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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Botticelli Primavera

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings 

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  

Ghent Altarpiece via zoom

GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums - ebooks

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces.

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Other

Art History Blogs

ArtDaily: daily breaking news about art museums and art history.

Art Blog by Bob: this brilliant art history blogger of Picture This on Big Think.

Art History Resources. Unwieldly but informative.

Marisol Roman.  A Spanish art history blog.

Mother of all Art & Art History Links: extensive list of online art history resources (including images, research resources, and art history depts.)

smARThistory. Think online art history textbook.  Brilliant. 

Art History Beyond Europe

Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

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Famous Paintings Reviewed

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More Caravaggio Paintings


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Many Caravaggio paintings have debated provenance, and that of The Cardsharps, one of Caravaggio's best-loved and most famous paintings, is no exception.

caravaggio cardsharps


 Art historians now agree (mostly) that this oft-forged masterpiece was purchased by Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who held Caravaggio in such high esteem that he invited

Caravaggio.  The Cardsharps, 1595-96.  Oil on canvas, 37 1/8" x 51 5/8".  Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas 

Caravaggio to live in his house, Palazzo Madama. The Cardsharps juxtaposes an aristocratic but naive young man playing primero, a forerunner of poker, against two devious cardsharps. The dupe's white lace collar and frilly cuffs under his black suit contrast sharply with the gaudy attire of the cardsharps. The older one with his raised hand signals the dupe's cards to the younger trickster, who pulls a hidden card while turning an expectant, eager face to the youth.

Art historical documents suggest that Cardsharps is linked to The Fortune Teller (La Zingara), a work of the same size and compositional angle, and with the same moral theme -- gullible youth succumbing to deceit. With The Fortune Teller, Caravaggio introduces genre Caravaggio fortune tellerpainting into the Italian Renaissance. These scenes of everyday life had an implicit meaning intended to educate the spectator.

Caravaggio.  The Fortune Teller, 1594-95.  Oil on canvas, 39" x 51 1/2".  Louvre, Paris.

Here, the youthful gypsy girl caresses the dandy's extended hand as she imagines his fortune. He, extravagantly attired in a feather hat and oversized dagger, is so taken by her touch that he fails to realize she has removed and pilfered his ring. Both of these Caravaggio paintings are devoid of identifiable background or specific environment, suggesting the universality of the exchange between the two stereotyped characters.

Some art historians suggest that these Caravaggio paintings may be pendants, or paired paintings designed to be hung together. This belief is not only supported by the similarity of size and compositional angle of these two famous paintings, but also by their common theme of youthful innocence lost by deceit.

palazzo madamaPalazzo Madama, digs for Caravaggio in Rome, courtesy of Cardinal del Monte.  Whew!


Coming next: Caravaggio paintings from the Success phase, as defined by the art exhibition, of 1600 to 1606.

Caravaggio Paintings


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Twenty-four Caravaggio paintings are brought together in an extraordinary art exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome. Given that art historians unquestionably attribute only fifty works to this Italian master, this show presents a rare opportunity to examine Caravaggio paintings pooled from widespread art museums. Although tickets have long been caravaggio basket of fruitunavailable, the Scuderie accommodates the ticketless but patient. A three hour wait was worth it (even in rain). Bring a book, bring a drink, and find ways to amuse yourself in the

Caravaggio, Basket of Fruit. Oil on canvas, c. 1599. Approx. 12" x 18.5". Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan

formidable queue-- I did by snapping furtive photos of the throngs sporting the color purple, an Italian trend that hasn't yet crossed over.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was born in Milan and not in the northern Italian town of Caravaggio, as was believed until several years ago. In Milan he studied with Simone Peterzano, a former pupil of Titian, but left neither personal history nor works of art there. 

