Danish artist Mads Madsen is such a history buff that he’s been working on getting a Master’s degree in ancient Greece and Roman History. This explains why the Danish man also has a thing for colorizing old photos. During an interview with Bored Panda, he explained that he got into colorization after seeing a few colorized vintage photos on Reddit. After doing a deep web search, he discovered these photos were colorized by hand with oil by an elderly woman who had her own site. So, he started following in her footsteps, and here are some of his mind-blowing masterpieces along with some backstory of the individuals.
Amelia Earhart became famous in the early 20th century for being the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She continued to break many early aviation records over the years until her unfortunately disappearance in 1937. She was declared dead in 1939, though many conspiracy theorists suggest all sorts of outrageous explanations as to what happened to her, including alien abduction.
Two Girls and Their Snow Fort
The colorization brought even more life to the joy of these two girls who were playing in their snow fort in 1910. While their dresses and snow fort create a black and white contrast, Madsen was able to add some flesh tones to the girls’ faces and hands while also adding a splash of color to the sky, the trees and the rooftop of the house in the background. Kids these days could never understand what fun was like for these girls.
Sir David Frederick Attenborough
Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is known for his writing and presenting with the BBC Natural History Unit. Thanks to Madsen’s colorization, we get to not only appreciate the beloved redhead’s hair color but also the beautiful colors of the Macaw that he’s petting in this photograph.
Sergeant Henry “Black Death” Johnson
Sergeant Henry Johnson suffered 21 injuries and rescued a soldier while repelling a raid in the Argonne Forest in 1918. He became known as the “Black Death” because of this heroic act. Sadly, his injuries weren’t added to his military record so he was denied a purple heart and died a forgotten man.
It would be years before society would finally recognize him for the amazing man that he was. But we supposed that it’s better late than never.
Easter Eggs for Hitler
These two proud American soldiers showed off their 155mm artillery shells, which they personalized by dubbing them “Easter Eggs” for Hitler. Madsen did a terrific job capturing the men that are surrounded by color and contrast in an otherwise bleak moment captured by the original photographer.
1960 Civil Rights Demonstration
Madsen colorized this photo of a civil rights demonstration taken in 1960. The colorization made the confederate flag on one of the segregationist’s helmets more prominent. But the look on the Black woman’s face as she glares at the man is spot on and gives a clear message of disapproval with or without the colorization.
Belgium-British actress Audrey Hepburn was a film and fashion icon as well as a humanitarian. But while the black and white photo was undoubtedly impressive, it didn’t reflect just how beautiful she really was in living color. But thanks to Madsen’s magic touch, we get to see what the photographer saw when he snapped this photo of her.
And it’s easy to see why everyone fell in love with her beauty.
Helen Keller and Charlie Chaplin
In this photo, Helen Keller captured her unique way of saying hi to Charlie Chaplin. Keller was an American author, a lecturer and political activist. She was also the first blind and deaf person to ever earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
But because of her condition, she had to touch the English comic actor’s face to greet him. Being blind and deaf made life quite a challenge, but Keller proved that if she could make the best out of a bad situation, anyone can.
The Christmas Truce of 1914
During World War I, German and British soldiers declared a temporary ceasefire. This allowed them to put their weapons down and climb out of the trenches in honor of Christmas. Over 100,000 soldiers reportedly participated.
This included British soldiers giving German soldiers haircuts and soldiers swapping gifts in the form of candy, coats and buttons. Sadly, the cease fire was only temporary. The fighting resumed the next day.
Frederick Douglass was a talented orator and front spokesman of abolition. He managed to escape slavery in Maryland and led a freedom movement in Massachusetts and New York. His antislavery writings have continued to resonate over the years.
He continued to push for human rights and equality until he passed away in 1895.
Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist responsible for coming up with the theory of relativity. His work has also influenced the philosophy of science over the years. This photograph was taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh in 1948.
But Madsen gave it a colorful makeover that pays tribute to this incredible thinker. His gift for thinking outside the box led to spending a lot of time in intellectual solitude which this photo reflects.
