Art is so subjective and everyone will see something different when they look at a piece of sculpture, a painting or another medium but whatever your personal tastes, it is pretty much agreed what the world’s most famous paintings are. So where do you go to see them? Oh and just for the record, I’m not including perhaps THE most famous painting ever, the Mona Lisa because everyone knows where that is.
One of the greatest masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age and one of the most famous paintings in history, Rembrandt's painting The Night Watch is kept at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn finished his masterpiece in 1642. It shows a city guard, under the leadership by Captain Frans Banning Cocq and his lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, setting out on their daily watch to protect the good citizens of Amsterdam.
Another must-see Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer's lovely Girl with a Pearl Earring is as enigmatic as the Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, for Vermeer didn't date his painting nor have records ever been found that it was commissioned by any of his patrons. Already among the world's most famous paintings, Vermeer's masterpiece gained even more fame when Tracy Chevalier's historic novel that gives one possible explanation for the creation of the painting was turned into a multi-million dollar movie with Scarlett Johansson in 2003. Johansson portrayed Vermeer's assistant and wore a pearl earring, when he painted her in the movie, much to the chagrin of his waspish wife. Vermeer's masterpiece can be seen in The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague.
Painted between 1485 and 1487, Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece is one of the world's most reproduced and famous paintings. The goddess Venus emerges from the sea into the safety of a shell, according to ancient mythology about her origins and birth. It is unclear who commissioned the painting and where it was originally created. Today the painting hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, but during Botticelli's lifetime the Venus was supposed to go to the house to one of his most influential patrons, to Lorenzo de' Medici and his Villa of Castello. It is not certain that this is the original location or the patron who ordered the painting, though.
Norwegian painter Edvard Munch painted several different versions of this re-occurring nightmare vision of a man in despair and pain. It's one of the most famous artworks of the world, not just because Munch created several versions in different media, but also because two different versions of The Scream were stolen from two different museums in Norway. The 1893 version is on display in The National Gallery of Norway and was stolen in 1994, but recovered a few months later. Another version of The Scream used to be on display at the Munch Museum, from where it was stolen in 2004. It was recovered in 2006 and now hangs once again in the Munch Museum in Norway. That painting has had adventures to make an art lover scream with fear!
Displayed at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso's most famous paintings and probably his most talked about. Completed in mid-June 1937, and depicting the horrors of war and the suffering of individuals, especially civilians, Picasso's Guernica is a direct result of a German bombing raid on the Basque town of Guernica. The painter wanted to bring the plight of the town to the world's attention and raise awareness of the dangers that lay in German support for General Franco's fascist regime during Spain's Civil War years.
Created as a mural in the 15th century, The Last Supper covers the rear wall of the dining hall at the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan and is generally regarded as one of the greatest paintings ever created. It shows Jesus Christ's last supper and depicts the scene where Jesus announces that one of his twelve apostles will betray him. Painted between 1495 and 1498, the mural became a hot modern topic with the publication of Dan Brown's novel the Da Vinci Code in 2003, when it was surmised that the person seated to the left of Christ was not an apostle but Maria Magdalene.
Displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1941, troubled Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh's painting ranks among the most expensive and famous paintings in the world, despite the fact that the man himself only sold one painting during his lifetime and died in abject poverty. Depicting the village of Saint-Rémy as seen from the windows of the local asylum, the painting shows a night sky that is not just vibrant but positively alive with movement. Stand perfectly still on a cold and starry night and look up without blinking - soon you'll find the stars above your head start swirling in ever faster circles. It is an optical illusion that Vincent caught perfectly in his masterpiece.
I count myself extremely lucky to have seen 6 of these paintings. Perhaps I should plan a trip to Norway?
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