By the time he arrived in Rome in 1592, Caravaggio had rejected the prevalent academic approach to painting, instead favoring the naturalism which was to define his artwork.  The typical 16th century painter trained in a workshop, drew local sculptures, copied Renaissance caravaggio musicianspaintings, and analyzed works by famous painters like Raphael. Caravaggio, conversely, chose to depict the reality he sawderiving inspiration 'from

Caravaggio, The Musicians.  Oil on canvas, c. 1594 - 1595. 36 1/4" x 46 5/8".  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

nature' and from what he encountered in Rome.  This approach informed what the art exhibition labels his Youngness phase, lasting from 1592 to 1600; other Caravaggio paintings are grouped into the Success phase (1600-1606), and the Escape phase (1606-1610).

Basket of Fruit, the only known still-life by Caravaggio, is the iconic painting of this art exhibition, adorning its ticket and catalog cover, and is rendered with near photographic precision.

According to Maurizio Calvesi in the art exhibition catalog Caravaggio, this famous painting is beautiful because its "realism gives rise to a striking formal structure that can be examined along two complementary paths." The first is Caravaggio's masterful painting of the tiniest caravaggio young sick bacchusdetails; the second is perception of the painting's

Caravaggio, The Young, Sick Bacchus.  Oil on canvas, c. 1593-1594.  26" x 21". Galleria Borghese, Rome.

sculptural nature, like the volume of the overall mound of fruit that is echoed in the form of each individual one. The stalks and leaves that stick up, and the alternating light and shade pull the eye into and across the picture plane. 

The Musicians, one of the most adored Caravaggio paintings, is also from the Youngness phase. It was a commission from Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, the first
art patron in Rome to support Caravaggio

The three figures of The Musicians are indisputably androgynous, with, in the words of Barbara Savina in Caravaggio,

"...dreamy, languid expressions, and smooth, oval faces with chubby cheeks, framed by soft wavy hair." 

On the far left, Cupid is absorbed with his grapes while suggesting that human passions are conveyed by love of music. The arrogant-looking boy in the center, whose red cloak dominates this Caravaggio masterpiece, is tuning a lute whose strings were erased in the past; the boy with his back to the viewer studies a piece of music whose title has been lost over the years. The direct eye contact from the third boy, who prepares to play a horn barely visible on the right, invites the viewer into this painting.  Many art history scholars contend that this maybe a self-portrait of Caravaggio (his features here recall his portrait in Young Sick Bacchus, below).

According to Savina, the androgynous youth in The Musicians may portray an actual event rather than a fondness for homosexual themes by either Caravaggio or the Cardinal. As patron of the Sistine Chapel choir, Del Monte held private concerts by castrato singers; they were known to play using the Cardinal's collection of musical instruments while attired in the type of classical clothing that Caravaggio shows here.

Coming up next... the Caravaggio paintings Cardsharps and The Fortune Teller. 

Famous Paintings by Picasso


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Famous paintings by Picasso are everywhere -- in art exhibitions at two East Coast art museums, and in the record books from New York's art auction season.

While Picasso paintings have long Picasso Nude, Green leaves bustdominated these auctions, his Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was sold this week by Christie's for $106.48 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction. Picasso painted Nude, a portrait of his then-mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, in only one day. It is breath-taking that oen of the lesser known Picasso paintings 

Pablo Picasso.   Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, 1905. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4" x 32".

commanded such a price. This new record eclipses the previous high earned by a Giacometti sculpture sold in February, 2010.  And before that, the record-breaker was held another one of Pablo Picasso paintings, Garcon a la Pipe; it sold in New York for $104 million in 2004. picasso garcon a la pipe

Art museums are delving into storage and dusting off other Picasso paintings and artwork to create exhibitions.  The Museum of Modern Art, for instance, owns 1,100 of the 2,400 known Picasso prints, and is presently exhibiting one hundred of them in "Themes and Variations"; it runs until August 28, 2010.   The Met's "Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" showcases 300 Picasso artworks from its collection, including its total holdings of Picasso paintings, ceramic, drawings, and sculptures. 

Pablo Picasso.  Garcon a la Pipe, 1905.  Oil on canvas, approx. 39" x 32".

