Top Ten Paintings

SarasaSarasa All Saints Host
edited February 20 in Heaven
I'm just back from a trip to Malta, and one of my reasons for going there was to see Caravaggio's painting, The Beheading of John the Baptist. It has been described as one of the top ten paintings in the world and got me thinking what would be on your list?
I'm not sure it's my favourite Caravaggio, that would probably be The Desposition. which found really challenging when I saw it at the RA. It really felt as though I was being handed Christ's body and being asked what I would do with it.

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Comments

  • I'm very inconsistent with this, as I tend to like the most recently seen. But I noticed a poster of Renoir's "The Umbrellas", recently, and found it gorgeous. All the blues, and umbrella shapes, are incredible. It is in London at the moment, National Gallery.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    edited February 20
    This altarpiece by Cranach. Not because I find it attractive, but because it is such a blazing explanation of the Reformation.

    Similarly with the Caravaggio, it's not the aesthetics, it's the appalling truth of state murder.

    I would rate Goya above Picasso on the horrors of war.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited February 20
    @Firenze
    I would rate Goya above Picasso on the horrors of war.

    And for the Spanish Civil War in particular, I would rate Dali's Soft Construction With Baked Beans(Premonitions Of Civil War) above Guernica, even though Dali was borderline fascist, and technically painted it before the war started. It's a much more viscerally horrifying picture than the Picasso.

    (And according to what I just read on wiki, the posture of Dali's incongruent monster was influenced by Goya's Saturn in Saturn Devouring His Son.)
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    I would have to start with portraits by Rembrandt. I'd probably go with the Self-portrait at 63 in the National Gallery London, along with the large portrait of Margaretha de Geer where she's facing the onlooker. Also his Anna and the blind Tobit. Also, the Jewish Bride.
    Then there's Michelangelo's Doni Tondo.
    Vermeer. The Milkmaid, The Lacemaker, the Girl with the Pearl Earring.

    I could probably make the list up to ten with more Rembrandt and Vermeer.




  • Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 is one of my most favorite paintings. The whole Duchamp section at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is utterly engrossing. I could spend days there.

    My taste in art leans heavily to the 20th century and so my list would feature Willem de Kooning, Jane Freilicher, and Mark Rothko quite prominently. I also, though, have a real fascination with Constable’s cloud paintings. The Clark in Massachusetts has a nice little selection of those that I find quite engrossing.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    I agree with Dafydd about Vermeer - the milkmaid is my favourite of his paintings.
    I'd also go for Cayley Robinson - he did a picture of workers at a cotton mill that is superb.
    There's a Japanese artist called Hiroshi Yoshida who toured the US and did some gorgeous pictures of the landscape in the Japanese style. I think my favourite is his view of Monument Valley.
    Laura Knight did some brilliant pictures of women during the Second World War - but I think my favourite of her's is a picture of Malvern in the snow.
    And Samuel Palmer's paintings are gorgeous - I like the one of an apple tree. I knew nothing about him until I was given a free ticket to a talk about his work at Hay Festival one year, and I came out enthused!
  • Sargent isn't my favourite, but there is an exhibition on him and clothes, which is controversial. He was good at painting women's dresses, so the Tate is matching paintings with real clothes. It sounds a bit wacky, but clothes are a big theme in the 19th century. I was then thinking of Tissot who painted wonderful dresses. His "The ball on shipboard" is gorgeous. Very postmodern, the surface is the meaning. Wiki has a gallery of his stuff, you are drowning in sensuality.
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    So many paintings, so little time...

    I like Dutch Old Masters and in particular Aert van der Neer's moonlit landscapes. There's an art to painting night scenes and he did some beautiful ones.

    I like Cubism too. Picasso's "Reading", the portrait of the woman in a chair musing over a book. I have a small printout of this.

    Corny or not, I like Claude Lorraine's sunset harbour paintings. He couldn't do people particularly well, but the scenes are dreamy and romantic.

    Robert Campin's two excellent portraits of the medieval husband and his wife, in London's National Gallery. In the early 1400s, where portraiture portrayed people more as they wanted to be seen than as they actually were, these have photo realism. The shrewd businessman and his much younger wife, who is looking slightly nervous, but has at the same time a gleam of demure mischief, come across as real people.

    I'm not keen on Impressionists but make an exception for Monet's "Thames below Westminster", which I love.

    Van Gogh's "Winter Garden" is actually an ink sketch, but a good one. I quite enjoy his paintings, though don't know that I could live with one.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Sargent isn't my favourite,

    But have you seen his watercolours? The way he captures sunlight, water, gardens - absolutely amazing.
  • The_RivThe_Riv Shipmate
    I've always enjoyed Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Hunters in the Snow," as well as a number of his other works.

    And I suppose it's because of Sondheim's musical, but I can always look again at Georges Seurat's "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
  • Firenze wrote: »
    Sargent isn't my favourite,

    But have you seen his watercolours? The way he captures sunlight, water, gardens - absolutely amazing.

