Spot the Difference: Paintings in Series

Can you tell these multiple versions of artists' famous works apart?

By Google Arts & Culture

Four sunflowers gone to seed (August - October 1887) by Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)Kröller-Müller Museum

Many artists create multiple copies of a work or paint the same scene more than once. See if you can spot the variations between the different pieces: some will be obvious, others will be subtle.

Sunflowers (1887) by Vincent van GoghThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beginning in the final years of his life, Post-Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh painted multiple series of sunflowers. He created renditions of harvested blossoms as preparatory studies before embarking on his series of sunflowers in vases.

Sunflowers (1888 or 1889) by Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 - 1890Philadelphia Museum of Art

Van Gogh's sunflowers, painted here in various stages of their life cycle, are some of his most beloved work. He even gave copies to painter and friend Paul Gauguin. This version, currently at Philadelphia Museum of Art, features a blue backdrop and somewhat muted tones.

Sunflowers (January 1889 - 1889) by Vincent van GoghVan Gogh Museum

This version, painted in 1889 uses a drastically different palette. The yellows are far more vibrant, even against a pale yellow backdrop. Do you notice any other differences?

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (circa 1830-1831) by Katsushika HokusaiLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Katsushika Hokusai was a master of a Japanese form of woodblock printing called ukiyo-e. With this technique, he was able to print numerous versions of his works, the most famous of which is likely The Great Wave off Kanagawa.  See if you can identify the differences.

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa (Edo period, 19th century) by Katsushika HokusaiTokyo National Museum

This edition features a deeper blue throughout the ocean waves and the paper on which it was printed is darker and more fibrous. Do you notice any other nuances?

The Fall of Man (1549) by Lucas Cranach the YoungerThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Younger approached the Biblical story of Adam and Eve more than once. See what variations you can point out.

Adam and Eve in paradise (The Fall) (1531) by Lucas Cranach the ElderGemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Aside from the obvious differences in scenery and coloring, did you notice the closer posture? Or that Adam seems to have taken the apple? Scroll up and down to compare.

Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill (1628) by Pieter ClaeszThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pieter Claesz, an artist of the Dutch Golden Age, created incredibly realistic still life masterpieces like this one.

Vanitas Still Life (1630) by Claesz, PieterMauritshuis

Though the subject matter is the same, there are many contrasting details in this version of the Vanitas Still Life. Which ones leap out at you?

Vanitas Still Life (1625) by Pieter ClaeszFrans Hals Museum

This rendition, the earliest of the three, was produced in 1625. What symbolism do you see here that didn't appear in the later versions?

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