The Met show displays Picasso's artwork in chronological order, spanning his career from ages 19 to 97, or from 1900 to 1973. Although his drawings and prints are not typically on view, all are a part of this art exhibition. Similarly, the Met's holdings of 34 Picasso paintings will all be shown, revealing the somewhat limited extent of its holdings (click for a listing of all Picasso artwork at the Met).

One of the Met's most renowned Picasso paintings is At The Lapin picasso lapin agileAgile (left) commissioned by Frede Gerard (shown playing guitar in the background) for his cabaret, Le Lapin Agile. Now iconic of bohemain Parisian life at the turn of the century, this famous painting shows Picasso as a Harlequin with his lover, Germaine Pichot, at his side. 

The most highly regarded of the Met's Picasso paintings,

Pablo Picasso.  At The Lapin Agile, 1905.  Oil on canvas, 39" x 39 1/2". 

is surely The Portrait of Gertrude Stein, bequeathed by Ms. Stein in 1947.  Completed in 1906, the Portrait of Gertrude Stein foreshadowed the creation of Cubism, a movement that arose from collaboration between Picasso and Georges Braque during 1908 - 1912. These co-founders discarded the Renaissance conception of painting as the translation of three dimensional form onto a flat picture plane using perspective and illusionistic drawing. Instead, Picasso and Braque - and later the Cubists - contended that objects didn't have any fixed or absolute form, so that every vantage point could be captured in one pictorial whole.

In Portrait of Gertrude Stein, Picasso portrays her in an untraditional yet confident pose, with her right arm and hand contoured and the left, flat and stiff. Her bulk floods the picture frame, leaving her lifeless and more statue-like than human. Her hair sits rather than grows on her head. Most significantly, her picasso portrait gertrude steinmask-life face hints at the distortions that hallmark Analytic Cubism

Stein reported that Picasso required more than 90 sittings to complete this painting, primarily due to constant re-workings of her face.  Allegedly, Picasso was told that Stein's portrait didn't resemble her, to which he quipped, "It will."

Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906.  Oil on canvas, 39 3/8" x 32".   

Art exhibitions with "Picasso" in the title will always command huge crowds (and Picasso paintings, huge prices!) - if you're planning to visit either the Met or MoMA, be prepared for some lines. 

Explore the remarkable series of Picasso paintings, Las Meninas

Female Artists: Artemisia Gentileschi's Later Life


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

One of the first female artists with a reputation beyond her native judith beheading holofernes gentileschicountry, Artemisia Gentileschi endured a tumultuous childhood (read about the early life of Artemisia Gentileschi) but thrived nonetheless.

She and her father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi, were acquainted with the renowned Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 - 1610).  In one of the best known Artemisia Gentileschi paintings, Judith Beheading Holofernes, (right), her rendition of this apocryphal legend was influenced by Caravaggio's version created about two decades earlier (below). The violence and drama of her painting, enhanced by use of chiaroscuro, are typical of the Caravaggisti, or followers who imitated Caravaggio paintings. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Oil on canvas, c. 1620.  Uffizi, Florence.

In comparing the Holofernes theme executed by each,  Mary D. Garrard (Artemisia Gentileschi; Rizzoli Art Series) observes:

"Her strategy was not so much to pay Caravaggio homage as to demand to be compared with him, to be taken seriously as an artist, perhaps even to go him one better."

In Gentileschi's rendition, Judith appears older, Abra is younger, and both unite to slaughter Holofernes.  The women dominate and control the action in a manner impossible to imagine with Caravaggio's timid females.  Gentileschi has not only demonstrated her superior ability to portray these women convincingly, but also has asserted her prowess in painting the Biblical and mythological themes typically handled only by male artists.

caravaggio judith beheading holofernesNearly four centuries later, her popularity is once again as pervasive as it was during her late career. Works of art previously attributed to Orazio and other Baroque painters, for example, have been attributed to

Caravaggio.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Oil on canvas, 1598-99.  57" x 76 1/2".  Palazzo Barberini, Rome. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.

