8 Bojack References only an Art History Major would get

Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright - February 15, 2017

A large source of the show’s comedy is its background jokes, which include parodies of LA landmarks, shots at celebrity culture, and a fair amount of animal puns. But oft overlooked are the works of art throughout the show. The paintings hung around Bojack’s home heavily reflect his inner turmoil and are representative of his character.

1. Opening - Andy Warhol

The first major painting we’re introduced to is actually in the opening credits, the painting of the horseshoes above his bed, which is a clear homage to the works of Andy Warhol. Warhol used repetition to show the ubiquity of images in the media. While this painting could be purely be another animal joke, it’s worth noting that Warhol himself loved and satirized celebrity culture. In fact, Warhol famously coined the phrase “15 minutes of fame”, which sets a backdrop to Bojack’s reality.

2. Season 1 Episodes 2, 3, and 5 – Dance (Henri Matisse)

Another recurring painting in Bojack’s home is Dance by Henri Matisse. The piece depicts nude figures dancing freely together in a circle. Both its content and primitive aesthetic is meant to evoke its themes: liberation and hedonism. Because of this, we often see this painting in the episodes where BoJack’s home is used in excess, such as Sarah Lynn and her lemur friends throwing a wild party, or when Todd pretends that BoJack’s home belongs to David Borianis to make profit from tours.

3. Season 1 Episode 8 - Keith Haring

A series of Keith Haring paintings are hung around Bojack’s apartment during the flashback (which are no longer there in the present) of him finding out his best friend Herb Kazzaz is gay. One of the most prolific artists of the 80s, his work addressed homosexuality, the politics around it, and the rise of AIDS.

4. Season 1 Episodes 8 and 11 – Burt Reynolds

Hung in Bojack’s green room during his Horsin’ Around days, the photo could be seen as BoJack’s obsession with himself. However it up pops up again when Bojack is attempting to write his book. Given that we see it at different points in BoJack’s life, it can also be seen as representing his inescapable past. Burt Reynolds himself has said that he regretted the photo shoot and he believed it hurt his chances at an Academy Award.

5. Season 1 Episode 10 – Portrait of an Artist (David Hockney)

Right behind BoJack’s desk is arguably the most prominent painting of the entire series, David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist, also known as Pool With Two Figures. The story behind the painting shares many commonalities with BoJack’s own story. Hockney moved from Great Britain to California in the 1960s and later moved into a canyon house, much like Bojack. Hockney became known for paintings featuring swimming pools which were a rarity in Britain, but so abundant in Los Angeles that people take them for granted. In a way, Hockney commented on the ubiquity of swimming pools as a facade, rather than a representation, of the luxurious and relaxed Californian life. Bojack mirrors the lonliness of the painting. Also, when Hockney painted this piece in 1972, he had come out of a long term relationship, finding himself depressed and often shut away in his own home. Sound familiar? The symbolism of the superficial, the story of loneliness and detachment, and even the look of the painting itself all illustrate BoJack’s ongoing turmoils.

6. Season 3 Episode 5 – Mosaic

The roman style mosaic hung over Bojack’s bathroom is typical of ones found in the home of aristocrats. Typically used as an expression of wealth and power, the mosaic is shown during one of Bojack’s insecure moments as he waits to find out whether his film was a success. The mosaic expresses his need for images that reinforce his importance in moments of doubt.

7. Season 3 Episode 11 – Ophelia (John Everett Millais)

Like Bojack’s home, the paintings drawn above Sarah Lynn’s bed and in her living room reflect her personality. With arms open like a martyr, the painting hung above Sarah Lynn’s bed depicts the tragic off screen death of Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Like Ophelia, Sarah Lynn is a victim of her own self-destructive and unstable nature. If you've watched this episode, you know why this painting is here.

8. Season 3 Episode 11 (Chagall)

The subjects in the painting are Chagall and his wife Bella before they married, floating in the air and craning his neck to kiss his future bride. According to Sarah Lynn the painting is made of LSD, and the painting is just as trippy as the visions LSD will give them. However, this intimate moment of euphoric love is something Bojack and Sarah Lynn have never found, a thought they need drugs to escape from.

Be sure to check out the follow up "10 More Bojack References only an Art History Major would get"

Lacy Lew Nguyen Wright

Lacy is a senior studying Art History and Urban Education Policy. And like her coffee she's small, strong but comes with a kick. Lacy covers documentaries and gender representation in media.