Ad Hoc

Welcome to Ad Hoc, our popular feature on the art of advertising. We are proud to welcome Dr. Richard Zakia as the author of this page each month. Richard D. Zakia is Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology and author/coauthor of several books on photography, perception, semiotics and advertising. (Photo by Vicki H. Wilson).

The M&M ad advertising their dark chocolate makes use of a dark prison painting by which of these three artists?

A) Vincent van Gogh

B) Edvard Munch

C) Gustave Dore

Answer: The painting is by Vincent van Gogh painted in 1890 and titled “The Prison Exercise Yard.” His painting was influenced by Gustave Dore’s painting, which bears the same name. The colors of the painting in the ad are not the same as van Gogh’s painting. Perhaps the art director wanted more of a bluish color to complement the blue candy bar wrapper. Further, the golden yellow frame gives the bluish color additional accent. Why such a dismal painting was chosen and altered instead of using the joyful blue “Irises” painting by van Gogh is puzzling. Perhaps it was the cost for reproduction rights since “Irises” is a more important painting selling for hundreds of million dollars.

You might also be interested in this photo by Felix Nadar taken in 1855 - 1859 of Gustave Dore himself.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2010

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