7 Art One-Hit Wonders

By Google Arts & Culture

Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)The Art Institute of Chicago

Like music, the art world has had its fair share of one-hit wonders. It’s the classic tale of an artist capturing the public’s attention with a single genius artwork, while the rest of their work remains relatively unknown.

Join us as we take a look at some of the most well-known one-hit wonders and try to understand why viewers fell in love with these particular works.

American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood (American, 1891-1942)The Art Institute of Chicago

1. American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930

American Gothic is one of the most recognizable images in 20th-century American art and is often interpreted as a satirical comment on the midwestern character. It depicts a farmer and supposedly his wife standing outside an all-American farmhouse. Though Grant Wood initially sold the painting for just $300 to the Art Institute of Chicago, it soon gained momentum, but why?

American Gothic was exhibited in 1930, a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing, which helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: city folk saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America and actual farmers and their families, welcomed it as a celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic.

The Talisman (1888) by Paul SérusierMusée d’Orsay, Paris

2. The Talisman, Paul Sérusier, 1888

Paul Sérusier’s painting The Talisman was painted when the artist was just 25 and this early work dominated his career. This painting was the artist’s first foray into color, sensation and abstraction, moving away from the Impressionist style he was used to.

At the time, fellow artist Paul Gauguin advised him to move beyond the straightforward representation of a scene, but the artist went one step further, creating an abstracted landscape based predominantly on emotion and personal vision. Critics felt his subsequent work never stood up to the original innovation of The Talisman.

The Scream (1910) by Edvard MunchThe Munch Museum, Oslo

3. The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1910

The Scream is undoubtedly Edvard Munch’s most famous motif. The painting is based on a walk he took when the sun was setting, as the sky turned blood red the artist felt an “endless scream” tear through nature.

The painting is deeply personal and sees him channelling his tormented psyche. Yet the themes of anxiety, fear, and hopelessness are universal, which might have something to do with its enduring appeal.

LOVE (1966) by Robert IndianaIndianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

4. LOVE, Robert Indiana, 1966

LOVE is a pop art image by American artist Robert Indiana. It sees the title word spelled out over two lines with a tilted O being the most recognizable feature of the design. The original image here, served as a print image of a Museum of Modern Art Christmas card in 1964, and then became a popular US postage stamp. In 1970, LOVE was rendered as a sculpture and has since been replicated all over the world.

His design has remained iconic and as a result overshadowed much of his subsequent output, though Indiana continued to produce work after LOVE. It was a symbol that brought the artist international recognition but in his later years, the artist became reclusive and avoided any interaction with fans.

Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967)The Art Institute of Chicago

5. Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942

Perhaps it’s unfair to name Edward Hopper as a one-hit wonder as the artist did produce several notable works in his career including Automat (1927), Chopsuey (1929) and Office in a Small City (1953). But Nighthawk, painted in 1942, remains his most recognizable and has become a key piece of work in American art today.

Hopper once said of Nighthawks that “unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city” and it’s said this eerie feeling of isolation made it so popular.

Just What Is It That Makes Today's Home So Different and So Appealing? (1956) by Richard HamiltonSound and Music

6. Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, Richard Hamilton, 1956

Richard Hamilton's collage is described as the first genuine work of Pop Art, made six years before the term had even been used. Within the collage are a contemporary Adam and Eve, surrounded by the temptations of the post-War consumer boom.

Hamilton cut apart American magazines for the piece and the title stems from an image caption he read in one of the magazines he was using. Though Hamilton was relatively successful at the time, he is known in hindsight for this work above all others.

Peaceable Kingdom (ca. 1848) by Edward HicksAlbright-Knox Art Gallery

7. The Peaceable Kingdom, Edward Hicks, 1820–1849

In a way, American Quaker minister and artist Edward Hicks unintentionally made himself into a one-hit wonder through his work on The Peaceable Kingdom.

62 versions of the painting, all with the same title were painted by Hicks representing a prophecy in the book of Isaiah (11:6). So consumed was Hicks with this subject matter, he painted little else, and is mostly only remembered for his incredibly detailed works of The Peaceable Kingdom.

Peaceable Kingdom (c. 1826-1828) by Edward HicksThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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