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Famous Paintings Reviewed

Frans Hals: Portrait of a Preacher

Posted by Susan Benford

Frans Hals (1582/83 - 1666) was one of three famous painters who, along with Vermeer and Rembrandt, defined the Dutch Golden Age of painting in the 17th century.  

Hals was trained by the Mannerist painter, Karel van Mander, who instructed his students to paint either "neat" (precisely) or "rough" (without great detail).  His star pupil came to master this rough style, ultimately becoming one of the most famous Dutch painters in art history.

Frans_Hals_PreacherOf the nearly 300 Frans Hals paintings, nearly all are portraits - but few are as magnificent as his diminutive Portrait of a Preacher.  

The candor of the expression in the preacher's eyes hints at a complex personality.  His mustache is painted "wet in wet" (painting atop wet paint) while a single brushstroke defines his thumb. Nearly every brushstroke is vital in modeling this portrait; none is superflous.

Frans Hals. Portrait of a Preacher, ca. 1660. Oil on panel, 14 1/4" by 11 7/8". The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, currently on loan to Yale University Art Gallery.

While the preacher's identity isn't certain, it is certain that through this streamlined format, he intended to be remembered as a simple man.  Few attributes define him or offer clues to his identity:

  • his lace collar is as plain as they came;
  • his background and clothing lack ornamentation; and
  • his skullcap is not necessarily indicative of priesthood.

Notes John Walsh, Director Emeritus of the Getty and a specialist in Dutch paintings, this gentleman was a "man above vanity".  

The sitter wanted to be portrayed as representative of a certain class or type, making it all the more remarkable that despite those societal expectations, Frans Hals nonetheless conveys an individualized, distinctive personality. 

Interested in more?

  • Listen to John Walsh's exceptional lecture on Portrait of a Preacher.
  • Explore other Frans Hals paintings.  Learn about his Laughing Cavalier
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10 Famous Paintings in the Prado Museum

Posted by Susan Benford

The institution we now call the Prado Museum opened in 1819 and was called the Royal Museum of Paintings.  Because its collection was from the royal collection, the Museo del Prado was never designed to be an encyclopaedic museum.  Rather than showcasing objects from all eras of art history, the Prado Museum reflects the tastes of Spanish royalty.


And what taste they had.

Juan Sanchez Cotan. Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit, 1602.  Oil on canvas, approximately 27" by 35".  Prado, Madrid.

While leading Spanish painters - including El Greco, Velazquez and Goya - are well represented, the Prado Museum also has numerous art paintings by other European painters.

Ten Prado paintings not to miss include:

1. Juan Sanchez Cotan.  Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit.

Believed to be the first surviving Spanish still life, or bodegon, Still Life with Game Vegetables and Fruit is one of six known Juan Sanchez Cotan paintings.

Not bad for a painter deemed the father of Spanish still life painting.  For the following century, the style of Juan Sanchez Cotan - a strong light source illuminating objects set against a nearly pitch black background -  would heavily influence Spanish painters, who in turn influenced other Europeans. 

Although Sanchez Cotan enjoyed some success as a painter - records show that he lent money to his friend, El Greco - he abandoned painting in 1602 to become a Carthusian monk. What a loss for art history.

Read more about Juan Sanchez Cotan, one of the most remarkable Spanish painters. 

2. Rogier van der Weyden.  The Escorial Deposition (or Descent from the Cross)

Originally a triptych, Descent from the Cross survived, tradition says, a horrific shipwreck on its way from Rogier-van-der-Weyden-Descent-from-CrossBelgium to Spain. Lucky for us.

It's hard to imagine a more compelling and gripping portrayal of grief not only in religious art but in any art. 

Rogier van der Weyden. Excorial Deposition (Descent from the Cross). Tempera and oil on wood, ca. 1435-1440. 7'3" by 8'7". Prado, Madrid.

Rogier van der Weyden has created a living theater with minutely executed details in clothing and in the tear-stained faces.  

The composition is exquisite - the curve of the body of the fainted Virgin is echoed by the body of Jesus.  The mourners are solidly volumetric and three dimensional, and seem to tilt into the viewer's space, as if in an invitation to share this grief.

3. Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights.

Over five centuries after Bosch created Garden of Earthly Delights, art historians remain perplexed at how he developed a style so different from the prominent Netherlandish painters of his time, Jan van Eyck (ca. 1370/90-1441) and Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1400-1464).  

Garden_of_Earthly_Delights-resized-600Forty Hieronymous Bosch paintings are known to exist; none is dated, and only seven, including Garden of Earthly Delights, are signed.

Although Hieronymous Bosch was a devout Catholic and chose the triptych format often used in altarpieces, Garden of Earthly Delights features imagery that would not have been accepted in a church. By a long shot.

Explore Garden of Earthly Delights and its enigmatic images. 

Hieronymous Bosch. Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505. Oil and grisaille on wooden panel. Center panel is 7'2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4". Each wing is 7'2 1/2" x 3'2".  Prado, Madrid.

4. Albrecht Durer.  Self Portrait 1498.

One of many Albrecht Durer self portraits, this 1498 version portrays him as a nobleman, not a painter, and Albrecht-Durer-self-portrait-1498in a pose typically reserved for those in high society.  Note the grey kidskin gloves, a luxury generally reserved for the wealthiest classes. 

Albrecht Durer.  Self Portrait, 1498.  Oil on panel, 20" by 16". Prado, Madrid.

The Renaissance transformed the status of painters from lowly craftsmen to a standing as intellectuals and courtiers.  By his pronounced signature below the window, Albrecht Durer leaves no doubt that he embraced this elevated stature.