    Well, I like Sargent a lot, but I was leading up to Tissot, who is a great painter, imo. My wife jokes about frock art, whatever.
  • I love Giotto, especially his colors. Look at his Entry into Jerusalem. The blues and the reds!
  • I love Giotto, especially his colors. Look at his Entry into Jerusalem. The blues and the reds!

    We are thinking of going to Padua later this year partly to see some Giotto (and also some plants).

    I find it hard to narrow down my favourite art. I basically got my head around great art when I was living in Washington DC and could wander into the National Gallery for the price of a return Metro fare - so some of the most memorable art is art I first encountered there - El Greco; Vermeer, Rembrandt, and some other Dutch masters; French Impressionists, Canaletto and Belotto, Constable and Turner and lots of 19th and early 20th c. American art (Harnett, Homer, Whistler, Sargent, Ashcan school Henri/Bellows/Sloan).

    I didn’t really get my head around the Renaissance Italians until much later. Likewise for the early-ish Flemish artists. We haunted the Prado for two days in February 2020 (just before Covid) getting to know Goya and Velasquez and renewing our acquaintance with El Greco. Not to mention wandering into a room randomly and finding ourselves face to face with Bosch and the Garden of Earthly Delights.

  • Love that garden.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    edited February 21
    Just to take a step back from European art history for a moment, I am fascinated by African rock art as well as the Paleolithic cave paintings in France. When I watched Werner Herzog's film The Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the Chauvet cave in the Ardeche, I could see great differences and similarities in the painted images on cave walls there and in the San (early hunter-gatherers) rock art of southern Africa, the beginning of human art-making.

    Some of the oldest prehistoric rock art here locally is found in Namibia as well as the Drakensberg mountain ranges and is preserved in rock overhangs, caves and clefts inaccessible except to skilled rock climbers. There's ongoing debate about the San cosmology informing the art, now thought to have been done by women as well as male shamans. Trance out-of-body rituals and interactions with the sacred eland (antelope) are shown along with various hunting episodes and rainmaking dances.
  • I noticed several articles on "Flaming June", by Frederic Leighton. It's on show at the Royal Academy at the moment, and is undoubtedly an iconic Victorian work, the colour, the shape of the limbs, the sleeping pose, produce a hypnotic effect. There are various stories that it was offered for £50, and other ridiculous amounts. Of course, Victorian art was in the pits at one time, but now at fever pitch. I must admit, it's a corker. You can make it part of a critique of paintings of women, by the Victorians, which are semi-erotic, or semi-porn.
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    I love the colours and the idea but never cared much for the enormous side view of the model. However, as I know, I'm not the artist's target demographic.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    Tom Lubbock, late art critic for the Independent, said of a tradition of nudes in Western oil painting, that begins with some of Titian's less inspired paintings, that they make the human body look neither resistant to touch nor vulnerable, like a luminous putty. They're fantasies of sexual bodies with no relation to real bodily existence. Flaming June is an example: that the pose would be desperately uncomfortable in real life but the way it's painted makes it look neither strained nor unnaturally flexible.

    (That formulation, bodies that are neither resistant nor vulnerable, has stuck with me as a good summation of much bad pornographic fantasy.)
  • Very interesting. Yes, bodies in some Victorian art have a sort of perfection, that is fantasy. I suppose Flaming June is kind of ravishing. I would hate to have it up at home.
  • The_RivThe_Riv Shipmate
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Just to take a step back from European art history for a moment, I am fascinated by African rock art as well as the Paleolithic cave paintings in France. When I watched Werner Herzog's film The Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the Chauvet cave in the Ardeche, I could see great differences and similarities in the painted images on cave walls there and in the San (early hunter-gatherers) rock art of southern Africa, the beginning of human art-making.

    Some of the oldest prehistoric rock art here locally is found in Namibia as well as the Drakensberg mountain ranges and is preserved in rock overhangs, caves and clefts inaccessible except to skilled rock climbers. There's ongoing debate about the San cosmology informing the art, now thought to have been done by women as well as male shamans. Trance out-of-body rituals and interactions with the sacred eland (antelope) are shown along with various hunting episodes and rainmaking dances.

    I really enjoyed this film as well! Looks as if it's available right now via AMC+, though I think I watched it on Netflix a couple/few years back.
  • Damn. Let's embarrass myself. What exactly is it that makes it semi-pornographic?

    I look at it and think, "What beautiful colors!" And I've slept in that position before, i think, but then, I have hypermobility syndrome. Doesn't look too odd to me...
  • As an obsessed medievalist, my favourite is the Wilton Diptych.

    I'm also very fond of this one which is in Manchester Art Gallery. There is so much in it. I can look at it for ages.
  • I find myself moved by the paintings of Jerome Witkin. "Beautiful" is not a term that would be used for them. They are disturbing. Unsettling. They are not pleasant to look at, but I find them profoundly moving.

    He also paints polyptychs. Indeed, my first exposure to him was a multi-painting piece called "A Jesus for Our Times," 4 of which are shown in the link I gave. In narrative order, the first painting is not shown, then Item 35, Item 34, Item 33, and end with Item 32.
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    Damn. Let's embarrass myself. What exactly is it that makes it semi-pornographic?

