Photo Essays

Liberating the Anonymous Figures in Old Master Paintings

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In the past year, obscure figures from master paintings in museums around the world have been moonlighting as street art, thanks to a project called Outings.

It began last August, after the French artist Julien de Casabianca visited the Louvre and noticed a bored-looking girl in one painting’s corner. “I had a ‘Prince Charming’ impulse,” he recently told Slate. “I wanted to free her from the castle to give her a second life.”

Casabianca snapped a phone pic of the young woman, printed out her image, and wallpapered it on a building in Paris, where she now looks out on passersby. After that first one, friends and acquaintances began following suit, and their actions soon turned into what Casabianca calls a “world participative project.”

People have since liberated unknown figures in paintings at their local museums in 18 cities far and wide, including Barcelona, Rome, Warsaw, Belo Horizonte, London, Chicago, and New Orleans. Anyone who wants to participate can visit Casabianca’s website, which provides careful instructions on how to do so (in some cases, he even provides small grants, with the help of partners, for those who can’t afford the cost of printing).

In an email to Hyperallergic, Casabianca explained that he’s now touring 12 cities in the United States bringing the anonymous people from paintings to the anonymous people on the streets. He said he tries to put the figures up in poor neighborhoods “where people need beauty.”

“Our mission is not to repair the world, but we can help,” he said. “And we always have great moments putting these works up, interacting with inhabitants and seeing how they love these great paintings.”

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