5. El Greco.  Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest

According to the Prado museum, this is the best known of all El Greco paintings (I might argue for View of Toledo instead).  

El_Greco_paintings-nobleman-hand-chestThe nobleman, tentatively identified as Juan da Silva, notary major of Toledo, is identified as a gentleman by his lace collar and cuffs, pendant, and sword.  Light is focused on the sitters's face and hands, which are accentuated and framed by the brilliant ruff and cuffs.  

El Greco.  Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest, ca. 1580.  Oil on canvas, 32" by 26".  Prado, Madrid.

The focus on his illuminated hand and outstretched fingers has been variously interpreted as repentance; a vow; some rhetorical gesture; or simply as a compelling composition.  

I'm more taken with the naturalness of that hand and the sitter's piercing, confident gaze.

6. Diego Velazquez.  Las Meninas (The Family of Charles IV).

One of the most famous painters in art history, according to any rubric, anytime. With fifty of the known 140 Diego Velazquez paintings, the Prado has the world's most extensive collection. 

Of all the famous paintings in the Prado, Las Meninas takes top honors in an exceptional collection. 

Thankfully, it is not beset by Mona-Lisa-like swarms. 

Velazquez-Las-Meninas_smallestlWhile Velazquez's skills as a painter are widely known (explore more Velazquez paintings here), his brilliant curatorial eye isn't.  Many of the Prado's Tintoretto, Veronese and Titian paintings were purchased at the suggestion of Velazquez (and with the deep pockets of Spanish king King Phillip IV).

See the homage paid by Pablo Picasso to Velazquez in his series of 58 Las Meninas paintings.

Diego Velazquez.  Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor), 1656.  Oil on canvas, 10'5" by 9'.  Prado, Madrid.

7. Diego Velazquez.  Surrender at Breda (The Lances)

In 1625, Spanish troops commanded by Ambrosio Spinola defeated Dutch troops in the port city of Breda.  In Surrender at Breda, Justin of Nassua, its governor, is stopped from bending his knee in a demonstration of Spinola's benevolence and generosity.

Behind them to the right and left are Dutch and Spanish soliders, the latter in front of an array of upright, intact lances.  This not-so-subtle reference to power spawned its popular nickname, The Lances.


Diego Velazquez.  The Surrender of Breda, 1634-35.  Oil on canvas, approximately 10' by 12'.  Prado, Madrid.

In the bottom right corner is a white sheet of paper, a device often used by painters as a prominent place to sign the work.  In Surrender at Breda, Velazquez opts to leave it blank - as if he alone is capable of such a masterpiece.

8. Titian.  Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Charles V at Muhlberg

The greatest portraitist of 16th century Europe, Titian was a reference point for generations of European painters.

In Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Charles V, Titian portrait commemorates the victory at Muhlberg of imperial (Catholic) forces against Protestant ones.  

Although this equestrian portrait initially seems straightforward, it instead houses a dual symbolism (and a good deal of creative license) : the victor Charles is portrayed as both a Christian knight and as heir to the imperial Roman tradition.

Titian-Charles_V-MuhlbergAround his neck, Charles wears the Order of the Golden Fleece, an order of 24 knights who pledged to join Charles in preserving Catholicism.  

When Titian made this painting, Charles, at age 57, had abdicated and was residing on his Spanish estate. 

Titian.  Equestrain Portrait of Charles V at Muhlberg, 1548.    Oil on canvas, 10' 11" by 9' 2".  Prado, Madrid.

He was riddled with gout, a result of poor habits like drinking ice-cold beer before breakfast, and, according to contemporaries, of his inordinate fondness for eel pie, olives, spicy Spanish sausages and oysters. 

This Titian portrait is pure fiction.

Explore more Titian paintings

9. Francisco Goya. The Third of May, 1808

On May 2, 1808, citizens of Madrid revolted against the occupying forces of Napoleon. The next day, his troops exacted revenge by killing hundreds of rebels and innocent bystanders.

While the shooters are faceless and indistinguishable from one another, the victims in The Third of May are depicted in fine detail. The white-shirted man is terrified, and holds his arms upward, recalling Christ's crucifixion; the victim in the left foreground, prone in pooled blood, similarly echoes this stance.


Francisco Goya. The Third of May, 1808. Oil on canvas, 1814. 8'9" by 11'4". Prado Museum, Madrid.

Read more about The Third of May, 1808.  See more Goya paintings, including his haunting series of 14 works called "The Black Paintings". 

10. Jose (Jusepe) de Ribera.  Bearded Woman.

Another leading painter during the Spanish Golden Age of painting, Jusepe de Ribera spent the bulk of his career in Italy.  His riveting triple portrait, Bearded Women, reflects the 17th century fashion of portraying people with physical or psychological abnormalities.

Ribera-Bearded_WomanBearded Woman was commissioned in 1631 by the Duke of Alcala, the Viceroy of Naples and a major patron of de Ribera.  Felix and Magdalena Ventura were a married couple with three sons when, at the age of 37, she developed a full beard. 

Jusepe de Ribera.  Bearded Woman, 1631.  Oil on canvas, 91" by 72".

In spite of her startling appearance, de Ribera has created a respectful portrait of the couple: Magdalena's forlorn face and her husband's fretting demeanor elicit sympathy, not derision. 

The inscription on the stone to the right of Bearded Woman documents her hypertrichosis and earlier life.  

Note the spool of thread and head of staff on top of the slab: these symbols of femininity and domesticity solidify Jusepe de Ribera's respectful portrayal.