The first art exhibition of Artemisia Gentileschi paintings was held in 1991 at Florence's Casa Buonarroti; significantly, the Casa was built by Michelangelo Buonarroti the younger, a nephew of Michelangelo and an early patron of Artemisia. Numerous books have been written about her (I'm a fan of Susan Vreeland's The Passion of Artemisia) and even a movie, Artemisia, was made in 1997. In it, the relationship between Artemisia and Tassi is portrayed as mutual and passionate -- but now you know that that is pure Hollywood, not art history!

Another of the famous paintings by Gentileschi, her Self-Portrait of 1630, typifies her tendency to challenge the status quo. The artemisia gentileschiposition in which she portrays herself is highly unusual, and would be daunting for any painter at any time in art history.

The Royal Collection, which owns this famous artwork, posits that she placed two facing mirrors on either side of herself. The mirror, traditionally an attribute of female vanity, is here associated with truth and accuracy -- and in the case of Artemisia Gentileschi,  with another break from tradition.

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Artemisia Gentileschi. Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1630. Oil on canvas, 38" x 29". The Royal Collection, St. James' Palace, London.

Female Artists: Artemisia Gentileschi


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Like all female artists of the Renaissance, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - c. 1652) was forbidden to draw from the live, or naked, male model. Commissions for paintings from the Church and nobility were expected to incorporate characteristics like naturalism, tenebrism (the creation of forms by focusing a strong light source into a dark background) and drama enacted by men. Within these constraints of Renaissance art, female artists were forced into less prestigious and lucrative genres like still-life and portraiture. 

Luckily for Artemisia Gentileschi, her father was the established Renaissance painter Orazio Gentileschi, perhaps most memorable for his artwork in the Palazzo Rospigliosi-Pallavicini, the Borghese palace in Rome which also houses Guido Reni's breath-taking fresco, Aurora. In defiance of stereotypical roles in Renaissance art, Artemisia painted mythological and Biblical themes like her male peers, but she opted instead for women who were heroic, powerful or abused, such as Bathsheba, Susanna, Cleopatra, Judith, and Esther. 

famous paintings GentileschiThis choice of subject matter allowed her to define her own niche market in Renaissance art, the naked female form, but also recalled personal tragedy.

Orazio had hired the Italian painter, Agostino Tassi, to teach drawing to Artemisia; she subsequently claimed that he raped and sexually intimidated her. 

In the ensuing seven month court trial in 1621, she - as a teenager - was tortured with thumb screws to ascertain the truth of her claims; she was further subjected to relentless public humiliation from both the Roman judicial system and the public. Although Tassi was ultimately convicted (he also stood accused of raping his sister-in-law and one of his wives), Artemisia's honor and reputation were irreparably harmed.

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes, c. 1620.  Oil on canvas, 78" x 64".  Uffizi, Florence. 

Orazio arranged a marriage of convenience to a Florentine painter, Pierantonio Stiattesi. Although the marriage was loveless and lasted until he abandoned her ten years later, it relocated Artemisia to Florence, and created a socially acceptable framework in which she could paint. And paint she did, in addition to mothering four children.

Although illiterate, she nonetheless flourished and became socially intimate with (and was unabashedly admired by) Galileo; had patrons including the Italian scholar, Cassiano del Pozzo, and Cosimo II de'Medici; and became in 1616 the first female painter in the Academy of Design (Accademia del Disegno). 

One of Artemisia Gentileschi's most famous paintings is Judith Beheading Holofernes (above) which illustrates an event from the Old Testament Book of Judith.  As the Assyrian general, Holofernes, prepared to destroy the land of Judah,  Judith went with her maidservant, Abra, to Holofernes' camp.  Posing as a deserter from the Hebrews, Judith seduced him with her beauty, plied him with alcohol, and severed his head.  After it was displayed from the city walls, the Assyrians disperse.  Quickly, legend has it!

Coming next... The later life (and success) of Artemisia Gentileschi

Female Artists: Frida Kahlo


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

The dearth of female artists winning Oscars was excruciatingly apparent when Kathryn Bigelow of Hurt Locker won for Best Frida Kahlo Nikolas MurayDirector, the first woman so honored.  This got me thinking of female painters who also attained such "firsts"...

