not see a single series of Twin Peaks knows that owls are not what they seem: Lynch managed to launch this meme long before the era of Internet memes. By the way, in this case we turn to Magritte again. It is he who owns the introduction of the method of negating the obvious which has become so popular that the artist has replicated it in the most unscrupulous way again and again.
Though, David Lynch calls the owls their own names, those which are implied but hidden in the iconography of Lynch`s universe.
Owls are invariable residents of the surreal phantasmagorias of Bosch. Although it is difficult to find direct references to the Dutch painter in Twin Peaks, the director could compete with him in the ability to create images that could turn one`s brain inside out. "It's like Norman Rockwell meets Hieronymus Bosch," one of sound mixers of the"Blue Velvet" film remarked.

Theory of relativity by Lynch

Space and time are not the categories the director thinks within. More precisely, they are transformed in such a bizarre way that the flow of life in "Twin Peaks" rather obeys the laws of dreams. The forest edge can be both an entrance to the Black or White Lodges, as luck would have it. And from the Lodge you can get into our reality, for example, through a power outlet.

Lynch represents the sensation of the unsteady boundaries of reality and the distorted time, as if in a trick mirror, with the help of his bottomless source of inspiration — the creativity of his favorite artist, Francis Bacon.
Francis Bacon. The seated figure
1961, 165.1×142.2 cm
The interior of the Black Lodge, the most mysterious and hallucinating place of action in the film, is a direct and obvious homage to the director’s idol. In general, many of Bacon’s paintings show the inhabitants of Twin Peaks, even if faces are passed through a brand-name distortion which makes them unrecognizable.
Francis Bacon. ThreeStudies of Isabel Rawsthorne
Francis Bacon. A Portrait Of Peter Beard
Francis Bacon. Man in blue
1966, 38.1×27.9 cm
Francis Bacon. Studyfor a portrait 
1949, 149.2×130.5 cm
Another of Lynch’s favorites is Max Ernst. The director not only borrowed the collage technique from the artist to create his own paintings, but also the painter`s surreal motives for cinema.


Max Ernst. Embalmed forest

The dark and otherworldly spirit of Ernst’s work "The Forest and the Black Sun" is consonant with the dismal metaphor of the forest collapsing the town of Twin Peaks in its sinister embrace. Whenever the haze-wrapped trees appear in the frame, this does not bode well.

In one of the hew season series, Lynch builds an entertaining paraphrase of one of Ernst’s works (with the participation of former psychiatrist of Laura Palmer, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, that began to host his own webcast under the name "Dr. Amp"), as complex as the original.

Multilevelled layers of Hopper

Edward Hopper. Gas
  • Edward Hopper. Gas, 1940
  • Big Ed's Gas Farm.
The streets of Twin Peaks seem to have come down from the paintings of the urbanist painter Edward Hopper: gas stations, pharmacies, apartment buildings — it feels like the film scenery was constructed on the American artist’s sketches.
Edward Hopper. Pharmacy
  • Edward Hopper. Pharmacy, 1927
  • Dr. Amp's Gold Shovel.
What unites the streets of Twin Peaks and Hopper’s paintings is the special atmosphere, that makas it hard to forget both of them. Ringing emptiness and post-card beauty serve as the facade for the most gloomy manifestations of human nature hidden behind it. You can feel cozy and attractive melancholy of a one-floor America, where every lawn perfectly trimmed or a pink girl’s diary hide secrets. So you`d better not get in not to become another haunt of the evil spirit for the next 25 years.
Edward Hopper. Davis House
  • Edward Hopper. Davis House, 1926
  • The house of the Palmer family, where only mother Sarah survived.
If in the previous century`s "Twin Peaks" Lynch seemed to have restrained his impulses, today he starts up in all serious re-imagining the paintingf of his beloved artist frame by frame.
Edward Hopper. Office at night
1940, 56.4×63.8 cm
There is a charming story told to David Lynch by Paul McCartney. McCartney was supposed to perform for the Queen of England, but the Queen left before Sir Paul took the stage so she could go and watch Twin Peaks.
Edward Hopper. Summer evening
  • Edward Hopper. Summer Evening, 1947
  • The first bearer of the evil spirit, born of a nuclear explosion.
Well, to this day the director manages to mix painfully attracting and visually perfect blend of the best examples of fine art, music and literature of the last several centuries. Particularly devoted fans saw a hidden meaning in the scene with the aged Audrey Horne: a rather convincing combination of allusions to Sartre’s play "No exit", "Dante's "Divine Comedy" and Joyce’s "Ulysses" indicates that her audacious antics in the past have sent her to a personal hell on the Earth. This is not an empty speculation, as the fact that one of the creators of the series and co-author of the script Mark Frost honored one of the entries of the author of this theory with a like on Twitter. So yeah, Lynch really did have everyone on his mind.

Edward Hopper. Room in New York
  • Edward Hopper. Room in New York, 1932
  • Audrey can neither leave the room nor make a mistake.
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Author: Natalia Azarenko
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 Comments  6
Mila Zhukova
, August 15, 2017 08:01 AM 3
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amazing! thanks to the author for a chic material
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Ada Rufimskaya
Ada Rufimskaya
, August 15, 2017 11:38 AM 2
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thank you большое1 Read with great interest. It is a pity that when you are viewing 25 years ago did not know about the Magritte, or about the Hopper - it would be even more interesting.Perhaps we need to rethink!
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Ela Mildvorf
, August 15, 2017 09:31 PM 1
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Not heard of this series. Now I will definitely watch. Thanks to the author of this interesting post!
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Natalya Kandaurova
, August 15, 2017 09:37 PM 2
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Wow, how you managed not to hear?! It's kind of cool:)
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Evgeniya Khapalova
, August 16, 2017 08:16 PM 1
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Thank you for the interesting information
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Polina Borzova
, April 19 07:37 AM 1
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Great stuff!
This text was originally published in Russian and automatically translated to English.
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