Have you, too, been lucky enough to visit the Prado? Let me know one of your favorite paintings there.

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Paul Cezanne Paintings: The Red Dress Series

Posted by Susan Benford


The four Paul Cezanne paintings of his wife wearing a red, shawl-collared dress provide unusual insight into his painterly process: although Madame Cezanne is immediately recognizable by her mask-like face, almond-shaped eyes and slicked-back hair, none of the Red Dress paintings is intended as a portrait to capture her likeness.

Paul Cezanne.  Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair, ca. 1888-1890.  Oil on canvas, 31 7/8" by 25 5/8".  Fondation Beyeler, Basel.

Although art historians don't unanimously agree on the order in which Cezanne created the Red Dress paintings, most concur that the largest - the Met's version - was his final iteration.  

These works can be divided into two pairs according to how Hortense Fiquet is seated: in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Basel works, she is turned to the right; in the Met and Sao Paulo versions, she is seated more frontally.

Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair - Basel and Chicago versions

The Basel version (above, left) appears to be the most quickly painted of these four Paul Cezanne paintings. The Madame-Cezanne-Red-Dress-Chicagounderpainting and brush underdrawing are immediately visible, and white ground shows in her hands, dress, and face as well as in the yellow chair. 

Yet Dita Amory, the curator of the Madame Cezanne exhibition, notes that details were added after the initial paint had cured: these include the dark band atop the wainscot, which is sustantially wider on the left of the painting.

Paul Cezanne. Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair, ca. 1888-90.  Oil on canvas, 31 7/8" by 25 5/8".  Art Institute of Chicago.

In the Chicago work (right), Madame Cezanne is no longer gazing directly at the viewer, and isn't sitting as convincingly on the chair; she almost seems to be standing.  Her head, face and body are flatter and more stylized, making this version less natural than the Basel work.

Again, the wainscoting is heavier on the left than the right, as if to counterbalance the heft of Hortense's figure.

Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress - Sao Paolo version

The Sao Paolo version is a sketchy, candid portrait that lacks the yellow armchair and wainscot of the three other versions. Here, the sculptural aspects of Hortense Fiquet's dress are more imposing - and seemingly of more interest to Cezanne - than her face and head.  

Madame_Cezanne_red_Dress_Sao_pauloAs with the other subjects Cezanne painted repeatedly, Madame Cezanne serves as a springboard for exploration and experimentation with color and tone - these are not portraits as the art world had known them. 

Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress, ca. 1888-90.  Oil on canvas, 35" by 27 1/2".  Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand.

Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress - Met version

The largest and most spatially complex of the Red Dress paintings - and one of the most famous paintings by Cezanne - is the Met's monumental Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress.

It would be hard to view Cezanne's other three Red Dress paintings as anything but grand studies for this masterpiece.

Cezanne introduces here an elaborate background with ornate draperies, fireplace tongs, and a hint of a mirrored mantelpiece.

Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress roils with instability and motion, and is rife with contrasts:

  • areas of underpainting in her dress are juxtaposed with fine details of the floral curtain;

  • the right side of her face is calm and assured, while the shadowed left side is anxious and even unsettled, as her arched eyebrow suggests; and

  • the angles of the wainscot band, the mirror, and the yellow armchair was impossible to reconcile.


Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress, ca. 1888-90. Oil on canvas, 45 7/8" by 35 1/4". Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This is the first time these Paul Cezanne paintings have been together since they were in his studio, and it's pure wonder to see this reunion. Do you agree with the opinion that the Met version is the final and most compelling portrait? Do tell.

Explore more Madame Cezanne paintings.  Look at 20 Cezanne paintings that have revolutionized art history. 

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Madame Cezanne Paintings

Posted by Susan Benford

Fans of Cezanne paintings recognize various motifs that recur in his work - arrays of fruit, a plaster cast of Cupid, the view of Mont Sainte-Victoire (see some of these famous Cezanne paintings). One frequent theme, however, has not received its due: portraits of his wife. Cezanne-paintings-Young-Woman-Loosened-Hair

This changed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition, Madame Cezanne, the first show of drawings, watercolors and paintings of his wife, Hortense Fiquet (1850-1922). 

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) created 29 Madame Cezanne portraits, more portraits than of any other model (except himself) during his prolific and lengthy career.  

An astounding 24 of these Madame Cezanne paintings are exhibited in this gem (a somewhat sleeper) of a show.

Paul Cezanne.  Young Woman with Loosened Hair, ca. 1873-74.  Oil on canvas, 4 3/8" by 6".  Private collection, on loan to Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen.

Why Has Madame Cezanne Been Unknown?

Cezanne met her in Paris in 1869, and three years later, she was modelling for him (see Young Woman with Loosened Hair, right). Fearing disapproval  and loss of financial support from his overbearing father, Cezanne closeted his relationship with Hortense and his out-of-wedlock son, Paul. It was 17 years later that they married.

madame-cezanne-leaning-on-a-tableHortense didn't fare well with her husband's friends or critics, either:

  • some referred to her as "La Boule" (the ball);
  • the art historian John Rewald contended that she neither influenced nor understood her husband's art; and
  • the English art historian Roger Fry dismissed "that sour bitch of a Madame" as the reason her husband's landscape paintings were unsuccessful.

(History doesn't record whether Fry gave Hortense credit for any of the successful paintings, but an educated guess suggests not). 

And then there were critics who cited her stiffness, impentrable gaze and unsmiling demeanor.

