While reading Bleak House, I have been thinking a lot about the process of reproducing art and creating new art based off of, or heavily influenced by, other works of art. Last semester, I took a course in which we were asked to write original fiction based off of a Greek myth as it was depicted in a well-known painting (I know, we were very far removed from the original work). On page 218 of the Illuminations text, Walter begins to talk about artistic reproductions—”Mechanical reproduction of a work of art… represents something new.”
Though I am not thinking of reproduction “terra cottas” or “coins,” I found that statement interesting. I liked the idea that a reproduction can become an individual work on its own. In class, we discussed the difficulty of reproducing paintings and how creating reproductions can throw into question the ownership of a particular work. I am specifically intrigued by the art and interpretations created after Bleak House, and how each new artist can take the original idea and make it her own. One of the most well-known interpretations of the novel comes in the form of a BBC mini-series of the same name. But beyond a number of screen adaptations, there are, to be found online, numerous photographs modeled after Bleak House, cartoons, and modern murals painted along public path ways. This mural is just one of the many interpretations of Bleak House which can be found through a little bit of investigation.
I was very intrigued by the idea that a work of art, after inspiring new works, may take on new ownership. The question of possession of a work of art is an interesting one, and one that I do not necessarily have an answer for. But, I suppose that with the advent of artistic reproduction (and the internet), Dickens belongs, in some small way, to all of us.