Appropriation, Influence, and Plagiarism


“All art arises from other art, not from romantic notions of pure inspiration.”

-Paul H. Tucker, Art Historian

“The bad artists imitate. The great artists steal.”

-Banksy, quoting Picasso


Appropriation, influence, and plagiarism are all important forces in the art world.  No art is made in a vacuum, so it is inevitable that these concepts must be dealt with by the artist and the audience.  Our class is no exception.

Appropriation:  the deliberate reworking of images or styles from previous, well known works of art; a hallmark of Post-Modernism.

Influence:  being swayed or inspired by an artist’s styles or ideas. The work produced may not resemble the influencing source.

Plagiarism:  the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

So what makes it appropriation or influence and not plagiarism?

There are a couple of things that can make it not plagiarism.

Modification:  while the source is evident, the image, pose, or idea has been definitively reworked.  In such cases the new work is often seen as a comment, elaboration, or rebuttal of the original work.  Changing colors, adding structures, removing elements are all steps of modification.

Proper Citation:  when credit is given where credit is due, people understand that you are not trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own.  Even then, there is still some expectation of elaboration, of going beyond the material that you are referencing.

Proper Citation

For our purposes we will use MLA format for all citations.  Each work you cite needs to follow that format.  Below are examples, but you may also use the resource or the Purdue Owl writing website to help you with any and all questions regarding to MLA format.

Proper citation of an artwork:

  • Artist Last Name, First Name. Artwork Title in Italics. Date, medium, museum or physical location.
  • Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Proper citation of a publication:

  • Last Name, First Name. Title of Book in Italics. Publisher, Publication Date.  Page numbers.
  • Kleiner, Fred.  Gardener’s Art Through the Ages, 10th ed., by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Harcourt Brace, p. 939.

Proper citation of a website:

  • Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number, Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available), URL, DOI or permalink. Date of access (if applicable).
  • The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2008, Accessed 23 Apr. 2008.


Appropriation & Influence PowerPoint.