Paul Cezanne. Madame Cezanne  Leaning on a Table, ca. 1873-1874.  Oil on canvas, 18 1/8" by 15".  Private collection, care of Faggionato, London.

What the Exhibition Reveals

Because there are so few relics of Hortense Fiquet's life - for instance, only two letters she wrote have survived - there was ample room for conjecture.  

Even if Hortense did not comprehend her husband's aesthetics (and she was far from alone on that front), she deserves enormous credit for her commitment as a model, a sacrifice that was even acknowledged by John Rewald: 

Cezanne rarely painted any other woman, and it must have entailed considerable sacrifice on the part of his lively and talkative wife to lend herself to the endless sittings he inflicted on her. (1)

Further, we know through the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard that Cezanne would often pause 20 minutes between brushstokes.  

Who can hold a smile that long?

Madame Cezanne Paintings

Viewing these paintings, drawings and watercolors as a group reveals an inescapable tenderness in the attention taken in portraying her.  That he perceives form in terms of color relationships is clearly revealled in Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair.  


Paul Cezanne.  Madame Cezanne in a Red Armchair, ca. 1877.  Oil on canvas, 28 1/2" by 22".  Museum of Fine Art, Boston.

Hues of blue, gray, green, violet and brown interrelate so freely in the canvas that Hortense's flesh tones hint of the same palette as her jacket bodice and the patterned wallpaper.  The loose, fluid quality of the brushstrokes are juxtaposed against her implacable, stoic gaze; with any other demeanor, she would compete with the other energy in the canvas.

Instead, she is secondary to the imposing red chair and her voluminous striped skirt. It feels more calculated than coincidental.


Which of these portraits do you find most complling - which reveals more of Hortense Fiquet's personality, if any do?


These three Madame Cezanne paintings alone are reason enough to visit this show, which runs through March 15, 2015.  (And if you're at the Met, use the ebook, Famous Paintings at the Met to explore other masterpieces there!)

Stay tuned for more reasons to see this show in the next post - the four "Red Dress" paintings, exhibited together for the first time since they left Cezanne's studio!

 (1) Madame Cezanne by Dita Amory, page 10.







Tags: Cezanne paintings

Famous Paintings: View Of Toledo

Posted by Susan Benford

Born in Crete, El Greco (1541-1614) was trained as a Byzantine icon painter before moving to Venice.  There he worked in Titian's shop and studied famous paintings of the Renaissance, especially those by Veronese and Tintoretto.


The dramatic lighting typical of Tintoretto and the bold colors of Titian were lasting influences from this time. 

Domenikos Theotokopoulos.  Portrait of an Old Man, 1595-60. Oil on canvas, 20 3/4" by 18 3/8".  Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now considered a self-portrait.

After moving in 1570 to Rome, El Greco secured lodging in the palace of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the city's most influential art patrons.  Despite that prestigious connection, though, El Greco failed to receive even a single commission for an altarpiece during his six year tenure.


It seems it is ill-advised to assert that Michelangelo wasn't a skilled painter -- or to offer one's services in improving "The Last Judgement." 

Unfailingly confident, El Greco next tried Madrid, where his bid for patronage from Phillip II was turned down.  

Next up was Toledo. This ancient city was the capital of the Spanish empire until 1561, and remained its artistic, religious and intellectual center throughout the 16th century.  Toledo is memorialized in one of the most celebrated El Greco paintings, View of Toledo (most art history pros consider Burial of Count Orgaz to be his most famous painting). 


Domenikos Theotokopoulos.  View of Toledo, 1598-99.  Oil on canvas, 47 3/4" by 42 3/4".  Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In View of Toledo, El Greco takes extensive topographical liberties with the foreground meadow and the placement of the Tagus River and Alcantara bridge.  But he was not striving for precise representation. Instead, this swirling canvas of color captures El Greco's emotional response to his adopted homeland.  The meadow is eerily illuminated; there are microscopic washerwomen in the Tagus and walkers on the riverbanks - all of whom are microscopic dots - beneath a threatening sky.  

Keith Christiansen, Department of European Paintings at the Met, astutely reminds us that El Greco was a contemporary of Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci (the three died in 1614, 1610 and 1609, respectively). Christiansen notes, important respects El Greco's art belonged to the past, not the future: to the world of Mannerism, with its emphasis on the artist's imagination rather than the reproduction of nature... No other great Western artist moved mentally - as El Greco did - from the flat symbolic world of Byzantine icons to the world-embracing, humanistic vision of Renaissance paintings, and then on to a predominatly conceptual kind of art.

How ironic that El Greco,with one eye to the past, would become a forerunner of modern art.






Goya Paintings: Duchess of Alba

Posted by Susan Benford

Over his long association with Spanish royalty - Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) worked under four monarchies, first starting in 1774 - Goya painted numerous royal portraits.  Among those he most often portrayed was the Duchess of Alba (1761-1802).

After her husband died in 1796, the Duchess retreated in mourning to a residence outside Cadiz, Spain. In his role as royal painter, Goya joined her there from July 1797 to March 1798.  

Rumors of romantic involvement between the Duchess and Goya haven't stopped since.



Francisco Goya.  The Duchess of Alba, 1797.  Oil on canvas, 6' 10 1/2" by 4' 10 1/6".  The Hispanic Society of America, New York.

This speculation is fueled by ambiguity in the portrait itself:

- the inscription on the ground to which she points are the words - only exposed after a modern cleaning - "Solo Goya", or "Only Goya";

- on her right hand are two rings, one reading "Alba" and the other "Goya"; and

- the painting was in Goya's personal possession at the time of his death.

