The 5 Most Famous Paintings in the World
And the Inspiration Behind Them
Art. Comes in many forms, but painting has claimed a lot of fame and recognition over the years. When someone says they're an artist, you typically envision them as a painter first. This is because painting as an art form has been around for more than 30,000 years, dating back to the first paintings that now reside in Grotte Chauvet, France.
These first paintings were engraved and painted using red ochre and black pigment; they showcased horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalos, mammoths, many abstract designs, and partial human figures.
However, the very earliest evidence of painting existing as an art form was actually discovered in two rock-shelters in Arnhem Land, or Northern Australia. Archeologists found used pieces of ochre estimated to be 60,000 years old!
And since then, painting has come a long way. Now we have hundreds of thousands of (painting) artists on Earth. And many incredibly beautiful, and well-known pieces. Which brings us to this article: The 5 Most Famous Paintings in the World. These works of art are claimed as classics and are absolutely untouchable (literally).
So without further ado, let's get into these wildly famous paintings, and the inspiration behind them!
The 5 Most Famous Paintings in the World
'Mona Lisa'—Leonardo da Vinci
While the correct order of these paintings could be argued, this one however, cannot. The Mona Lisa is a classic. A painting all know of. One that can sit comfortably at the top of this list, without any argument.
The Mona Lisa is an incredibly beautiful painting of a women named Lisa Gerardini, who resided in Florence, Italy. There was a silk trader in Florence named Francesco del Giocondo who insisted a painting of his wife.
The word Mona is a contraction of the Italian word “madonna,” which comes from "mia donna" (which literally means “my woman” or "my lady"). This is why the painting is called Mona Lisa, meaning "My Lady Lisa" after the women he painted it for.
The Mona Lisa has said for many years to be of Francesco's wife, although while researching I found there may be some controversy over his real muse. Perhaps a secret lover?
'Starry Night'—Vincent Van Gogh
“This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,”—Van Gogh to his brother Theo, in a letter he wrote confessing his inspiration for Starry Night.
The window that he was describing to his brother sits within an asylum in Saint-Rémy, of Southern France. Here, Van Gogh was seeking emotional relief whilst still pursuing his art work.
While Starry Night is based on landscape and observation, it is also based heavily on his own emotions, memories, and imagination. Let's break it down. The steeple of the church, is said to resemble those in Holland, where he is from. Rather than the ones in France, where he was at the time of the painting. The whirling motions in the sky are observations of dust, and gas, known as nebulae. These astronomical observations matched published accounts of the sky during that time. The painting is well structured, yet the short and heavy brush strokes create a "moving" piece. The rich and contrasting colours represent Van Gogh's love for the night, which to him was, "much more alive and richly colored than the day."
'The Scream'—Edvard Munch
The Scream is a wildly famous painting that originated in Norway. Perhaps one of my favourite stories.
According to Munch, the painting represents a specific event. He recalls walking with two friends one day, when suddenly the entire atmosphere changed. It was a calm and serene day, he explains, until the sky changed completely and engulfed itself in bright red flames. This sudden and intense change sparked anxiety in Munch, which is how The Scream came to be.
Donald Olson, an astronomy and physics professor at Texas State University, has attributed the red sky he saw that day to a volcanic eruption halfway across the world. Olson and his team determined that these vivid, red sparks were in fact debris from an enormous eruption on the island of Krakatoa, in Indonesia. Wild, right?!
'Girl with a Pearl Earring'—Johannes Vermeer
Also known as The "Mona Lisa of the North," this famous and mysterious painting has been around since 1665.
The allure of this painting is well-known in the art world. No one knows quite why it's so mysterious, other than the fact that so little is known about the painter, and even less about his subject. Who is she? No one can be sure, as there is a severe lack of evidence. Some say it may be one of his seven daughters, others say it was a servant, lover, or perhaps just a character. There is a genre of painting called Tronie (which entails artwork portrayed as characters, rather than actual people), which is what many experts believe this painting should be categorized as.
Either way, it remains elusive, and yet absolutely stunning.
'The Last Supper'—Leonardo da Vinci
Ultimately, da Vinci's inspiration lies in the Gospel of John, 13:21. The last supper. The last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his death and resurrection. If you look closely, the painting is extremely detailed, taking nearly three years to complete. During this famous dinner, Jesus revealed that one of his disciples would betray him, and hand him over to be killed. Da Vinci made this clear, showing Judas (the disciple who ended up betraying and turning Jesus in) as spilling salt on the table, part of a renaissance pun.
This painting is, miraculously, still in tact, after it's been almost stolen, destroyed, put through war, weather, and terrible environments that it somehow endured. The painting is wildly famous today, and must be planned to see months and months in advance, if not years—there is a line up, that's for sure.
Did you know all of those without reading? Any surprises?
Thanks for reading! ♡