In March of 2018, only months after Call Me By Your Name premiered in cinemas, an Instagram account by the name of @cmbynmonet — Call Me By Monet — went viral. The account takes stills from the film, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, and Photoshops them on top of classic paintings by French painter Claude Monet. It now has over 50,000 followers.
Four months later, another artistic Instagram account garnered acclaim, and this time it wasn’t just tied to the then-up-and-coming actor on everyone’s minds — it was entirely dedicated to him. The brainchild of a 23-year-old student named Anna, the account @chalametinart showcased images of Chalamet superimposed over classic artworks, most notably, Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit. “My main inspiration for creating the account came from Call Me By Your Name,” Anna told Vice. “Each shot, thanks to the use of a single lens, seems like a painting in itself.”
With now two accounts dedicated to Chalamet as a work of art, it begs the question: Do we have Chalamet to thank for bringing classic art into the digital age? What about his face makes young women so inclined to create fine art around it? Anna’s response: “His looks seem to fit in any painting from any time perfectly, and his outstanding acting, multilingualism, and musical skills make him a true Renaissance man.”
But when Anna stopped posting “badly photoshopped Timmy” art edits for her nearly 100k followers in January 2019, another passionate fan was quick to take her place.
“@Chalametinart was absolutely my main inspiration,” says Zara, the creator of @zarascreatives, an account meant to follow in her “mentor” Anna’s footsteps, that launched in March. “I tried to contact Anna a few times after she stopped posting, but sadly, we haven't spoken. Over a year since she first blessed us with an art edit, I felt like I had to give it a go myself.” And like her predecessors, it didn’t take long for Zara to see art and Timothée fans alike flock to her page.
According to Zara, the reason that Chalamet works so well for classic art edits is because he “doesn't fit into the perfectly sculpted mould of male beauty standards.” She adds, “He's beautifully androgynous and ok with being feminine.” Androgyny plays a significant role in the images she creates because, historically, masculinity and femininity were rendered more fluidly in art, a reflection of the time when these works of art were first created. In fact, according to John Varriano’s book Caravaggio: The Art of Realism, the Italian painter had two specific androgynous characters that were among his favourite and most frequented subjects. “One of my favourite pieces is of Timothée and Saoirse Ronan in a portrait that was originally of two women,” Zara says.
But while it’s Chalamet’s face you see when you log onto her page, he’s not the only reason for its existence. “These edits are my way of breathing life into old artworks,” Zara says. “It exposes them to a new generation, one that maybe hadn't been interested in art before.”
In the nearly two years since @cmbynmonet first appeared on Instagram, and with the quarantine keeping people away from cultural centres like museums and galleries, it’s no wonder that younger generations are going online to feed their newfound interest in classical art.
And not all reimagined classical art is dedicated to Chalamet’s finely chiseled features. The latest buzzy art account is @sidedimes created by Mikayla Lapierre, an art director at McCann New York. On the feed, you’ll find 18th- and 19th-century artworks by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, and more, but with a 21st-century touch. Think: women splayed out on the subway station benches in silk gowns and pearls or, for Lapierre’s latest collection, classic paintings of women by Vittorio Reggianini, each superimposed with surgical face masks.