And, I'd add, this Duchess has some serious attitude. She's oozes self-confidence.goya-paintings-white-duchess

Attired in the contemporary fashion of a maja and vieled in a black mantilla for mourning, the Duchess has an implacable expression, with a brazen stare at the viewer that feels almost like a dare. 

Francisco de Goya.  The White Duchess, 1795.  Oil on canvas, 6' 4 1/2" by 4' 3 1/4".  The Alba Collection, Madrid. 

The Duchess, officially Dona Maria de Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Alvarez de Toledo (1761-1802) was, in the hierarchy of Spanish society, directly after the Queen, Maria Luisa.  The widespread fame of her  beauty may be behind rumors that the Queen poisoned the Duchess, who died at 41; no evidence supports this allegation.

But speculation about a Duchess-Goya liaison can be readily countered by other theories:

-"Sola Goya" is the artist's immodest proclamation that he alone was capable of capturing the Duchess' spirit and beauty;

- the "Goya" and "Alba" rings were 19th century additions, according to some art historians; and

- Goya's possession of the Duchess at his death may be merely because she rejected the portrait, or simply that Goya opted to keep it himself - it remains one of his most famous paintings today.

Maneula Mena is the Goya specialist at the Prado, home to the most extensive collection of Goya paintings; in her book, The Duchess of Alba, Goya's Muse: Myth and History, she concludes that there was no romantic entanglement between the two.

Let's put the alleged affair to rest, and see the Duchess of Alba for what it is: a masterful portrait evoking the personality, beauty, and social stature of one of Spain's leading ladies.

Now that that's resolved... what's up with her fingerpointing?

The Duchess is on exhibition in Goya: Order and Disorder, on view at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts until January 19, 2015. 

More Goya paintings: see Goya's portrait of The Family of Charles IV.  Explore an overview of his work to understand he is one of Spain's most famous painters, still today.

Update: The present day Duchess of Alba - holder of more aristocratic titles than any other royalty - passed away on 20 November 2014.




Tags: Francisco de Goya

Goya Paintings: Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Posted by Susan Benford

A retrospective of Francisco Goya (1746-1828) - encompassing 170 Goya paintings, prints and drawing - is Goya-Portraitcurrently on view at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.  Goya: Order and Disorder, which will only be exhibited in Boston, offers a comprehensive review of Goya's work, the first American retrospective in over 25 years.

More on that later.

Francisco Goya initially established his reputation as a portrait painter, painting leading social figures, aristocrats, intellectuals and members of the Spanish royalty, like the Family of Charles IV. He was court painter for four successive kings, largely due to his unprecedented ability to capture his sitters' psychological and mental states.

Vicente Lopez y Portana.  Francisco Goya, 1827.  Oil on canvas, approximately 37" by 30".  Prado Museum, Madrid.

Nowhere is that seen more persuasively than in Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (below). 

After sickness in 1792 left him stone deaf, Goya again became quite ill in 1819.  He was convinced that attentive care by his physician, Eugenio Garc’a Arrieta, brought him back to health. In gratitude, Goya painted this double portrait and presented it to Arrieta.

This Goya painting nearly steals the show, Goya: Order and Disorder - and the competition is fierce.

Goya's fevered, sweating brow is palpably clammy; his bed clothes are damp and limp from hours of heavy perspiration.  A calm, persistent Doctor Arrieta insists that Goya drink the proffered liquid. There is no doubt Goya-paintings-Self-Portrait-Doctor-Arrietathat both patient and doctor wonder if one of Spain's most famous painters will perish.  The shadowy, anonymous faces behind them are murmuring their angst and worry; over Goya's left shoulder, an apparition like the angel of death is lurking.

Franciso Goya.  Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta, 1820.  Oil on canvas, 45 1/8" x 30 1/8".  Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis.

The words at the bottom of the frame read:

Goya gives thanks for his friend, Arrieta, for the expert care with which he saved his life from an acute and dangerous infection which he suffered at the close of the year 1819 when he was 73 years old.

With this inscription, Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta looks like an ex-voto painting.  From the Latin "ex voto suscepto", or "from the vow made", this type of religious work had origins in Mesopotamia and Egypt - it was an expression of gratitude for divine intercession and avoidance of calamity. 

For the record, Goya lived for eight years after finishing Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta.

Explore other famous paintings by Francisco de Goya, including Duchess of Alba (also in Goya: Order and Disorder) and The Third of May.



Famous Paintings: Blind Man's Buff

Posted by Susan Benford

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) interrupted his painting career to serve in Germany's army field medical corps during World War I.  When he returned, he abandoned the classical style of painting typical of his pre-war works in favor of a more expressive style.


Max Beckmann.  Blind Man's Buff, 1945.  Oil on canvas.  Overall, 6' 9" by 14' 5".  Left panel: 73 1/2" by 40"; center panel: 81 1/2" by 90 1/2"; right panel: 73 7/8" by 41 3/4".  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston.  Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The new style solidified his reputation, and catapulted him to fame. A New York exhibition of his work was organized in 1926, and retrospective exhibitions were held in Mannheim, Basel and Zurich during 1928-1930. Considered one of Germany's most famous painters, Beckmann was recognized by the government with a plum teaching position in Frankfurt.

How quickly times can change.

When Hitler became chancellor in 1933, he comissioned construction of a Munich museum to showcase "ideal art." Concurrently, the National Socialists organized “Schandausstellungen”, or exhibitions of shame, to vilify modern art, including abstraction, Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism - in all cases, these damning shows included Max Beckmann paintings. 

