Michael Jackson: The Scream Paintings

Today the Michael Jackson Estate tweeted, asking what short film was inspired by Maxfield Parish's painting, Daybreak.  If anyone does not know, the short film was You Are Not Alone, from the History album.  But this is not the only short film that references paintings.  Michael's Scream short film references several paintings in the Gallery section of the film.

Note: It is important to remember that Michael was criticized heavily for some of his short films, i.e. Black or White, the History teaser and more.  If reviewers criticized Michael for his short films, then he must be credited for the films as well.  It is in this sense that we see Michael Jackson as auteur.  An auteur is defined as "a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie."  There is no doubt that Michael did indeed have full artistic control of his music and corresponding short films, so we do define him as auteur. 

As Michael clicks the remote, the first image that appears is Andy Warhol's self portrait from 1986.  Warhol painted Michael as well, and the painting sold for over a million dollars after Michael's death.  It is the next two paintings however, that are of more interest.

1.  Jackson Pollock's Number 32

Jackson Pollock was an abstract expressionist painter.  His early paintings used a "drip" technique, where Pollock dripped and threw paint onto huge canvasses.  In 1949, LIFE  Magazine's headline wrote about Pollock and its headline read, Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?  Pollock spent his entire life trying to prove it was true.  Called "Jack the Dripper", many criticized his work as mere drips and flicks on canvas.  Yet, this article  states that Pollock's drip method was "as complex and exquisitely controlled as it seemed crude and haphazard."  We believe that Michael knew all too well how the public could misunderstand artistic methods, and therefore added Pollock's Number 32 (interestingly in black and white) in his short film. (Note:  Pollock's abstract paintings have sold for $100 million as of 2014).  
2.  Rene Magritte - Son of Man
This painting is a self portrait.  As you can see, there is an apple in front of his face (and possibly a reference to "Apple Head"), but there's more to the painting than this.  Surrealism is equated with science fiction and fantasy, because it is disconnected from the real world.  However, the importance is how we interpret them.  This article states that Magritte's art is important because "(h)is images were stories first, paintings second, but the stories were not narratives in the Victorian manner, or slices of life or tableaux of history. They were snapshots of the impossible, rendered in the dullest and most literal way: vignettes of language and reality locked in mutual cancellation. As a master of puzzle painting, Magritte had no equal and, although his influence on the formation of images (and on how people decode them) has been wide, he has had no real successors..."  With the exception of "dull" we believe that Michael may have felt the same way about Magritte that he did about Pollock, in that there is always a misunderstanding of profound, significant art. 
What do you think?  Did Michael compare himself to these two painters?  Please leave your comments.



  1. Michael Jackson was a curious man and delved deep into research when he wanted to understand a topic. Also, there isn’t much doubt that he was an empath and said he felt the pain of others. Perhaps he related to the artists themselves.- Could Michael have included Warhol’s painting because both he and Warhol suffered from health issues that caused loss of skin pigment? Also they were innovators, bold and expressive artists, albeit in different realms. Warhol art was considered the Pop Art Icon, Michael the King of Pop.

    Perhaps Michael related to Jason Pollock who by most accounts, was a recluse & anti-social. While not technically a recluse, Michael stated he felt socially inept in one on one situations. Michael spent most of his time, when not on tour, sequestered at Neverland. He created Neverland as he felt he had no real freedom outside his haven.

    Regarding Rene Magritte “He was a quiet, contemplative man, prone to anonymity and camouflage” {artic.edu entitled Rene Magritte - }

    Same could be said of how Michael Jackson wished he could be “anonymous” - He often said he liked to disguise himself and sit on a bench to observe people. There is also a common thread within their approach to their art.

    Magritte said of his own painting-

    “At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It's something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.”

    Isn’t this relatable to Michael’s art too?

    Much of Michael’s songs incorporate themes of deception- conniving friends, deceitful men, cheaters, unfaithful women etc- People trying to be what they aren’t but revealing who they are in the end.

    "Take off the mask, so I can see your face"

    If only Michael were here to discuss the reasons why he utilized certain things in his videos. It was always so frustrating to sit and hear interviewers asking him some idiotic question when they had this genius sitting across from them.

  2. I noted from his dancing elements of Charlie Chaplin and his style from Magritte he must of loved these images and story telling !!❤


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