Bob Dylan is rightfully known as one of the greatest songwriters of all time (if not the greatest) . Dylan also has a reputation for protecting his copyrighted work and enforcing his property rights against those who have built on his works. Additionally, it is well known that some of his best known works are very heavily influenced by others’ works such as Dylan’s “Song to Woody,” which uses a Woody Guthrie melody. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that Bob Dylan is once again being very heavily influenced by others’ works in his most recent artistic endevour, if not outright copying others. Dylan has his first ever painting exhibition currently showing at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. Dylan describes the exhibit as “a visual reflection on [my] travels in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea, people, street scenes, architecture, and landscapes.” People have started noticing, however, that Dylan is once again expounding on someone else’s art as some of the paintings are clearly copied from other people’s photographs, some of which are still copyright protected.
Take these comparisons from the NY Times:
The image on the left is from Dylan’s exhibit (photograph taken by the NY Times’ Marcus Yam). The photo on the right is by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Once again, the image on the left is from Dylan’s exhibit (photograph again taken by Yam) and the photograph on the right is by Leon Busy.
Dylan’s paintings were clearly based on these pictures. Dylan claims that the paintings were all based on scenes he had seen in his travels. Yet, on the other hand he claims that he procured all releases that he needed (a claim which is in dispute). Maybe he saw those photographs during his travels. But even if he did, besides the fact that he is misleading everyone, it looks as though he his getting his inspiration, once again, from other works of art and expanding upon them.
Whether Dylan did anything wrong by making paintings in this way is a separate issue (Just ask Shepard Fairey about his legal troubles in regards to the famous “Hope” Obama picture). The real issue is that people should remember it is alright to be inspired by and build off another artists work and should be encouraged to do so. For that practice of building on other art; whether it is music, painting, or photography; is the only reason we have the art that we have today.