The Masters of Animating Classic Paintings

The Masters of Animating Classic Paintings

The works of classic painters are some of the most revered artifacts from antiquity. The Baroque style in particular exudes portrayals of dramatic light, color, and fantastic events. But for centuries, they have been relegated to two dimensions.

The Renaissance masters developed better techniques to add more realism to paintings, notably Rembrandt, but essentially, they are still relegated to still life on a two-dimensional plane.

Have you ever wanted to step foot inside one of these classics? Does your imagination limit your vision into seeing these paintings in 2D? It does for me. I have always wondered what some of these fanciful created realms would look like if I could step inside them and see the drama played out.

Thankfully, there are a couple of artists who have done just that. Agustin Vidal Saavedra and Spencer Blanchard have been quietly animating classic paintings since 2019. Works from Caravaggio, Botticelli, Jaques-Louis David, Raphael, and more have been painstakingly deconstructed in Photoshop and animated in After Effects. And what a better medium to animate than these dramatic paintings. 

Saavedra is a visual artist based in Dublin, Ireland, and started to gain traction online with his animation of “The Last Day of Pompeii” by the Russian Romanticist painter Karl Bryullov.

Blanchard, who credits his discovery and subsequent interest in animating these classics to Saavedra, started shortly thereafter with "The Swing," Jean-Honoré Fragonard. But his most impressive work to date has to be animating “Washington Crossing Delaware," by Emanuel Leutze.

It has to be said that these animations are incredibly detailed and time-consuming, as the short videos would suggest. As someone who has tried and failed on multiple occasions to keep the focus on even the simplest tasks in After Effects, I think I can speak to the level of difficulty on display. 

In any case, if you like the feeling of inadequacy that comes from watching someone with vastly superior skills, then please continue to watch these two artists put on a masterclass in both Photoshop and After Effects. You can find more of Agustin Vidal Saavedra’s work here. And, of course, please check out Spencer Blanchard’s work here.

Scott Donschikowski's picture

Scott Donschikowski is a professional photographer and educator with over 11 years of experience leading a variety of photo workshops around the world. He specializes mainly in landscape, wildlife, and astrophotography. He is also active on YouTube where he makes tutorials sharing his photographic knowledge.

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'vastly superior skills' - pardon me, but I find these animated images of paintings rather kitschy, tasteless and far from some proof of 'superior skills (let alone the horrible muzak!:))
it's skills of photoshop and 3d-render proggies, but not of the photographer/artist. the REAL artist ewas the painter of the original, not the photographer animating via PS....

Thanks for your opinion! Definitely cant please everyone with your creations but that's what makes art, well, art. Also the Photoshop part is just the tip of the iceberg with these, take another look and watch them without sound, maybe try opening a trial version of After Effects and try to imagine the difficulty of seamlessly integrating and animating all the various elements. Its an insane amount of work and know-how that shows mastery of both Photoshop and After Effects.

Take someone else's work, mess with it, call it "incredible creativity?" Not in my book.