This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I started creating artwork. Sure it’s ok to use Leonardo or Daumier as an inspiration and use the same setup or lighting as one of their paintings. They are in the public domain and not many are familiar with all famous artists work. But what of contemporary artists copying or being inspired by others. I believe if you change the setting elements and the figures depicted are different enough even in the same pose you should be safe. But, and this is BIG BUT… If you’re too close to the pose and character depiction you could be seen as copying or infringing on another artist’s copyright.
Ok so that being said, I’ve designed hundred’s of film posters in my career and a few concepts and layouts have been copied albeit it with different stars and elements. None were ever challenged for their legitimacy.
Picasso said “good artists copy, great artists steal”. Many artists make a superlative living by simply “tweaking” other artists’ works. That’s what Picasso means – by “copying”.
However, a great artist will drink in all that other artists have done and do. They will absorb it, and learn from it and use it to stimulate their own creativity. They will “steal it”,which means that just like a robber, they will take possession of it, even though they know it is not theirs. And then they will transform it, through the creative alchemy of their creative process, into something fresh and new, something that belongs to them.
Hints of the original owner, of the source may remain – after all, nothing in art is completely new – but it will be clear that this is a unique work, standing on its own.