In 1937, Hitler ordered creation of two exhibitions:

  • the "Great Germany Art Exhibition", showcasing this "ideal" artwork which was largely selected by the Fuhrer himself, and

  • the "Degenerate Art Show", in which some of 20,000 confiscated works of modern art were displayed to show their toxic influences on Germany culture (learn more about modern art in Nazi Germany).

590 paintings by Beckmann were confiscated from German museums in the National Socialists' purge of degenerate art; ten were featured in the Degenerate Art Show itself.  After being fired from his teaching post and hearing of plans to imprison and sterilize modern artists, Max Beckmann and his wife fled in exile to the Netherlands. 

During this Amsterdam tenure (1937-1947), he painted five triptychs, the most significant of which is Blind Man's Buff. This three paneled format, used often in medieval and Renaissance altarpieces, has overt religious associations.

One of Beckmann's most famous paintings, this triptych is a raucous cabaret scene in which participants pursue a variety of sensual pleasures, including music-making. On each side panel is a prominent kneeling figure.  Each is turned away from the background mayhem while occupying the MAx-Beckmann_blind_mans-buff-detailforeground position of honor traditionally accorded the donor of the altarpiece.

Both the kneeling woman and man grasp a candle - a symbol of truth and wisdom - but neither sees it: he is blindfolded, while she is blinded by attention from the fawning men around her.

Detail of right panel.  Blind Man's Buff, 1945.  Oil on canvas.  Overall, 6' 9" by 14' 5".  Left panel: 73 1/2" by 40"; center panel: 81 1/2" by 90 1/2"; right panel: 73 7/8" by 41 3/4".  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston.  Minneapolis Institute of Arts 

Truth and wisdom are present but unnoticed.

Although Beckmann rarely delved into the meaning of his work,  he did refer to the figures in the center panel as "gods" and the beast-headed man as the "minotaur."  Note the clock in the lower right of the central panel - it has neither a "XII" nor a "I".  Time lacks either a beginning or an end here. I speculate that Beckmann is suggesting that many human activites - including oblivion to chaos and relentless pursuit of pleasure - are forever timeless.

Do you agree with this interpretation? Don't be shy on me - please weigh in!

Read about other famous paintings by Max Beckmann here.  

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Tags: modern art, Max Beckmann

Famous Painters: Diego Velazquez

Posted by Susan Benford

Inarguably, Diego Velazquez is one of the most famous painters in the entirety of Western art history. He lived and worked during the Golden Age of Spanish painting, and he ruled it. The history of Spanish painting is the simple lineage from El Greco to Velazquez to Francisco Goya to Pablo Picasso.  

Diego Velazquez Waterseller of Seville resized 600Lesser known is that Diego Velazquez was also one of the most influential and talented curators who ever lived.

Diego Velazquez. Water Seller of Seville, 1618-1622.  Oil on canvas, 41" by 31".  Aspley House, London.

Results are in the Prado.  The Spanish king Philip IV sent Velazquez to Italy in 1649 - 1650 to purchase paintings for new apartments in the royal palace.  Velazquez returned with works by many of the famous painters he most admired, including Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. These, along with the Prado's Velazquez paintings, are among its grandest masterpieces.

But first some background on Diego Velazquez (1599-1660).  Born in Seville, Spain, as Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, he was apprenticed -- at age 12 - to Francisco Pacheco, a mediocre Mannerist painter who was Censor of Paintings for the Spanish Inquisition.  From Pacheco, Velazquez learned the naturalistic style and muted earth-toned palette which typified his earliest works like Water Seller of Seville (1618-1622).   One of three versions (the others are in the Uffizi and the Walters Art Museum), this Water Seller reveals his ability to capture minute detail and naturalness in figures.

After marrying Pacheco's daughter in 1618, Velazquez traveled to Madrid in 1622 to seek royal patronage from Philip IV.  The following year, Velazquez painted the portrait that would launch his career.

Portrait of Philip IV, 1623-1627

This is the first full-length portrait of the king painted by Velazquez during nearly four decades of affiliation.  Despite the limited palette of mostly browns, greys, and black, 
diego velazquez portrait philip iv prado resized 600Velazquez imbues Philip IV with remarkable humanity and elegance.  Here, Philip is surrounded by, or adorned with, references to his legacy and responsibilities:

  • his sword, for defense of Spain
  • the paper Philip grasps, representing administration;
  • the Golden Fleece, a recognized emblem of the Spanish monarchy; and
  • his desk, alluding to administration of justice.

Philip IV named Velazquez court painter that year, and as an indication of his esteem for the painter, provided Velazquez a workshop within the Royal Gallery.  In later years, Velazquez amended this Portrait of Philip IV by shortening his cloak and repainting his legs closer together.

Diego Velazquez.  Portrait of Philip IV, 1623-1627.  Oil on canvas, 76' 6" by 3' 4".  Prado Museum.

Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan, 1630.

Painted during his first trip to Italy in 1629, Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan reflects influences from Michelangelo and Greco-Roman statuary.  It portrays the moment from Ovid's Metamorphoses when Apollo informs Vulcan that his wife, Venus, is romantically involved with Mars.

Velazquez brilliantly captures dramatic expressions on all the workers, who are situated around the anvil in different poses designed to showcase his talent in portraying the male nude.  Thevelazquez apollo at forge of vulcan resized 600 tenebrism, or pronouced contrast between the lights and darks, is skillfully used to mold the workers' bodies and accentuate objects in the forge, as in a still life. 

Below left: Diego Velazquez.  Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan, 1630.  Oil on canvas, 7' 5" by 9' 6".  Prado.

