The Greatest Paintings of All Time

( I did not write any of the captions featured, and am not claiming them as my own. All were retrieved from the  book "1001 paintings you must see before you die". all rights go to their respective authors.)

The Angel with Golden Hair, also known as Archangel Gabriel, is one of the most famous Russian icon paintings. It is attributed to the Novgorod School of c.1130-90. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, Christianity spread northward from Constantinople, bringing Byzantine arts to the Slavic region of Russia. The revival of iconography in this era ushered in new thinking about icons as aids to meditation. Icons take earthly materials and create something that enables the viewer to approach the divine. From this perspective, the painting of icons is a form of prayer. The jewel in the angel's hair indicates that this is an archangel. It is thought to be Gabriel, God's messenger, although this is disputed. Painted with large, stylized eyes, the archangel looks away from the viewer toward the mysterious and ineffable. Detached but compassionate, he inspires the contemplation of beauty of purity.
The small basilica of San Clemente de Tahull is located in the Bohí valley of Catalonia, Spain, an area renowned for its superb Romanesque frescoes. The semi-dome of San Clemente de Tahull's central apse was adorned with this traditional Maiestas Domini, in which Christ appears in majesty surrounded by the four evangelists. The damaged fresco was acquired by the Museu d'Art Catalunya in Barcelona in 1923. In this stunning composition, the formidable figure of Christ is seated, his right hand is raised in a gesture of benediction and his left holds a book inscribed with the words 'ego sum lux m(un)di' ("I am the light of the world"). His feet rest upon a hemisphere decorated with acanthus leaves, an allusion to both the earthly world and the rainbow from the Book of Revelation. The four evangelists are represented as winged angels-Matthew holds his Gospel and John cradles an eagle. Mark and Luke are depicted as half-length figures and are accompanied by their respective animal symbols: the lion and bull. An apocalyptic seraph (the highest class of angel) stands sentinel at either end of the composition, all six wings covered with a multitude of eyes. Represented in the damaged lower register are the Virgin Mary and the apostles Thomas, Bartholomew, John, James, and Philip. This fresco was created by an unknown artist of possible Aragonese origin. The dramatic quality of the subject manner, in addition to the billowing draperies and dynamic composition, suggests that the painter was familiar with contemporary French frescoes.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti (c.1290-1348) was a Sienese painter known for the sensitive, warm tones of his paintings and the inventiveness of his composition. Effects of Good Government in the City, by far one of his most important works, is part of a cycle of paintings generally known as the allegories for good and bad government, which were commissioned to adorn the walls of the Sala della Pace in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena. In this painting (which adjoins Effects of good government in the country), Lorenzetti creates a picture of the harmonious Republic of Siena using a freely inventive approach that does not appear to follow any known prototype. Although at first glance the image appears to be a picture of an idealized "day in the life" of Siena, it has been proposed that the individual groups of figures represent different aspects of happy city life, for example the seven mechanical arts described by philosopher Hugh of St. Victor. The group of dancers may, perhaps, relate to the mechanical art of music (dancing in the streets was in fact, illegal in medieval Sienna). The program of the entire cycle of paintings is still being debated, and it is possible that the picture was meant to be open to many interpretations. Medieval images such as these, in which a wealth of details are portrayed an in which the viewer's point of view is constantly changing, were constructed so as to invite the viewer to return over and over again to the picture and to contemplate its details, a process that Lorenzetti facilitated marvelously.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319) was one of the most important painter to emerge during Siena's heyday in the thirteenth century. Duccio painted in the traditional Byzantine style, but he introduced innovations that began the transition to the genre now known as International Gothic. The Rucellai Madonna alterpiece was commissioned by a Dominican lay confraternatity devoted to the Virgin. It was installed in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Originally placed above the alter, the Rucellai Madonna was later moved to the Rucellai chapel within the Santa Maria Novella, from where it aquiered it's name. Duccio's interpretation of the Madonna and Child theme reveals an emphasis on form that is not seen in earlier Madonnas by other artists. The bodies of the Madonna and the infant Christ are given realistic treatment, and Duccio makes good use of chiaroscuro (light and dark shading). to create the illusion of three-dimensionality. The Christ child sits convincingly in the Madonna's lap and Gestures toward his mother - both innovative developments in paintings of this kind during this era. However, the Byzantine style is apparent in the surrounding angels, which seem to float in space, and the typical Byzantine medallions, featuring figures from the bible, on the gilded frame. (I did not write this captioned, and am not claiming it as my own. The caption was retrieved from the book "1001 paintings You Must See Before You Die". All rights go to their respectful owners).
Andrey Rublev (c.1360-1430) grew up in a period of revival in the Eastern Orthodox Church and came to be regarded as one of the greatest Russian iconographers. He received
In the 1460's Hans Memling (c.1430-94) established himself in the prosperous Flemish merchant city of Bruges, where his outstanding talent was recognized and rewarded with a stream of commissions. Many of these were portraits, a genre in which the painter excelled. As in other Memling portraits, the sitter is posed for a three-quarter view, at a time when Italian portraitists were still producing profiles. Typically, the sitter's eyes do not engage with the viewer, looking down and too the side with an implication of piety and inwardness. Memling habitually set his subjects in front of a landscape, whereas here the background is plain greenish-blue. Portrait of an Old woman exemplifies Memling's technical brilliance, especially in the highlights that model the strong nose and the folds of cloth. The wimple, which frames the old woman's face, is slightly transparent in places so that flesh tones or the fur edging of a dress shade through. The stillness and composure that characterize all of Memling's art presumably suited his subjects' view of themselves. There is a firm self-satisfaction in these features, as at the confident awareness of virtue.