Jim Henson With Ernie and Kermit the Frog
Jim Henson was an American puppeteer, animator, filmmaker and cartoonist. But of course, he’s best known for being the creator of “The Muppets.” In this photograph, Henson is hanging out with two of his popular creations—Ernie from “Sesame Street” and Kermit the Frog from “The Muppets.” Once again Madsen not only captured the various colors of the clothing but also made Henson’s eyes hypnotizing.
Alan Turing was an English mathematician, logician and computer scientist. As a cryptologist, he was able to play a major role in cracking the Nazis’ Enigma Code. Now one of the features that Madsen focuses on when recoloring is in the eyes and you’ll notice that a lot of people in his colorizations wind up with steely or sky-blue eyes like this handsome chap.
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, model and all-around blonde bombshell, but when most people think of her, they think about some of the black and white photos that have circulated over the years. Madsen colorized this photo of Monroe taken after a party that shows the beautiful Hollywood icon lost in her thoughts. This was eerie because most people saw her as bubbly and fun but not everyone realized that she had overcome a difficult childhood before she became one of the world’s biggest icons of her era.
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, and an electric and mechanical engineer who was responsible for his contribution in the design of the modern day alternating current electricity supply system. This photo was taken of Tesla as he sat in front of his high-frequency transformer at East Houston Street in New York while reading the book “Theoria Philosophiae Naturalis.”
Richard Pierce was 14 years old and already worked as a Western Union Telegraph Messenger. He worked from 7 am to 6 pm and even smoked. But in this colorized version of this photo taken in 1910, you can almost see the toll that the job had taken on this young man who should have been busy going to school and playing with friends.
Albert Einstein Laughing
What was Albert Einstein laughing at? Perhaps someone made a joke or broke wind at the dinner table. Maybe he was laughing at how smarter he was than some of the other people at the dinner party this photo was taken in. But Madsen’s coloring technique only enhanced the joy in this theoretical physicist’s face.
Native American Chief
Not much is known about this Native American Chief that Madsen recolored but one thing is certain. He did a beautiful job adding color to the chief’s headdress, scarf, and even the intricate details of the jacket in his hand. To top it off, he added depth and dimension to the forest in the background, too.
Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood
Late American actor Paul Newman was a man of many trades. He was also a film director, a producer, and even a race car driver. So, who else would this guy be posing with than with another great Hollywood actor—Clint Eastwood.
As many people know, Eastwood achieved fame in Western movies and the Western TV series “Raw Hide.”
Meet Desmond Doss
Desmond Doss was the recipient of the Medal of Honor for his services during the Battle of Okinawa. Doss carried 75 wounded men to safety while avoiding heavy fire. He was also known for being a conscientious objector, which is someone who claimed the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.
So not only was he a soldier but a total badass rebel.
Jimmy Stewart was the handsome actor who was best known for his role in the 1954 film “Rear Window” and the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But this charismatic actor was also a Brigadier General in the military and was a part of over 20 missions in Nazi-Occupied Europe. He even did a bombing run in the Vietnam War. But in his early Hollywood days, he shared an apartment with fellow actor Henry Fonda.
This photo of actor James Dean was taken on December 29, 1954. One of his most famous roles was as Jim Stark, a troubled teenager in the film “Rebel Without a Cause.” The colorization of this photo only served to accentuate the character’s inner struggles. All you have to do is look into his eyes and you’d swear you see a tiny hint of red tendrils in his right eye that indicates Dean, or rather, his character was on the verge of tears.
It’s hard to believe that this is the same Charlie Chaplin from the silent films that we mentioned earlier, but it is. This is the actor later in life and as you can tell, his trademark moustache is gone, but his career was still going strong. This photo, which was later colorized, was taken while Chaplin was working on a movie set.
Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. In this photo, he’s sitting across from George McClellan, the 24th governor of New Jersey, in a tent during the Battle of Antietam, a battle that occurred during the Civil War. This photo was taken in October 1862 and highlights a moment in time when America was in turmoil.
This photo taken in 1916, shows Theodore Roosevelt smiling while holding his grandson, Kermit Roosevelt Jr in his arms. For those of you unfamiliar with history, Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. But to this little guy, he was just the coolest and most loving grandpa ever.
And it’s obvious in the man’s eyes that he was tickled pink by the presence of the next generation of Roosevelts.