Surrender at Breda (The Lances), 1634-1635

Here Velazquez captures the 1625 surrender of the city of Breda, the port of entry to Holland, after it was conquered by Spanish troops commanded by Ambrosio Spinola.  To emphasize the generosity and clemency of Spain, Spinola has dismounted; by disallowing Justin of Nassau, who governed Breda, to fall to his knee, Spinola demonstrates their equality.

Below right: Diego Velazquez.  Surrender at Breda (the Lances), 1634 - 1635.  Oil on canvs, 10' by 12'.  Prado.

Behind Spinola are a row of lances held by the conquering troops.  Designed to reinforce Spain's  power and order, their prominence has given Surrender at Breda its popular Spanish nickname, Las Lanzas.  

diego velazquez surrender at breda resized 600Note the paper in the lower right corner. 

Often used as a vehicle for a painter to sign his work, Velazquez has left the signature paper blank -- confident that all would know who created this masterpiece.

Juan de Pareja, 1648

Philip IV sent Velazquez back to Italy not only to purchase artwork but also to paint a portrait of Pope Innocent X.  For reasons that remain unclear, the Pope did not grant an immediate audience to Velazquez who, during his wait, painted a portrait of his loyal manservant, Juan de Pareja (ca. 1610-1670).  

Juan de Pareja is shown half-length, turned at a three-quarter view but gazing intently at the viewer. His lace collar is so thin and feathery it looks as if it just freshly landed; the folds and creases in his jacket are dense and well-worn.  But it's the hole in the sleeve that velazquez-juan-de-parejacommands attention - despite the elegance of the pose and painting, that simple tear belies his grandeur, telling us unequivocally that this is a lower class man, Velazquez portrait and all.

Diego Velazquez.  Juan de Pareja, 1648.  Oil on canvas, 32" by 27 1/2".  Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Rogers Fund, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton deGroot.

Learn more about this Valezquez masterpiece, and compare it to the Portrait of Pope Innocent X, which Velazquez painted the following year (and discover why the name "Innocent" was an astounding misnomer).

Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV, 1656. 

Las Meninas is both the most well-known painting by Diego Velazquez and in all of the Prado

During Velazquez's second Italy trip, Philip IV had remarried; the new queen, Mariana of Austria, and her children were new subjects the king wished Velaquez to paint.

Las Meninas appears to capture a moment in time akin to a snapshot, yet that overlooks the complexity of the space Velazquez concocted.  In the center foreground is the Infanta Margarita flanked by two meninas, or maids of honor.  One curtsies to the Infanta while the other offers water from a ceramic jug.  To the right and farther forward are two court jesters, a dwarf and a midget with his foot on the reclining mastiff.

Behind the curtsying menina are two other attendants, while Velazquez himself appears pensively painting at the left.  In the open, lit doorway is the royal chamberlain.


What is going on here?

Behind the Infanta's head is a mirror in which the king and queen are reflected, projecting them into the same physical space as the viewer.  

Diego Velazquez.  Las Meninas, or The Family of Philip IV.  Oil on canvas, 10' 5" by 9'.  Prado Museum.

One interpretation is that the Infanta unexpectedly entered the studio in which Velazquez is painting the royal couple.  Conversely, Velazquez may be working on this enormous canvas in which he is creating this very picture.  Or have the kind and queen just entered the room to find the Infanta and her entourage alread there?

It was not uncommon for painters of the 17th century to portray themselves in the company of nobility and patrons, but Velazquez's pride is unmistakeable -- he wears the red cross of the Order of Santiago, an ancient group of nobility to which he long sought membership.  It was awarded him two years after Las Meninas was finished (and only then by papal dispensation), fueling rumor that Philip IV had painted it there.

Below.  Detail of Las Meninas.

The truth is that Velazquez himself added the red cross, a prideful acknowledgement that he was in the same class as Spanish nobility.

velazquez las meninas detail resized 600There are only 120 known Velazquez paintings (and the Prado has fifty), and most are neither signed nor dated.  How astounding that the legacy of Diego Velzaquez remains so profound nearly four centuries later!

What qualities of Velazquez's work do you feel contribute to his fame, despite such limited output?

Tags: Velazquez paintings, Diego Velazquez

Famous Paintings: Garden of Earthly Delights

Posted by Susan Benford

Garden of Earthly Delights is a series of superlatives: the best-known work of Hieronymous Bosch (ca. 1450-1516), one of the most famous paintings in Western art history, and one of the most influential, inspirational works for Surrealist painters of the 20th century. 

Garden of earthly delights

Hieronymus Bosch (also spelled Jheronimus Bos) was born Jerome van Aeken in the small Netherland town of 's-Hertogenbosch, from which his name is derived.  A member of the third generation of a family of painters, Hieronymus Bosch was an orthodox Catholic whose style was anything but orthodox -- over five centuries later, it remains baffling how Bosch crafted a style so remote from the leading Netherlandish painters of his time, Jan van Eyck (ca. 1370/90-1441) and Rogier van der Weyden (ca. 1400-1464).  Forty Hieronymous Bosch paintings are known to exist; none is dated, and only seven, including Garden of Earthly Delights, are signed. 

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel. Center panel is 7'2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4".  Each wing is 7'2 1/2" x 3'2".  Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Although painted in the triptych format often used for altarpieces, Garden of Earthly Delights is clearly a secular work - the imagery is (and remains) inappropriate for religious settings.  