Here's a debut post about a group of remarkable female artists, of whom Frida Kahlo will be the first.

Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) was a legendary beauty whose life and art paintings fueled interest in Mexican art.  After suffering polio at

Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nikolas Muray.

the age of six, Frida Kahlo endured a near fatal accident at the age of 18 that crushed her spine and pelvis. In spite of 32 subsequent operations over 26 years, Kahlo never fully recovered, suffering chronic pain for the remainder of her life.

Remarkably, Frida Kahlo taught herself to paint during her initial recuperation and painted for nearly three decades, leaving an oeuvre of nearly 200 Frida Kahlo paintings.

In 1929 she married the Mexican artist, Diego Rivera (born Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos frida kahlo wedding portraitAcosta y Rodríguez, for heaven's sake), known for his murals of the Mexican Revolution. The conflicts in their tempestuous and volatile relationship were apparent even in Frida and Diego Rivera, one of the first Frida Kahlo paintings of the pair.  

He alone is carrying painting tools, although each was an accomplished painter.  Kahlo portrays herself solely as a traditional wife, foreshadowing her lifelong struggle between this Mexican persona and her role as painter. 

Frida Kahlo. Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 in. x 31 in. Acquired 1936. Albert M. Bender Collection, Gift of Albert M. Bender. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  

Frida Kahlo paintings are almost exclusively small, self-portraits in which she wears traditional Mexican clothing and surrounds herself with attributes associated with superstitions and folkloric beliefs.  Her paintings often explore her sexual and cultural identities through subjects seldom broached in Western art history or even by most female artists; these include childbirth, abortion and miscarriage. 

Kahlo's painting style incorporates her enduring fascination with Colonial and pre-Columbian artwork, with Mexican folk imagery like ex-votos (folk images placed at a church altar to thank Jesus for fulfilling wishes), and with the culture and ethos of Mexico.

Frida Kahlo paintings are readily identifiable but defy stylistic classification, although Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism, famously tried.  When visiting Diego Rivera in 1938, he labelled Kahlo a "natural Surrealist", to which Kahlo retorted that she hadn't known this frida kahlo the two fridasbefore Breton's arrival.

Kahlo stated:

"I never painted dreams.  I painted my own reality."

In spite of her resistance to Breton's label, he penned the intro for the catalog of her New York

Frida Kahlo. The Two Fridas, 1939. Oil on canvas, 5'9" x 5'9". Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City. 

art exhibition that year. 

This depiction of her "reality" is painfully portrayed in one of the best known Frida Kahlo paintings, The Two Fridas (above).

Painted during her divorce from Diego Rivera in 1939, Kahlo contended that he loved the Mexican Frida, dressed in a traditional peasant blouse and skirt on the right, but not the European Frida, who sits on the left in Victorian, European attire.  The two Fridas are united through their joined hands and a sole artery, whose blood flow comes from the minute portrait of Diego Rivera clasped by Mexican Frida.  The European Frida - the woman scorned - grips forceps and futilely tries to staunch the flow of blood coursing to their hearts and linking them to Rivera.  These detailed, exposed hearts leave no ambiguity about Kahlo's pain over Rivera's philandering and the demise of their marriage.

The next year, however, she and Rivera reconciled and remarried. Frida Kahlo became - or envisioned herself as - his protectress, as she depicted both of them in The Love Embrace of the Universe.  Sadly, she died a mere five years later.  

frida kahlo love embrace

Frida Kahlo, The Love-Embrace of the Universe, 1949. Oil on masonite,  approx. 28" x 24". The Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art Collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman.

This art history blog, Famous Paintings Reviewed, is dedicated to making the history of painting accessible and easily understood.  We'd love your company!

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Upcoming: the "Female Artists" series continues with Artemisia Gentileschi (who wasn't so subservient in her marriage, even though it was centuries earlier than Kahlo's!), Judith LeysterRosa Bonheur, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Georgia O'Keeffe, Sofonisba Anguissola, Lavinia Fontana, Helen Frankenthaler, Angelica Kauffmann, and Berthe Morisot

Famous Paintings by Caravaggio


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

 An exhibition of famous paintings by Caravaggio opened 20 February at Rome's Scuderie del Quirinale - with all the requisite ingredients of a blockbuster art exhibition.