Buzz Aldrin was the second man on the moon. This photo was taken in 1963 and shows him in his role as the commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School. The colorization allows you to really appreciate the insignias on his uniform, as well as the American flag in the background.
And did you notice the Mickey Mouse watch around his wrist?
Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of propaganda of Nazi Germany. Some say he was also one of Adolf Hitler’s most devoted associates. But if you’re wondering why he’s frowning, here’s the reason.
It turns out that Goebbels smile got turned upside down as soon as he realized that Albert Eisenstaedt, the photographer who took this photo, was Jewish.
Eric Arthur Blair
If the name Eric Arthur Blair doesn’t ring a bell, it’s probably because he was more popular by his pen name, George Orwell. But one thing that was undeniable was that the English novelist was an essayist, a critic and a journalist. He was also an outspoken supporter of democratic socialism and publicly opposed totalitarianism.
Although he was known by his pen name, Mark Twain, this American writer and publisher was born Samuel Clemens. He has been called the greatest humorist of the United States and William Faulkner even called him “the father of American literature.”
Victor Hugo is a famous French author and poet best known for great works like “Les Miserables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” His literary work spanned over 60 years, too. This photo of him was taken in 1876, but the coloring is a lot more recent.
These slaves were known during the war as “Contraband” because in August 1861, the United States decided they couldn’t return escaped slaves who crossed union lines. So, they were deemed contraband of war. This colored photo was taken in 1865 and showed freed slaves together posing for a portrait.
Lawrence of Arabia
Thomas Edward Lawrence, who is more famously known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a British archaeologist, a diplomat and a writer. He was perhaps well known for his role in the Sinai and Palestine campaign against the Ottoman and the Arab Revolt. In this photo, Lawrence was wearing a Bedouin garb while holding his famous dagger.
Madsen’s colorization not only did justice to the clothing but also to Lawrence’s beautiful eyes.
Babe Ruth may be best known for his role on the baseball field, but this photo was taken on May 28, 1924 when he became a newly enlisted private in the 104th Field Artillery of the New York National Guard. He didn’t use his celebrity or sport status to dodge the draft and made lots of public appearances on the military’s behalf, too. During World War II, he actively fundraised to sell War Bonds.
Wilson D. Watson
Wilson D. Watson was a Marine Corps Private who earned the Medal of Honor for his role at Iwo Jima during World War II.
He took out 90 enemy soldiers all on his own, which earned him the nickname “One Man Regiment.” He also fired his rifle from his hip, which eventually inspired John Wayne to copy the same move in his films.
George and Barbara Bush
George and Barbara Bush never even imagined that they would end up being the 41st president of the United States and First Lady when this photo was taken. But they were already climbing their way to the top. This was Barbara giving her husband a smooch on the cheek in order to celebrate his election to the House of Representatives in 1966.
Crew No. 1 of the Doolittle Raid
They were known as Crew No. 1 of the Doolittle Raid, which consisted of Lieutenant Henry A.
Potter, the navigator, Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, the pilot, Sergeant Fred A. Braemer, the bombardier, Lieutenant Richard E. Cole, the co-pilot, and Sergeant Paul J. Leonard, the flight engineer and gunner. The Doolittle Raid occurred on April 18, 1942 and it was an air raid on the Japanese capital Tokyo during World War II. In this photo, the men are standing on the deck of the USS Hornet.
Lou Gehrig was an American baseball first baseman who was well known for his skills as a hitter. He played in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees for 17 seasons. Sadly, a condition dampened his ability to play.
After extensive testing at the Mayo Clinic in 1939, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy was photographed here serving as the attorney general under the Johnson administration.
It should be noted that this photo was also taken in 1964 not long after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a cavalry commander in the Civil War and the American Indian Wars. He was considered a distinguished military officer. But he’s also famous for leading his men into battle and ultimately to their deaths during the Battle of Little Bighorn.
In this photo taken in 1865, he’s seen wearing his signature red cravat.
Elizabeth Taylor is an English-American actress who started her acting career in the early 1940s. From there she took on incredible roles like the 1963 film “Cleopatra” and the 1966 classic, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She was also considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood and the colorization really brings out her gorgeous blue eyes.