Art History’s Greatest Portraits, Starring Mr. Bean

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Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More (1527).
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Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More (1527).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More (1527).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–17).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Leonardo Da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–17).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait (1640).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait (1640).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (1796).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man (circa 1540–45).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Agnolo Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man (circa 1540–45).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Gilbert Stuart, Mrs. Richard Yates (1793/94).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Gilbert Stuart, Mrs. Richard Yates (1793/94).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Diego Velázquez, Portrait of Juan de Pareja (circa 1650).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Diego Velázquez, Portrait of Juan de Pareja (circa 1650).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Bouguereau Breton Brother and Sister (1871).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Bouguereau Breton Brother and Sister (1871).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Frank Cadogan Cowper, Vanity (1907).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1539).
Rodney Pike, Mr. Bean in Hans Holbein the Younger, Portrait of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1539).

Move over John Malkovich, it’s Mr. Bean’s turn in the art-historical spotlight. Much like the American actor, who recently collaborated with photographer Sandro Miller to recreate famous celebrity photographs (see “John Malkovich Impersonates Celebrities for Portrait Show“), British comedian Rowan Atkinson—best known for playing Mr. Bean—has been recast as the star of historic portraits by Bronzino, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others, reports Dangerous Minds.

The seamlessly created mashup paintings are the work of Rodney Pike, whose bread and butter is manipulating celebrity portraits into exaggerated, stereotypical caricatures of themselves, highlighting the unflattering features of everyone from Pope Francis to Bill Murray. Pike has a particular affinity for Mr. Bean, however, and has Photoshopped him into over 30 famous paintings, sometimes also adding in scandalous modern touches like lacy black underwear.

Part of the challenge for Pike lies in the finite number of photos of Mr. Bean, as Atkinson has long since retired the character. Despite limited Bean resources, Pike has subbed in the silent, childish character for such disparate figures as George Washington, Rembrandt van Rijn, and the Mona Lisa.

The celebrity art historical mashup has become a popular genre of late, between Malkovich and Renaissance Beyoncé from the “Carter Family Portraits” series (see “7 Art Historical Tumblr Blogs Reviewed“)—and we never even touched pin-up girl Robert Downey Jr.!

Pin-up girl Robert Downey Jr.

Pin-up girl Robert Downey Jr.

Admittedly, there is something strangely captivating about a celebrity face transposed into a new yet familiar context that makes this sort of work almost irresistible. As Pike writes in his blog post about the Mr. Bean project: “I have no idea where it will end or if it will ever end. As long as people keep reacting to him as they have, I will continue use that unforgettable face to terrorize the art community.”


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