With the Mona Lisa as a starting point, Joan C. Gratz took paintings by 35 artists, rendered her versions of them in colored clay, animated parts of them and morphed them into one another in a fun, short (7 minute) animation set to music and sound effects called Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase.
Aside from Da Vinci’s enigmatic portrait, the majority of the works are from the 20th Century. Particularly fascinating are the sequences where she morphs a face or figure from one painting into a face or figure form another. It’s nicely done and fun just to try to identify as many of the artists and paintings as you can.
(Although Duchamp is in evidence in the image of his mustache and goatee’d postcard version of the Mona Lisa, seen here morphing into Magritte’s The False Mirror, I didn’t see the titular Nude Descending a Staircase.)
Gratz works in a fascinating animation technique (which I believe she pioneered) called “clay painting” in which colored clay is used as if it were paint. The advantage is that the clay can be repositioned and re-blended in a way the permits the creation of stop-motion animation, similar in principle to the the 3-D stop motion process used in popular films like Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Nick Park’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and an entire school of Eastern European animation called Puppetfilm.
Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase won the 1002 Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Gratz also applies her clay painting animation technique to commercial work and you may have seen her spots for Coke, Wishbone and Microsoft. If not, they are beautifully done and well worth checking out.