After training as a goldsmith, Botticelli Filipepi (Alessandro di Mariano Filipei, 1445-1510) was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi (c.1406-69)
The oeuvre of Titian (c.1485-1576) was subject to a number of shifts in import and sensibility over the course of his career. Whereas the bacchanals, painted for the Duke of Alfonso d'Este's studio in Ferrara, were for the most part joyous and inflicted with a certain youthful fervor, during the 1550's Titian worked under the patronage of King Phillip II.
Certain characteristics make this work typical of the Peruvian Cuzco School. The figures do not have blond hair, unlike conventional Spanish copies, and St. Joseph is portrayed as a youthful man. The combination of Baroque details and a balanced composition-another peculiarity of Peruvian and Alto Peruvian art-differentiate this type of painting from European Baroque but also that from Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, and Ecuador. In iconographic fashion characteristic of the Cuzco School, the Christ Child carries a blanket of carpenter's tools, and St. Joseph bears a lily, symbol of his virtue and chastity. The gilt brocade (brocadel sobredorado) decoration on their garments, hems of their robes, and haloes, is extremely ornate, and has been superimposed by the artist on the folds in the drapery using stencils. Other hallmarks include the predominance of the color red, and the indigenous sandals worn by the child. These unique variations are the result of sincretismo, the process by which indigenous details were worked into the picture by local artists alongside Spanish elements imported from Europe.
Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-94) is often credited with the advancement of the ukiyo-e
Miguel Mateo Maldonado y Cabrera (1695-1768) was an indigenous Zapotec painter during the Viceroyalty of New Spain-now Mexico. He was recognized as the greatest painter in the region and he founded Mexico's first academy of painting in 1753. Colonial society in what was known as the New World consisted of many groups of people from different parts of the world.
Despite his English birth, Thomas Cole (1801-48) became one of the greatest landscape painters of the nineteenth century. Having emigrated to America in 1818, the young cole found himself enamored by the beauty of the Ohio countryside. In 1825, Cole executed a series of paintings along New York's Hudson River that were to make his fortune, attracting the attention of the city's most important patrons. American Lake Scene is a mature work of 1844, just four years before Cole's premature death. In this painting, a lone Native American under a luminous sky contemplates the silent lake, evoking the tranquility of the early settlement years. A true Romantic, Cole had campaigned against America's railroad fever, believing that nature reinforces man's morality and must be preserved. His skillful rendering of color, naturalism, and atmosphere is second to none at this time, causing one contemporary critic to proclaim that the work "looks like the earth before God breathed on it." Cole is now seen as the founder of the Hudson River School, a Romantic movement in which artists produced realistic landscapes with moral narratives.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) was trained by his father as a painter, sculptor, and violinist. As a child, his musical talent dominated but later he focused on painting and studied under Jacques-Louis David. In 1801, he won the Grand Prix for Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the Tent of Achilles, which now hangs in the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-arts.
As a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) painted one of the defining images of Victorian Christianity, The light of the world (1851-53), which became a popular print. The Awakening Conscience is a direct response to that painting. The young woman looks up and starts forward suddenly-her posture indicates that she has done so in response to something she has seen or heard from outside. At first glance this is a
In the background of this paintings is one of the many railway bridges that had recently been built by the French government and that were considered a symbol of modernity. These new lines allowed people such as those those depicted here by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) to leave Paris and enjoy the countryside. Set on a balcony overlooking the River Seine in Chatou, France, a group of Renoir's friends stand in a complex composition, framed under a wide awning. The figures represent the diverse Parisian social structure, ranging from wealthy, well-dressed bourgeoisie to a young seamstress, Aline Charigot, in the foreground on the left, whom Renoir would marry in 1890. In 'Luncheon of the Boating Party', Renoir apears to create a typical impressionistic scene, capturing a moment when his friends join him by the river on a sunny afternoon. In reality, Renoir- one of the founding members of the Impressionist movement- executed the portraits of each figure either separately or in smaller groups in his studio. In doing so, he was beginning to move away from his contemporaries. Indeed, shortly after finishing this painting, Renoir began to use more traditional methods of painting. The way in which 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' is painted remains Impressionistic however. Working in bright and warm colors, Renoir captures the effects of the light diffused by the awning. He suggets movement in his fingers through loose brushwork, while using a thicker handling of paint for the still-life on the table.
In The Water Sprite, also known as Näcken, Ernst Josephson (1851-1906) combined Nordic folklore with Renaissance painting and the French symbolism of the late nineteenth century. In ancient Nordic tales, Näcken was a destructive spirit who wandered through the wild wetlands, playing music on his fiddle, and, sirenlike, lured people to their deaths. The sprite therefore symbolizes the hidden dangers in nature, but Näcken's story also functioned as a personal allegory for Josephson's own sense of isolation.The artist's skillful and sensual use of color is evident in this painting: the bright, wet green of the sprite's long hair and the reeds in which he kneels are balanced by patches of a complimentary red, such as on the violin, rocks, spirit's lips. The loose, multidirectional brushstrokes bring to life the turbulent, rushing waters, creating a melancholy yet angry and energetic mood. (I did not right this. This is an excerpt taken from the book "1001 paintings to see before you die". All rights go to their respective owners)
In classical mythology, Proserpine was the daughter of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. Pluto, the god of the underworld, fell in love with the maid and carried her off to his bleak domain. Enraged, Ceres threatened to prevent all crops from growing unless her daughter was returned. At length, a bargain was struck. Proserpine would be free, provided she ate nothing during her captivity. Unfortunately, she had eaten four pomegranate seeds and was obliged to spend four months each year in the underwrold
Curved geometric forms accentuated by an Art Deco facade and angular light provide an almost theatrical setting for a group of insulated and isolated figures. The Phillies cigars advert on top of the diner shows this is not an upmarket location, since Phillies is a brand of American-made popular, cheap cigars commonly
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