On the 400th anniversary of the death of "the painter of shadowy light", this art exhibition features only those Caravaggio paintings indisputably his.  Art paintings created by the Caravaggio "school", or baroque paintings of caravaggion boy with basket of fruitdisputed attribution, are not here, leaving a rare opportunity for pure immersion in Caravaggio paintings.  Astonishingly, some of the most famous paintings in the world are on loan from their art museums.  

With patronage from the President of the Italian Republic, this exhibition assembles both well-known and infrequently viewed Caravaggio paintings.  Among the more famous paintings are The Musicians (from the Metropolitan Museum), Basket of Fruit (from Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan), Judith Beheading Holofernes (Palazzo Barberini in Rome), and The Conversion of St. Paul (Cerasi Chapel, Rome).

Rather than being exhibited chronologically, the Caravaggio paintings caravaggio bacchusare hung to foster direct comparison among recurrent themes and subjects. For instance, Boy with a Basket of Fruit (above left) is juxtaposed with Bacchus (right). Also, multiple versions of a famous painting are juxtaposed -- like the three versions of St. John the Baptist, loaned from the Galleria Corsini, Nelson-Atkins Museum, and Capitoline Museums. Similarly, two versions of the Supper of Emmaus are shown for comparison: the one from the National Gallery in London (the version forged by Han van Meegeren, whose infamous exploits are richly detailed by Edward Dolnick in The Forger's Spell), and one from the Pinacoteca di Brera. 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born to a prestigious family from Caravaggio, Italy in 1571, a date firmly established only in 2007 by discovery of his baptism certificate.  Despite the brevity of his life - he died at 39 - Caravaggio left innumerable contributions to art history, including artistic references to his legal entanglements. caravaggio david with head of goliathHe had been sentenced to death for murder;  shortly thereafter, he portrayed himself as the decapitated Goliath in one of his most famous paintings, David with the Head of Goliath (right).

What virtually guarantees blockbuster status for the exhibition is the rarity with which some of these Caravaggio paintings leave their art museums. These include masterpiece paintings like

  • Deposition from the Vatican Museums,

  • Annunciation from the Museum of Nancy,

  • the Crowning of Thorns from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum, and

  • Lute Player from the Hermitage (below)- it's on loan only until mid-May, a month before this exhibition ends on June 13. 

So if you have any chance to visit Rome in the next four months, put these Caravaggio paintings and exhibition at the top of your list!

caravaggio lute player



Can You Name the Five Most Famous Paintings?


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

Which famous paintings have had the greatest impact on art history? And which famous painters, too? A tall (and subjective) order, for sure, but one that's approachable with a simple methodology.

Here's how: starting with major art history textbooks (those used in AP art history, college art history, and art appreciation courses) and "Best of" art books (like the late Thomas Hoving's Greatest Works of Art in Western 

leonardo mona lisa

Civilization), we recorded which famous paintings were discussed by this array of some forty art historians (in some 17,000 pages). We counted the "votes", or citations, for each famous artwork, beginning with Renaissance paintings and ending with early Pop art. And then we plucked out the 250 most-cited art paintings.

Curious which famous paintings were discussed, analyzed and assessed most often?

In third place, a tie among these five famous paintings:

  • Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa.  Louvre, Paris.

  • Pablo Picasso, Guernica.  Reina Sofia, Madrid.

  • Raphael, Philosophy (School of Athens), Vatican, Rome.

  • Jean-Antoine Watteau, Embarkation for Cythera. Louvre, Paris.

  • Matthias Gruenewald, The Isenheim Altar.  Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France.

These famous artworks received the second most citations:

  • Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte - 1884.  Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.  

  • Diego Velazquez, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor).  Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

Pablo Picasso Les DemoisellesAnd the painting that was most discussed by these luminaries of art history? Les Demoiselles by Pablo Picasso.  Indisputably one of the most famous paintings of the world, it may be seen at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.  

