The Smiling Man

Made by MinSun Park

Digital homage to reinterpret and recreate "The Son of Man"

Created: September 7th, 2016


The Son of Man

Artist: René Magritte

Year: 1964

Type: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 116 cm × 89 cm (45.67 in × 35 in)


< Proposal >

When I first saw “The Son of Man” when I was young, my first impression was that the painting was scary. I guess I felt that way then because the man in the painting was “hiding” something; he is hiding his face behind the green apple, and his left arm is slightly hidden behind his overcoat. I still feel the same way about it. I read through what the artist had to say about his painting, and as a matter of fact, he intended the secrecy implied in the work.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. What is real and what is not? Does he mean it by what he says? It takes a lot of energy for me to figure out if other people are smiling at me for real or if they’re just faking it. So I just settled on one thing: I don’t believe anyone anymore. This lets me not use up ton of energy into figuring out if someone is honest to me or not.

So what I’d like to do is reform this painting in some way, like drawing facial expressions on him or changing the background, to convey this message more clearly to modern people. I’d like to help people to be honest with each other.


Final Creative Project



Initially, I wanted to reform the original painting to guide people to be honest with each other, as people are becoming more and more insincere. I thought over how to implement this for a long time, and I came up with multiple ways to do this: 1) take a photograph of me and my best friend talking, and deliver the ambience of sincerity through it, 2) imitate the original painting using a photo that I took, or 3) modify the painting in a way I can deliver the message. I chose the third option, mainly to strongly criticize how people often make deceptive facial expressions.


Instead of focusing on style or movement, like I did in warm-up exercise, I chose to focus mainly on the intention of the artist. As explained above, the artist wanted to satirize how people hide their true selves from others by drawing a man who’s wearing an overcoat that hides his entire body, on a regular suit and regular tie. We can’t even see the man’s hair; its color and shape are not visible due to his fedora. The artist also intentionally drew an apple on the man’s face. Because of these measures the artist took, the viewers are not able to deduce anything from the man; all we know is that the person is a he. This inspired my work; I liked the theme of secrecy he used, which I think is a big problem in today’s society.


In order to implement this, I first thought of changing the background of the original painting to a more specific one like a working environment, or an interior of a house, so that viewers can deduce a little bit about his background. However, I wanted to twist the theme one step further: instead of giving more information of the man and let viewers become more friendly with him, I wanted to show his facial expression and see if viewers actually become more attached to him. If he’s smiling, would you believe that he is happy? If he looks sad, would you believe that as well?



I spent some time searching through the Internet a perfect facial expression of a man who looks both deceptive and honest at the same time. As a woman, I came to alienate strange men who smile at me, so I tried to choose an expression of whom I would not believe if I met him for the first time, but of whom most others would.

Then, I cropped up his face to fit into the face of the original painting, so I could copy and paste it. It went better than I thought, but I had to do this multiple times to get the size and shape of the face right into the original work.


Honestly, I wanted to crop the face more nicely so I could fit it into the painting more naturally, but there was nothing I could do to make that better. Also if the face didn’t have the copyright mark, it would’ve been better. But more importantly, although the match is a little odd, I think I achieved what I wanted. I could ask viewers, “Would you believe this man if you saw him for the first time?” or “Would you believe this man more than you’d believe the man from the original painting?” By taking this survey, I could conclude that showing clues doesn’t mean we can believe it.

Personal Reflection

It actually felt a little weird to borrow someone else’s works, put them together and call it my art, because for years, I learned not to do that. Also when I created art in a traditional way, it usually took me great deal of time because I had to start drawing from scratch. Compared to that, this process was relatively simple, so that was weird too. But while I was putting this together, I realized that art doesn’t have to be so grandiose in both style and meaning. When I choose a theme that I want to deliver, and implement that in any possible way, it can be my art!

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62-150 Intro to Media Synthesis and Analysis

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New creative industries are empowering new modes of collaborative consumption, creation and reuse of media. This often relies on successful collaborations between cross-trained artists, designers a...more


Digital homage to reinterpret and recreate "The Son of Man"