Art History in “Silver Screen Fiend” by Patton Oswalt

I know other reviewers have noted Patton Oswalt’s referencing Vincent Van Gogh’s Night Café and using the work as his personal template while waxing about the beauty of film.  The author even stops writing about movies to give a detailed examination of the painting and Van Gogh a brief, sympathetic biography.

However, I want to examine the other art history references that occur in this book. Near the middle of the book (I think), Oswalt mentions Andy Warhol in the context of being a long dead American icon on the same level as George Washington.  The author even meditates on the parallels between his circle of people and the Warhol Superstars.

Near the end of book, Oswalt references two particular artists that piqued my curiosity. They show up in a very enjoyable short story about vampires treating Los Angeles as their own personal buffet.  During a feasting, one bloodsucker reminisces about Andy Warhol’s artifice and observes a Francis Bacon piece during a gruesome scene as the story wraps up.  Which one, you wonder?  It’s of course, Head VI.   It almost comes off as a cliché to reference Bacon, given how the artist had a fascination with gore.

What really intrigued me was the mention of Paul Klee during the final bloodbath.  Not completely familiar with the artist, I started looking him up.  In fact, I thought the Head VI mention referenced a Klee painting.  While mistakenly trying to find a non-existent work, I noticed that Klee often did abstract renderings of heads during his lifetime.  Much more creative to reference Klee, in my opinion.  Klee’s use of bright color adds a nice contrast to the twisted tale of debauchery.  Furthermore, Klee creates beings so interestingly off-putting and strange that it acts as a nice parallel to the vampires roving about in the short story.

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