Very few people have the ability to appreciate a good work of art. | Image: Igor Miske
From the appearance of the first cave paintings to the latest pictorial currents such as Kinetic Art and Arte Povera , the use of canvas has been one of the main ways of expression for the human species.
Knowing and recognizing the great artistic works of humanity is also a symptom of culture and knowledge of the world in which we live. For this reason, we have made a selection of the most emblematic paintings in history with a brief description to place them in their context .
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The 10 most famous paintings
The following list of works is not ordered by an index of quality or importance. Being already difficult (if not impossible) to create an order based on fame, these 10 paintings are undoubtedly of extreme fame at the level of very few, but of course, they are not the only ones .
10. The night watch (between 1640 and 1642)
Born thanks to the Dutch, it is today in the exhibition of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Its original name was somewhat longer: The Military Company of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh.
This work was commissioned by the Amsterdam Arquebusiers Corporation to decorate the Great Hall of the Kloveniersdoelen, which at that time was the headquarters of the militia. Although it is one of the masterpieces of humanity, the members of the military did not like the canvas because they were not clearly portrayed. This type of work (in which groups of portrayed people appear) was a fashion that emerged during the Golden Age of Dutch Art.
9. Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
The most iconic work of Pop Art that was the driving force behind this artistic movement, thanks to its creator Andy Warhol . The original composition consists of 32 canvases, 50.8 cm x 40.6 cm each. It was painted with synthetic polymer on canvas using a semi-mechanized serigraphy process.
The controversial author of the work tried to convey the processes of marketing products in today’s society, but brought to art. Said processes based on the massive production of objects (in this case soup cans) and exposed in an equally massive way.
This was the most criticized point of his work , since he was converting the creation of his art (through the semi-mechanized process) into yet another product for mass consumption; when in reality, it was exactly what he wanted to represent.
8. The Girl with a Pearl Earring (between 1665 and 1667)
Also known as the Girl with a Turban or the Dutch Mona Lisa, it is the masterpiece of the Dutch artist.
The magic of this work lies in the background-figure contrastthat gives the work a certain gloominess , but without having used specific techniques for this purpose when representing the girl. In fact, the girl shyly looks at the viewer with soft colors and an overwhelming calm, as usually appears in most of this author’s works. Likewise, the earring (which proposes the name of the work) serves as a focal point for the pictorial ensemble.
7. The persistence of memory (1931)
An oil on canvas in a markedly surrealist style and with modest measurements (24 cm x 33 cm) is for many the pinnacle creation of the Spanish painter Salvador Dali. Using an academic technique, combine bright colors with dark colors to create a dreamlike atmosphere.. The work is divided by a light gradient from the lower right corner to the upper left corner.
The painting represents a simple landscape where clocks with a semi-liquid structure come closer to whisper to us how they have softened over time, just like memories. Dali created a subsequent work as a result of a revision of this painting , entitled: The disintegration of the persistence of memory.
6. The birth of Venus (between 1482 and 1484)
Its author Sandro Botticelli belongs to what is known as the Italian Quattrocento (one of the most fruitful periods of European and world art belonging to the first phase of the Renaissance). It should be added that the date of its creation is approximate and thatIt is known that it was a commission, although it is unknown by whom .
The model is Simonetta Vespucci who was a muse from Florence chosen by the Medici family. The work represents the arrival of Venus (and not the birth as the title suggests) to the beach of one of the islands of Cyprus, Pagos or Cytherea, thanks to the wind that blows.
Although the female nude had been prohibited because it was sinful, it was taken up again in the Renaissance as in this work, and will continue to be so throughout this period where nudity (of both sexes) and the human figure take on special value.
5. Guernica (1937)
Painted by the Spaniard Pablo Ruiz Picasso during the months of May and June 1937, this work is probably the work with the hardest history on the list. With a huge size (3.5 meters high by 7.80 meters long), it represents in grayscale the state in which contemporary society is submerged.
The story we are talking about is that of the Spanish Civil War and the bombing of the municipality of Guernica, where only this last event claimed 126 deaths on April 26, 1937. Picasso therefore represents the suffering and chaos that ruled the country at this time .
4. The Creation of Adam (1511)
Michelangelo Buonarroti, known in Spanish as Miguel Angel, is the author of this work located on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Vatican City).
In the work we can see a young Adam being touched by the right hand of God. Meanwhile, surrounded by the left arm of the almighty, we see an Eve that has not yet been created, waiting to be able to descend to earth . There are also interesting theories about the space behind the figure of God, which would simulate a human brain with the different lobes and convolutions (as Frank Lynn Meshberger states).
3. The Last Supper (between 1495 and 1497)
One of the images that almost everyone will remember when thinking about Jesus’ Last Supper, whether religious or not. Leonardo da Vinci displays all his mastery in this work painted with tempera and oil on plaster . It also has a considerable size (880 cm x 460 cm).
This work represents one of the most dramatic moments in the history of Jesus of Nazareth, according to the New Testament. The work recreates the moment in which Jesus announces to the 12 apostles that one of them will betray him and that this will therefore be his last Passover together. It is just that moment in which each one reacts in a different way that Da Vinci has managed to immortalize.
2. The Starry Night (1889)
Work belonging to the final stage of Vincent van Gogh that recreates in the purest style of the author the views he enjoyed from the sanatorium where he lived in France and where he would later die in 1890.
The use of moistened oil and fine brushes was enough to create one of the most representative works of this author and of the history of art. However, van Gogh, who finished the work 13 months before his death, was not satisfied with the result obtained.
1. La Gioconda (between 1503 and 1519)
From the well-known Italian polymath Leonardo Da Vinci, tops our list with his unmistakable smile. He achieved this exquisite painting using the sfumato technique, which consists of superimposing different very delicate layers of paint, in such a way that an effect of antiquity and remoteness is achieved , as well as poorly defined limits.
I stand out from the day I was born for the sensation of three-dimensionality, the realism of the model’s complexion and the general atmosphere of the painting. Due to its obvious value, it is one of the most protected and studied paintings in the world . Its history and creation is almost as enigmatic as the life of the author himself.