One of the oldest art forms painting has been around ever since our ancient ancestors first started producing charcoal creations on cave walls. While countless generations of artists have left their mark over the Millennia, only some artworks have succeeded in transcending time and culture to be revered around the globe. Here’s a look at the most famous paintings of all time:
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Mona Lisa (Leonardo Da Vinci) – Italy
If you think of a famous painting, you just think of the Mona Lisa. Today, Mona Lisa is the world’s most renowned work of art. However it wasn’t always this way. Mona Lisa’s background is full of surprises.
Leonardo da Vinci worked on Mona Lisa on and off for a few years towards the end of his career. Over the next 300 years, Mona Lisa hung quietly in French palaces and royal bathrooms. Until Mona Lisa, noticed by Napoleon, chose to hang on his bedroom wall, people took notice. After he had his whole exile from France thing, they tossed me on a wall at The Louvre. However at this point, Mona Lisa was still just another Renaissance portrait until one night it was stolen. The police hauled people in left and right and suspected and interrogated Pablo Picasso. However, Picasso was innocent and the thief turned out to be an Italian carpenter who was caught in Florence.
And Mona Lisa returned to The Louvre and from that day forward, it became one of the most precious art pieces of the world.
The Persistence of Memory (Salvador Dali) – Spain
Salvador Dali is painting on a really miniature scale. He wants to give us this powerful impact with this little work that’s painted with the most minute details.
Surrealism is a movement that started in France in the 1920s and is associated with the visual arts and literature, writing. It has to do with dreamscapes and delving into the unconscious, so bringing that onto the canvas, if you will.
Dali uses hyper-realism only to thwart our expectations to get us to think about it or not to think it all, to react to it. It has all kinds of irrational aspects or juxtaposed aspects that we’re not expecting.
There are the cliffs of Cataquez, where he’s from in Catalonia. And those are timeless. Geology, it’s been there forever. It’s permanent. And time itself is supposed to be permanent. It’s something that we can measure and count on. And one of the things that Dali is playing with is melted watches. It’s decay and entropy.
A lot of surrealist artists, trying to delve into their unconscious in different ways. Dali did do that to try to get to another realm.
Dali did study art and he did study mathematics and science and poetry. These were all of great interest to him, and read constantly. And eventually he gave this up for full-time art making, creating films and paintings, and moved to Paris from Spain.
During this time, there was a lot going on with Einstein and Freud. Dali continued that fascination with science and perhaps anxiety with science throughout his life and career. And Einstein’s theory of relativity was very much in the air. And one of the things that Dali says about this, about the melted clocks, is that he was inspired by melting Camembert cheese in the summertime.
The idea of the expandability of time or the fact that time might not be fixed as Einstein showed. Sigmund Freud as well was very much at the root of surrealism.
Luncheon of the Boating Party (Pierre-Auguste Renoir) – France
An impressionist painter, he painted paintings on a variety of subjects including outdoor paintings. The main message of his work was happiness. He had his own firm philosophy that paintings should be bright and beautiful, even if life was depressing right now.
Therefore, in his works, women and children who have a happy time and the vivid facial expressions of the characters expressed by light and shadow can often be seen.
He also used bright and colorful colors to express happiness which has always made the palette full of colorful paints.
Then one day he, who always seemed to be happy like a rainbow palette, got a disease called rheumatism. This disease slowly encroached on his body. His hands were twisted and rigid, so he couldn’t even hold the brush by himself and he had to suffer from sweat every time he brushed. However even this terrible disease could not drive away his passion for art and he continued to create masterpieces.
A friend who saw him like this asked him one day. Why do you keep doing things that make you suffer so much? He answered in a low voice. “Because the pain has passed by but the art remains forever.”
This story is about Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a French impressionist painter who is still loved by many people for his unique paintings such as Luncheon of the Boating Party and Girl Reading.
The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo) – Italy
On the right hand side we see an old guy in a white beard. He’s wearing a thin light pink gown. Even though he’s old, he looks pretty muscular. He’s leaning over to touch someone with his finger tip. Over on the left hand side, we see a young man. And he’s completely naked. He is partially sitting up, and also looks really muscular.
The young man seems to be sitting on the edge of a grassy hill, but there isn’t much of a background besides that.
Behind the old man is a strange shape made of pink cloth. Between the old man and the pink cloth are a bunch of chubby, naked creatures.
The curve on the bottom looks a little bit like the medulla and that leg that’s sticking out reminds us of a brain stem. If this theory is true, this means the artwork is saying that Adam is being created from the mind of God. Speaking of Adam, he is the person who’s on the left. Look into his eyes. There is nothing there yet.
He has been created, but he is not really alive yet – he does not have a soul. The spark of life still needs to jump across from God’s fingertip to the fingertip of Adam. When we put all these clues together, we see a vision that is straight out of the Book of Genesis.
God has already created heaven already and Heavenly Creatures. God has created the Earth, he’s created the body of the first human, and God is about to give him the spark of life. But that spark has not yet jumped. This is the moment just before the creation of humanity.
The Night Watch (Rembrandt Van Rijn) – Netherlands
Rembrandt the Nightwatch in the Rijksmuseum is perhaps the most celebrated painting of the Dutch Golden Age and a work with a violent history. Its full title is Militia Company of District II Under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. A group portrait of 34 cloven ears members of Amsterdam’s defense Militia. It is also a triumph of painting on a grand scale. A masterful example of tenebrism, the dramatic use of light and shadow.
Captain Cocq is seen in the black tunic and red sash at the front of his company. Next to his lieutenant William Van Rightonburg dressed in yellow. The young woman seemed to be to their right as the company mascot. At her waist a dead chicken can be seen hanging from its claws. One of the symbols of the cloven ears towards the center top of the pitcher. A shield features the names of the 18 guardsmen who commissioned the work and appear in the composition. These names were added after its completion by an unknown artist. A figure in a beret peers over the shoulder of the militiamen who is holding the company colors; many believe this is a mischievous self-portrait by Rembrandt.
The workers were attacked three times. In 1911, a man wielding a shoemaker’s knife tried but failed to cut through the canvas. In 1990, sulfuric acid was sprayed on it.
The most serious attack occurred in 1975, when a school teacher repeatedly slashed the bottom right of the painting. Extensive restoration has failed to completely hide the damage. All three vandals were motivated by mental illness. It is a magnificent orchestration that still resonates today.
The Scream (Edvard Munch) – Norway
When you were made aware of the title, you might of assumed that the scream came from the character in the foreground. Well, before we dive into this painting and talk more about its painter, Edvard Munch, we must get one thing straight, this person isn’t screaming.
The original title of the painting isn’t The Scream, but The Scream of Nature. The expression in the subject’s face looks more startled or scared rather than screaming. The sky turning blood red above the blue fjord, the two friends walking and Munch himself, standing there, trembling with anxiety, hearing the Scream of Nature.
Edvard Munch’s struggle with mental illness started young. He was born in 1863 and, only 5 years later, his mother died of tuberculosis. 9 years after that, his favorite sister, Johanne Sophie Munch also passed away. He was therefore raised by his father who was temperamentally nervous and obsessively religious—to the point of psychoneurosis. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected in his artwork.