The Most Famous Portrait Paintings

Some of the world’s most famous artists are more commonly known for their detailed portraits of human subjects. Portrait paintings provide the artist with the opportunity to depict a story within the subject’s expressions. Although the meaning behind the portrait may not always be apparent, what makes most of them famous is the open interpretation of the emotions and inner thoughts of the subject. Here are some of history’s most recognizable faces

 

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Not surprisingly, the Louvre’s invaluable portrait would make this list. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of a merchant’s wife, Lisa Gherardini, is perceived as the most famous piece of art in history. Originally commissioned by the merchant as a gift for his consort, da Vinci ended up keeping the Mona Lisa for the remainder of his life. When is passed away in 1519, the painting then fell into place in various French Palaces, including that of Napoleon Bonaparte, until finding it’s permanent resting place in the Louvre.  

 

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer was one of the most well-known artists of his time. The painting is often referred to as the “Dutch Mona Lisa” appearing a little more than 100 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. One of the most enticing aspects of the painting is that very little is known about the model that is depicted. Viewers are fascinated with the mystery and like to speculate a story behind Vermeer’s subject. Modern-day entertainment has since written novels and movies about the peculiar girl.    

 

Le Rêve (The Dream) by Pablo Picasso

Known for his modern cubism style of painting, Pablo Picasso has a unique style that has made him one of the most famous painters in history. Le Rêve is a portrait of his 22-year old mistress at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Picasso often painted her using bright colors, evoking pleasant emotions in the interpretation of their relationship. Picasso was not one to shy away from expressing emotions in his work that others would not be inclined to. 

 

American Gothic by Grant Wood 

Since it was painted in 1930, the relationship of the subjects of Wood’s most famous work has been discussed by art lovers across the world. In fact, the man who modeled for the painting is Wood’s dentist, and the woman is his sister. The two had an unusual connection for portrait subjects in that they were strangers to one another. Grant Wood was intentional about choosing subjects that he could imagine living in the Dribble House in Iowa, which served as his inspiration for the painting. 

What Pieces of Art Survived the Notre Dame Fire and What was Lost

On April 15, the roof of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught on fire. The fire burned for 12 hours before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze. While the roof of the Cathedral and the iconic spire collapsed, not everything is a loss. A lot of the precious relics and artwork were able to be saved from the building. First responders and firefighters formed a human chain to pass many of the artifacts to safety.

 

According to French Culture Minister Franck Riester, many of the most vital artwork and artifacts were able to be saved. Many of the pieces will be moved to the Louvre to be restored or repaired if needed. The Crown of Thorns thought to be worn by Jesus during his crucifixion, and a 13th-century tunic believed to be worn by St. Louis, the only French king that was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

 

A number of other famed pieces of art survived the fire. The three large stained glass Rose Windows survived the fire and don’t seem to have suffered any significant damage. The Cathedral’s grand organ, made up of over 8,000 pipes with some dating back to the Medieval period, is also thought to be safe, although it may have experienced water damage while the fire was being extinguished. The copper statues of the 12 apostles are safe. The statues had been removed a few days before the fire to be cleaned and restored, as they were badly tarnished.

 

Four large-scale paintings of the apostles from the 17th and 18th century suffered at least part damage. A separate part of the Crown of Thorns is known to have been lost during the fire, in addition to relics from two other saints. The unofficial symbol of France, a Gallic depiction of a rooster, is in poor shape.

 

The status of many items inside the Cathedral is unknown. State employees have to wait 48 hours before being allowed to enter the building to be able to care for the artwork inside. The fate of a nail and piece of wood believed to have used in the crucifixion of Jesus are unknown.

 

Because the fire was mostly contained to the roof, it’s believed that the flames have not damaged most of the artwork inside. However, there may be smoke damage to the pieces. Starting Friday, some of the most significant pieces of art will start being removed.  

Seven Great Women Artists Throughout History

These seven women made an incredible impact on the art world.

 

Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)

Cassatt was a painter and printmaker who is remembered as the only American artist associated with the Impressionist movement. Frequently, her subjects were women and children. Her famous works include The Mandolin Player and In the Loge.

 

American Modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)

O’Keeffe was heavily influenced by photography. Many of her paintings imitated photographic techniques such as cropping and close-ups. Red Canna and Black Iris III are enlarged floral images that are typical of O’Keeffe’s work.

 

Painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Kahlo closely tied her identity, her artwork, and her homeland of Mexico. About one-third of her paintings are self-portraits, which often reflected her emotions surrounding events in her life. The Two Fridas show her conflicted feelings at the time of her divorce from Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

 

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)

Kusama is known for paintings and art installations featuring polka dots. She has also created mirrored rooms as art installations to explore the concept of infinity. In 2017, Kusama had the distinction of being the world’s top-selling female artist.

 

American sculptor Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907)

Lewis relocated to Rome as a young adult to pursue her profession in an environment that did not single her out for her color. (Her father was African-American and her mother was Native American.) Her work depicted neoclassical, biblical, contemporary subjects. The Death of Cleopatra is a masterpiece of realism and was commissioned to celebrate America’s centennial in 1876.

 

Printmaker and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012)

Catlett was born in the United States but moved to Mexico in 1946, which became her home for the rest of her life. Her work depicts African-American and Mexican life and often has strong political themes. Her notable sculptures include Homage to My Young Black Sisters and Tired.

 

Agnes Martin (1912–2004)

Born and raised in Canada, Martin moved to the United States in 1931. While Martin’s early paintings are representational, her style evolved during her career. Eventually, geometric images featuring lines and grids became her signature work. Martin is sometimes classified as minimalist although her paintings also show the influence of surrealism, cubism, and abstract expressionism. White Stone, Little Sister, and Fiesta are some of her celebrated works.

How Art History Needs to Change in 2019

The underlying issue with history of any kind is that the subject itself is subjective. A saying commonly attributed to Winston Churchill is that “history is written by the victors.” In many ways, art history is no different in this regard.

 

According to a study conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, staff hired by art museums tend to favor predominantly non African-American and Hispanics. A rough total of 7 percent of workers are made up of said minorities. This shows a distressing lack of cultural and racial diversity in regards to the staff employed in art museums.

 

This is an important factor as art history refers to the collective artistic culture of humanity throughout the ages. Every person has their own interpretation of how art is viewed, and this should be reflected by the staff hired to educate those who come to witness history.

 

Art is by its very nature a constantly changing structure where what’s vogue at the time is constantly in a state of flux. However, due to the perception of the kind of art that is considered popular or correct at the time, many artists find themselves marginalized. Those artists who pursue different styles, or create pieces particularly poking at the edges of civilized sensitivity, find themselves relegated to the wayside of history. More must be done to include such artists with the purpose of broadening horizons to better reflect the times of today.

 

That is not to say there has been no progress on that front. The museum located in Tate, Britain have recently opened a tour called “A Queer Walk Through British Art.” This tour includes pieces that highlight an alternate view of human sexuality throughout history. One such example is the “Ena and Betty”, a painting created in 1901 by John Singer Sargent that subtly highlights close female companionship of a possibly homoerotic kind.

 

This, of course, is open to interpretation as are many pieces in that same gallery. As noted before, everyone has a different view on art, and that is something that should be embraced. It is through these differing viewpoints that complex histories may be unraveled and new discoveries may be made. What one person sees as a simple, but tasteful painting, another may find hidden meaning underneath the canvas.