Know an art history know-it-all? Let'em try to name these famous paintings!

Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles.  Oil on canvas, 1907.  8' x 7' 8".  Museum of Modern Art, New York

Read and discover more about art history with Masterpiece Cards, art history cards of 250 famous paintings made between the Renaissance and 1960s.  Each art painting is both reviewed by an art historian (or two), who places the work in its historical and social context, and brilliantly reproduced, with art museum approved images. Discover Masterpiece Cards here!



Vincent van Gogh Paintings: "The Potato Eaters"


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

millais sowerDespite the fame of Vincent van Gogh paintings now, the early years of van Gogh (1853-1890) offered nary a hint of his future popularity.

Born in Groot-Zundert, Holland, the son of a Calvinist pastor, van Gogh dropped out of school in 1869 to work for an art dealer; he was fired seven years later. Van Gogh then spent two years as a lay preacher working with impoverished miners; he was denied ordination because he was considered "overly passionate" by Calvinist authorities. 

At the age of 27, van Gogh resolved to become an artist. 

Beginning at this juncture and for the rest of his life, Vincent van Gogh received emotional and financial support from his brother, Theo. This support 

Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower. Oil on canvas, 1850.  40" x 32.5".  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

included frequent letters between the two, providing not only insights into the specific intentions and contexts of van Gogh paintings, but also into Vincent's volatile mental health (Explore the complete collection of van Gogh letters written to, and received from, Theo, and letters Vincent van Gogh wrote to famous painters and friends like Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard).

From 1883 to 1885, van Gogh lived at his father's vicarage in Nuenen, Holland, where he created one of his most famous paintings, The Potato Eaters. Van Gogh was clearly influenced by the realistic art and peasant imagery of Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875), as he conveyed in a letter to Theo:

"While I was doing it I thought again about what has so rightly been said of Millet's peasants - ‘His peasants seem to have been painted with the soil they sow'". 

israeliz peasant familyVan Gogh also admired Jozef Israels, a painter of fishermen and peasants whom van Gogh described to Theo as the "Dutch Millet".

Jozef Israels, Peasant Family at Table.  Oil on canvas, 1882.  Approximately 28" x 41".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

Between Millet's The Sower and Israels' Peasant Family at Table, van Gogh was motivated to create his own version of a peasants' meal.  

Compositionally, The Potato Eaters echoes Israels' work of art.  Van Gogh's painting, however, has darker hues, an impasto paint texture, and more influence from Rembrandt's tenebrism (a painting style employed by Caravaggio and followers in which a few objects are brightly lit while the majority are in heavy shadow).  

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters.  Oil on canvas, 1885.  Approximately 32" x 45".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Its perspective is askew - look how abruptly the ceiling beams recede - and reveals van Gogh's technical naivete.  And genius.

van gogh potato eaters



Perhaps this lack of experience permits his passion to exude (explore this in other van Gogh paintings, too). The peasants' gnarled hands and fingers evince severe arthritic pain, while the folds and wrinkles in their tattered clothing seem to restrain some unwieldy, internal force.  On the wall, the Crucifixion picture and clock seem poised to jump off the wall rather than remain attached. 

This explosive energy within this work of art is a heartfelt but unsentimental contrast to its solemnity and tranquility, in which these peasants have merely coffee and potatoes to eat after a physically taxing day.

Vincent van Gogh, The Potato Eaters.  Oil on canvas, 1885.  Approximately 32" x 45".  Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Van Gogh was pleased with Potato Eaters, writing to Theo that contrast to a great many other paintings, it has rusticity and a certain life in it. And then, although it's done differently, in a different century from the old Dutchmen, Ostade, for instance, it's nevertheless out of the heart of peasant life and - original.

Van Gogh's painting career was tragically abbreviated by an unspecifiable mental illness; the physician who admitted him to a psychiatric hospital in 1888 noted that van Gogh had "acute mania with hallucinations of sight and hearing."  His failure to achieve financial stability was profoundly troubling - he sold only one painting, Red Vineyard at Arles, during his lifetime, according to some art historians; he had no patrons; and he was forced to remain financially dependent on Theo. 