When the wings of the triptych are closed (see bottom left), it shows a massive sphere depicting the world on the third day of Creation, before life of earthly delights left wing resized 600

When opened, though, Garden of Earthly Delights is a dizzying, dazzling array of enigmatic and provocative scenes best contemplated through the beliefs of its creator.  Hieronymus Bosch was a fundamentalist moralist who believed that mankind has been flawed and damned since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Left wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

Let's examine each of the three panels.

Left Wing

Here, Hieronymus Bosch portrays his vision of Paradise and the Garden of Eden on the last day of Creation

From top to bottom, one sees the first animals God fashioned and in the center, the Fountain of Life. Eve has just been created from Adam's rib; they are surrounded by a verdant landscape populated by imaginary and real animals including unicorns, giraffes and a three-headed bird, lingering by the pool.  Half way down on the right is the Tree of Knowledge, with a snake coiled around its trunk; this was the sole source of forbidden fruit in a landscape laden with other varieties. 

garden of earthly delights center

Note the hints of dissonance, even in Paradise: in the foreground, animals prey upon and devour those who are smaller and weaker. 

Central Panel

This panel in Garden of Earthly Delights is indisputably the most cryptic and baffling. 

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Central panel. 7' 2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4". Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The world’s four rivers are on the horizon, grounding this scene on Earth; note how the landscape is continuous across all panels of the triptych. 

The overarching theme appears to be hedonism, especially the seeking and satisfaction of sexual desires.  In the center is the Bath of Venus, a pool filled with naked, bathing women.  Encircling them is a procession of naked men and women who are gawking shamelessly while astride deer, camels, unicorns and horses. 

In medieval times, the phrase “riding a horse” was a metaphor for having sexual relations, while the “bath of Venus” referred to being in love. 

Overlooking the Bath of Venus is a fantastic castle-like tower housing five turrets.  Throughout, miniature, naked humans frolic, kiss and cavort among themselves and with marine animals, gigantic birds and flowers.  The landscape is populated by enormous strawberries and succulent grapes, some of which are being plucked and devoured.  Imaginary beasts wander around, seemingly oblivious to the carnality around them.

hieronymus bosch garden of earthly delights right panel resized 600 resized 600

In the bottom right corner are the sole clothed figures; they are Adam and Eve, seemingly hiding from the chaos around them. 

Right Wing

The rampant imagination of Hieronymous Bosch is on full display in this vision of the land of the damned. This depiction of an inferno – perhaps Hell itself – shows tiny humans receiving punishments and tortures matching their sins; they suffer below a sky filled with fire and brimstone.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Right wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid.

About mid-ground on the far right, for instance, is a rodent-bird-like creature sitting in an elevated chair and sporting a cauldron as its cap (see bottom right); it devours sinners, and later expels their remains into a pit of human waste and vomit. 

Such was the fate of those committing the sin of gluttony.

Those who indulged the pleasures of the flesh are impaled and crucified by musical instruments, classical symbols for lust and love.   Soldiers are impaled on spears; one in armor is consumed by a dragon.  All are suffering and are on the brink of death, but will suffer eternally because no one dies in Hell.

In the center is an off-white-broken-eggshell monster with a hauntingly evil human face and stubby legs; he appears to be the ringmaster orchestrating the suffering of these sinners.

Interpretations of Garden of Earthly Delights

The lack of information about Bosch's life has done nothing but fuel speculation about the meaning of Garden of Earthly Delights.

garden of earthly delights detail left resized 600To the extent that one can interpret Hieronymous Bosch at face value, Garden of Earthly Delights seems to be about the perils of hedonism and most particularly, the sin of lust.  Given that Bosch was a fundamentalist moralist, this is one compelling interpretation.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Detail of right wing. 7' 2 1/2" x 3'2". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

But various other interpretations abound.  Some consider Bosch a heretic guilty of horrific immorality, while others believe that the meaning of Garden of Earthly Delights was known only to the elite of Bosch's era.  Or that Hieronymous Bosch belonged to a secret sect of atheistic nudists.

A more recent interpretation is that Hieronymus Bosch, like Leonardo da Vinci, blended science and piety in his paintings.  In medieval times, the practice of science was considered a means of attaining salvation; alchemy, a precursor to chemistry, strove to transform matter through distillative processes into a perfect form, with divine intervention.

garden of earthly delights closedConsidering the bizarrely shaped vessel-objects in all panels of the Garden, it is plausible that they are flasks and funnels used in the distillation processes of alchemy. Add that to the prevalent fear in 1500 that the world was coming to an end, as detailed in the Book of Revelation, and you have another interpretation: Bosch believed that alchemy could "distill" the human race back to the innocence of Adam and Eve.

Hieronymous Bosch.  Garden of Earthly Delights, ca. 1500-1505.  Oil and grisaille on wooden panel.  Closed view. 7' 2 1/2" x 6'4 3/4". Museo del Prado, Madrid. 

What is certain about Garden of Earthly Delights is this: although its enigmas have fascinated viewers (and baffled art historians) for over five centuries, definitive answers are unlikely to ever be known. 

Was Hieronymus Bosch such a genius that he intended this? Which interpretation of Garden of Earthly Delights do you find most persuasive? 





Tags: Hieronymous Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

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Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

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

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

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, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

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

El Greco, View of Toledo

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.  GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

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

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

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

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

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, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

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. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

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 Reading List: 50+ great reads in fiction and non-fiction

Art History Videos on YouTube

Cave Paintings

Most Controversial Paintings

Google Art ProjectArt Museums Up Close

Survey of Female Artists

Survey of Renaissance Paintings.

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

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors


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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