Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has been accused of plagiarism for a series of paintings in his New York exhibit, suspected to have been copied from well-known photographs rather than inspired from his travels.
According to Dylan, the painted works entitled Bob Dylan: The Asia Series showcased in New York's Gagosian Gallery reflect scenes he witnessed while travelling Asia. The Gagosian calls the exhibit a visual reflection on [Dylan's] travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea, people, street scenes, architecture, and landscapes.
However, critics say more than half of the 18 canvases on display bear a more than just a resemblance to images photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Léon Busy and Dmitri Kessel, according to The New York Times.
Posts on Bob Dylan's fan Web site Expecting Rain point out that Dylan's paintings are direct copies of works photographed more than 130 years ago. One painting featuring two men in the Dowager Empress Tzu His almost exactly resembles a photograph taken by Carier-Bresson in 1948. Another painting, Dylan's Opium of a Vietnamese girl lying on the floor, looks much like a Léon Busy photograph from 1915. The New York Times also reported that Michael Gray, blogger for Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, pointed out that Dyaln's painting of men playing a board game on a sidewalk is nearly identical to Kessel's photo for LIFE magazine.
WNYC reported that additionally, six of Dylan's paintings are copies of photos that appear on Okinawa Soba's Flickr account, as he has uploaded famous old photographs from Japan and China.
Bob Dylan has not commented on the alleged plagiarism but insists he got inspiration for the gallery paintings from real life.
I paint mostly from real life. It has to start with that, Dylan told the Gagosian Gallery. Real people, real street scenes, behind the curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work. What I'm trying to bring out in complex scenes, landscapes, or personality clashes, I do it in a lot of different ways. I have the cause and effect in mind from the beginning to the end. But it has to start with something tangible.
A representative for the Gagosian Gallery told The New York Times that Dylan solely based the imagines portrayed in his paintings from experiences while travelling, alluding to the fact that these inspirations may have come from paintings.
While the composition of some of Bob Dylan's paintings is based on a variety of sources, including archival, historic images, the paintings' vibrancy and freshness come from the colors and textures found in everyday scenes he observed during his travels, the representative said.
According to the Daily Mail, Dylan possibly obtained permission to use images protected by copyright, but there are no details as to which ones or how he obtained that permission.
Dylan, who often hung around pop artist Andy Warhol's infamous Factory in the 1960's, could have received his vision to recreate famous works there, as Warhol often used the silk screening process to reproduce famous images and works, like the Campbell's soup can or the poppy flowers.
This is not the first time Bob Dylan has been suspected of plagiarism. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dylan's 1963 song Blowin' in the Wind was rumored to been copied from a New Jersey high school student, in addition to his 2006 Modern Times album which had a strong resemblance to poems by Henry Timrod.