Classic Paintings Photoshopped To Reflect Today’s Impossible Beauty Standards

Classic Paintings Photoshopped To Reflect Today’s Impossible Beauty Standards
Arts & Culture

Before-and-after GIFs compare beauty ideals from the past several hundred years.

Hilary Weaver
  • 23 may 2014

Faced with images that present a size 0 or 2 as the universal standard to attain, anyone who reads a magazine or watches TV shows tend to assume that thinner is necessarily better. However, the desire for a softer and fuller body was common before the 20th century, and even was a sign of wealth and success. Similarly, paintings from hundreds of years ago prove that expectations for women’s bodies once involved more contours.

Inspired by the beauty expectations of centuries past, Lauren Wade has gone Vogue with Renaissance paintings. The Senior Photo Editor at TakePart, Wade has reimagined how artists such as Botticelli or Raphael would have perceived of their models for their paintings, had today’s mainstream body ideals existed during Renaissance and Impressionist times.

The photo editor, whose work has been featured on The Style Network, NBC and Eye Candy, understands that what the fashion industry considers to be the body norm is not a reflection of the average woman’s body. She harkened back to Renaissance and Impressionist masterpieces to prove that natural curves are beautiful, too.


Wade used the liquify tool in Photoshop to transform famous paintings – such as The Three Graces and Birth of Venus – into imagery that would appear in a 21st century glossy magazine. The before-and-after GIFs stress that women who were considered to be the “ideal” body type hundreds of years ago wouldn’t fit into the pant size most commonly worn on the catwalk today.

The bodies featured in the paintings contract and expand as the cursor hovers over them – stomach paunches disappear, muscles become remarkably defined and hipbones are prominent. This effect emphasizes the drastic difference between body ideals of the past while rendering today’s beauty and media practices unrealistic.


In a March 2013 story, PSFK wrote about Dove’s campaign to stop harmful Photoshop actions. By disguising their anti-photoshop message as a downloadable Photoshop action, Dove caught many photo editors in the act of slimming models’ bodies. When the editors clicked on the link, they saw a message from Dove, warning them of their harmful actions.

Later in 2013, women’s magazine Verily committed to not photoshopping its models. The bimonthly magazine promised to provide an “honest message” to consumers, featuring everyday working women in their photo shoots. Bothered by the same media standards as Wade, both the beauty company and magazine are taking a stand against the problematic representation of the “perfect body” that pervades our media today.

Sources: Designboom, Take Part


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