While most art historians contend that van Gogh died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890 (in spite of having recently van Gogh Red Vineyard at Arlesreceived a postive review from the art critic Alberet Aurier), a new book, Van Gogh: The Life (Smith and Naifeh) claims van Gogh was shot by local teenagers. 

What is certain is that Vincent's impact on art history is incalcuabale: after one decade as a painter, he left 1000 van Gogh paintings,  of which 70 were made in his final 70 days); and he inspired Fauvists, Expressionists and legions of famous painters including Gauguin (1848 - 1903), Matisse (1869 - 1854), Maurice Vlaminck (1876 - 1958), Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876 - 1907), and Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992).

Even with the brevity of his life and profound mental illness, van Gogh paintings are some of the most renown in the history of painting.

Van Gogh, Red Vineyard in Arles.  Oil on canvas, 1888. Pushkin Museum. 

Explore more Vincent van Gogh paintings here. 

famous paintings flashcardsAre you a fan of famous paintings? 

So are the folks at Masterpiece Cards. We took 23 leading art history books (some 17,000 pages!) and researched which painters and paintings were cited from the 1440s to 1960s.

From the opinions of these 40 art historians, we selected the top 250 famous paintings and made them into a set of art history flashcards.  

Look at sample art history flashcards



Famous Artwork: The Adoration of the Lamb


An art history blog post from Famous Paintings Reviewed.

The most famous artwork created by Hubert and Jan van Eyck (ca. 1390 - 1441) is the renowned Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432. 

This masterpiece of Renaissance paintings consists of 24 panels hinged together in a polytych; 12 art paintings are visible when the altarpiece is either fully open or closed. The most famous artwork in Ghent Altarpiece - and an icon of religious paintings - is The Adoration of the Lamb

Lamb of God Ghent Altarpiece

Hubert and Jan van Eyck. The Adoration of the Lamb, panel from the Ghent Altarpiece.  Completed 1432.

Based on a passage from the Book of Revelations read on All Saints Day (November 1), this painting shows the Lamb of God in a meadow, with the community of saints arriving from the four corners of the earth. In Christian belief, the Lamb of God was sacrificed to redeem humanity from the Original Sin of Adam and Eve. The Lamb of God's blood is captured in a chalice, while angels surrounding the altar hold the Instruments of the Passion:

  • the column upon which Christ was flogged;

  • the cross and nails from his Crucifixion;

  • the lance which pierced him; and

  • the sponge used to moisten his lips when he hung on the cross.

The two groups approaching the Altar in the background are the holy confessors, bishops and 

adoration of mystic lamb detail

cardinals (identifiable by their red, flat hats, above), and the holy Virgins (below). They carry palms to symbolize the triumph of martyrdom over death. 

adoration of lamb van eyck

In the left foreground (below) are representatives from the Old Testament and various well-known

ghent altar adoration

pagans, including the Roman poet, Virgil; he is in the center wearing a white robe and laurel crown.  The group in the right foreground (below) includes the Twelve Apostles, shown in front.  

twelve apostles van eyck paintings

The sheer dazzle and brilliance of this famous artwork are impossible to reproduce (and nearly as challenging to describe).  The late Thomas Hoving, author of "Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization", commented

The painting is renowned for how every detail is brilliantly rendered.  The realism of this work is literally breathtaking and there is simply no other work in existence that can come near to the intense concentration of the utter reality of everything in the picture, but especially of the details.  Everything... seems to have been (and perhaps was) painted with a single-hair brush

If you're lucky enough to be in Belgium.. get Adoration of the Lamb and the Saint Bavo Cathedral on your itinerary!  Read about other panels in Ghent Altarpiece. 


Learn about other famous artwork.

famous paintings art history cardsMasterpiece Cards feature 250 famous paintings on flashcards, and provide key facts, analysis of what each work means, and details of why it's significant.

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