With a new year comes a new season of BoJack Horseman -- which also means new art history references! After an amazing third season left us laughing, crying, and relating way too much with a cartoon horse-person-thing, we couldn't wait to see what this new season would be like.
However, there’s no confirmed date for Season 5 as of yet, so in the meantime, we’ll satisfy your burning desire for BoJack art history by looking at the many references in Season 4.
[Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942]
Creative director of BoJack Horseman Lisa Hanawalt seems to be a big fan of Hopper. On her website she even has a BoJack “fan art” she did based off Hopper’s A Woman in the Sun.
[A Woman in the Sun, Edward Hopper, 1961]
Weirdly enough, this season of BoJack Horseman didn’t start with BoJack Horseman at all. Instead, there was a huge focus on Mr. Peanutbutter and his totally-sensible campaign for governor. Thankfully, for us, we also got to see a lot more art in Mr. Peanutbutter’s house. Turns out he’s got a thing for modern art.
Above his bed is a collage of bones that's basically an Andy Warhol collage made with with Peter Blake’s color palette.
[Sources of Pop Art III, Peter Blake, 2006]
And of course there’s the obvious nod to Shepard Fairey’s HOPE poster for Obama.
[HOPE, Shepard Fairey, 2008]
Mr. Peanutbutter also owns this dog-version of Bathers with Turtle by Henri Matisse in his bathroom. By dog-version, the bathers are actually dogs and the turtle is replaced with a ball (naturally).
The real Bathers with Turtle was stolen by Nazis and deemed “degenerate” before being auctioned off to Joseph Pulitzer, who purchased the painting with the hopes it would prevent the Nazis from destroying it. Not sure how it got in the paws of Mr. Peanutbutter, but we can only hope it was by humanitarian means.
[Bathers With Turtle, Henri Matisse, 1907-8]
As if he didn’t already have enough dog paintings, Mr. Peanutbutter also has this great artwork of a pink dog with a fantastic butt. We’re not sure what exactly this references, but how can we not appreciate an artistically well-done butt?
[Venus de Milo, Alexandros of Antioch, 100-130 BC]
And if those abs aren’t doing it for ya, then these abs on a fish-version of David definitely will. (We’re glad the designers decided to leave out the most notable David feature here.)
[David, Michelangelo, 1504]
Apparently in Bojack’s world, John Singer Sargent was a mouse. All of the paintings featured in the Stilton household are mouse-versions of Sargent’s paintings. Must be nice to have all your family portraits done by the master of portraiture! Here’s a list of all the corresponding Sargent references, from left to right:
Sir Edmund Gosse, 1886
Mrs Henry White, 1888
Mrs. John Jay Chapman, 1893
Carolus Duran, 1879
There’s even more mouse-related artwork as seen in this Art Nouveau inspired poster that mimics the look of Lionello Cappiello's advertisements. (But it could also just be a grown-up, minimalist version of the mice in Kevin Henkes’ classic children stories. Anybody else remember those?)
[Pates Baroni, Leonello Cappiello, 1921]
Behind this gynecologist rhinoceros (trying saying that five times fast!) is a replica of Jimson Weed/White Flower No.1 by Georgia O'Keeffe.
[Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1936]
Upon its initial reveal, Jimson Weed sold for $44.4 million and became the world’s high-selling painting by a female artist. O’Keeffe’s floral paintings were notable for symbolizing female empowerment and sexuality so it makes sense to place it in a gynecologist’s office.
Another well-placed, albeit ironic, art reference is this super-detailed painting of a disastrous mine incident on the wall of a jewelry store. Nothing like being reminded of deathly capitalistic labor during a shopping spree, right?
[Mine Rescue, Fletcher Martin, 1939]
(Shoutout to Daniel for finding this one. Threw us for a hard loop, BoJack creators, but you can’t fool us!)
Moving on! (oh, yes, there’s more)
The painting in this all-too-relatable scene reminds us of a greatly simplified version of Henri Rosseau’s naive landscape paintings, such as The Dream or Exotic Landscape with Lion and Lioness in Africa (below).
[Exotic Landscape with Lion and Lioness in Africa, Henri Rosseau, 1903-1910]
It’s no secret that BoJack's an art collector, but it’s revealed in this season that he may have gotten his appreciation for art (along with generational trauma) from his mother Beatrice Horseman. Looks like she was the one who gave BoJack the Blue Horse painting we’ve seen in his house since Season 1.
[Blue Horse I, Franz Marc, 1911]
In the upper right-hand corner of that earlier screenshot is a very blurry image of a unicorn in his underwear standing in a circular fence. Surely this small detail couldn’t be a reference to anything, could it?
OH, BUT IT IS! Props to the creative designers on the show for this teeny-tiny reference to The Unicorn in Captivity, the last of a tapestry series that art historians know very little about.
[The Unicorn in Captivity, Unknown, 1495-1505]
The unicorn should be able to jump over the small fence, but at closer look, it is kept chained to the pomegranate tree. Similarly, BoJack is given plenty of opportunity to move forward with his life and become the person (horse?) he wants to be, but something (*cough* self-destructive behaviors stemming from his traumatic past *cough*) keeps holding him back.
Since we’re on the topic of trauma, now’s a good time to talk about “Time’s Arrow,” the heartbreaking penultimate episode of Season 4 which basically left us feeling like this:
The episode focuses on BoJack’s mother’s past as seen through the lens of her dementia, revealing not only her own trauma that she’s passed on to BoJack, but also really important information regarding teenager Hollyhock who believes BoJack is her father.
When Beatrice meets her to-be husband Butterscotch Horseman at her debutante ball, you can spot Degas’ Dancers in a Studio on the wall behind her.
In accordance with Beatrice’s dementia that blocks out people’s faces in her memory, the ballerina’s faces are also covered up.
[Dancers in a Studio, Edgar Degas, 1884]
During a later argument between the now-married Beatrice and Butterscotch, we can see a horse-rendition of Margaret Keane’s Happy Mask, Unhappy Boy. Margaret’s husband Walter took the credit for her kitschy and immensely popular artwork in the 60’s, and their tumultuous relationship isn’t unlike the one between Beatrice and Butterscotch.
[Happy Mask, Unhappy Boy, Margaret Keane, 1963]
WARNING: KINDA MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD (but let’s be real, you should have watched this already)
The painting here, which looks kinda like the lovechild of Picasso and Lichtenstein posing for the cover of a romantic novel, is part of Beatrice’s last memory of her father Joseph. She carried the painting with her at his funeral. When she brings the painting to BoJack, the painting blurs in her memory, signifying the onset of her dementia as she momentarily confuses her son for her husband.
While we couldn’t quite figure out what exactly this painting referenced, there’s definitely a similarity between this painting and a Polaroid that Hollyhock shows BoJack in the season’s final episode. You can really see the family resemblance...
Well, that’s all the references we could find for now. We can’t wait to see what art references Season 5 will bring us. Apparently we’ll get to meet Princess Carolyn’s family; who knows what kind of art they’ve got in their house! We imagine cat-related.
As you’re waiting, don’t forget to check out our other blog posts on art history cameos in previous seasons of BoJack Horseman!