Music icon Bob Dylan is under scrutiny for several of his paintings on display in New York, after media and others noticed their close resemblance to images by noted photographers.

The Gagosian Gallery is mounting an exhibit titled The Asia Series, with the work shown described as a "visual journey" inspired by Dylan's visits abroad.

Several of the painted works — which purportedly reflect the singer's travels in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea — appear uncannily similar to images captured by legendary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Léon Busy and Dmitri Kessel.

The controversy, first reported by media outlets such as The New York Times, has divided Dylan fans online.

Though many artists paint from photographs, critics have criticized the singer because the works had been described as creations inspired by his own firsthand travel experiences.

Still, others defended the paintings as Dylan "riffing" on previous artistic creations and argued that many artworks today are derivative.

The gallery issued a statement defending the artwork, saying that "the composition of some of Bob Dylan's paintings are based on a variety of sources, including including archival, historic images."

The "vibrancy and freshness [of the works] come from the colours and textures found in everyday scenes he observed."

In the exhibit's catalog, Dylan is quoted as saying he paints "mostly from real life. It has to start with that: real people, real street scenes, behind-the-curtain scenes, live models, paintings, photographs, staged setups, architecture, grids, graphic design. Whatever it takes to make it work."

Dylan has dabbled in drawing and painting for decades, with his work featured in high-profile exhibits in recent years.