    I look at it and think, "What beautiful colors!" And I've slept in that position before, i think, but then, I have hypermobility syndrome. Doesn't look too odd to me...

    Flaming June

    At a guess, that enormous thigh, the rounded buttock, the slightly too tight and revealing costume that shows she has her other knee up, the visible nipple, the pose of being asleep - she isn't, you couldn't sleep like that, not with your foot in that position.

    It's not a painting I like. I've always felt it's spoilt by her pose, too much lower body as the focal point, but then as I said before, this wasn't aimed at my demographic.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Admin, 8th Day Host
    I’m with @Lamb Chopped on this, I don’t see it as semi pornographic and I do think people can sleep in such a tangle of limbs.

    And it is so beautiful - I’d never seen it before clicking your link.
  • I’m with @Lamb Chopped on this, I don’t see it as semi pornographic and I do think people can sleep in such a tangle of limbs.

    And it is so beautiful - I’d never seen it before clicking your link.

    Visible nipple through translucent clothing makes it pornographic to some people. To me, that looks like a wildly impractical nightgown - I'd get my feet impossibly tangled with that much loose lightweight cloth around them.

    (And I know I've slept in similar poses, although these days I'd be rather stiff if I did.)
  • I could and probably did do it, but when I was much younger. It doesn't look improbable to me at all.

    And maybe this is just me, but the thigh doesn't look particularly huge to me. At least, my brain keeps saying, "Well, it's in the front, what do you expect?"

    But nobody has to like it.

    My problem is, I once saw a painting very similar in color and style, I think--but it was called Aurora or Eos or something similar, and showed a dressed woman in the same bright colors but straightened out and asleep in clouds. I've never been able to find it again. Occasionally it comes up in the back of my mind and niggles at me. I've been all through this artist's works and not seen it, though.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    Up to a point Lord Copper. I used to follow a FB page which posted a painting a day. The exercises in photographic verisimilitude got a lot of Likes. But I argued for something like this Degas as better than mere transcription - it's not a 'pretty' picture, mostly floorboards, the figures obscured or cropped, the brushwork loose - but what it tells you is the work, even the boredom, than goes into making beauty.

    A painting that tells you nothing more than what a thing looks like is decoration, not Art.
  • Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.

    Sure, there can be 'realist' art just as there is 'realist literature and film but 'looking real' is nowhere near as simple as it sounds.

    Good thread though and I can appreciate most of the choices even though I may not have chosen them myself. Give me 'Guernica' over Dali, any day of the week.

    Give me any Spanish artist over Dali.

    But yeah - Brueghal, Rembrandt, Giotto, Rothko, Turner and sudden surprises like a lesser known Hals portrait in a gallery in Hull.

    My brother's an artist and has introduced me to extraordinary Canadian landscape paintings and East London artists from the mid-19th century (that's yer East End innit, Lahndahn Tahn) as well as female British artists from the same period.

    And not just paintings. Woodcuts, etchings, sketches ...

    My late wife loved decorative art, ceramics, textiles, crafts as well as the Big A Fine Art - an embarrassment of riches.

    And as @MaryLouise reminds us there's not just the Euro-centric or Anglosphere canons.

    Chinese water colours, Japanese prints, antipodean rock art...
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    Photographic reality is something I'm impressed by myself - Inchbold's "Spring" is a wonderful painting that reproductions never do justice to.

    One of the reasons I don't like Impressionists much is because, being very shortsighted, the whole world without my lenses is Impressionist, blurry, vague and frankly annoying. But I like the idea behind it. I find Cubism quite exciting, the concept of not using perspective or shading to show objects as they are. The Ancient Egyptians didn't either. It's about capturing the essence of something, rather than a literal reproduction. That's Art.

    It can be a lot of fun playing with abstract concepts in art, too. I've experimented with this in photography (a project on depicting silence) as well as art, where you try to capture an emotion by expressing it in colours and shapes. Art is a highly individual journey and a fascinating one. And it's everywhere. There are so many instances of design all around us on a daily basis from buildings to chairs and labels on cans, that if you stop to actually see, it can be quite an eye opener.

    Sometimes I look at posters on railway platforms if I have to wait for trains and think: would I have designed it like this, used these colours, this typeface, positioned that image there? What feature of the text would I have made most prominent? And sometimes I just think: this one is perfectly done, and skilfully executed. It's all Art.
  • Ford Madox Brown is one of the Pre-Raphaelites I rate, as he painted real people rather than the cartoons of eg Burne-Jones.

    I have a major soft spot for Eric Ravilious, not least because he painted places I know - a print shop in Headington has had a big print of naval officers going out to defuse a German mine in the Swale not far from where I used to mudlark, and I can smell the mud, feel the wind, and hear the seabirds every time I look at it. If we had a bigger space on a wall I'd be sooooo tempted.

    I think, though, my favourite printing is Hogarth's Shrimp Girl. We associate Hogarth with incredibly detailed prints, this is a totally different ball game. He's sloshed paint on the canvas with fast, loose, brush strokes, and the result is a fabulously lively picture of a vivacious young woman. I adore it.
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    I remember once walking into the room in the National Gallery with the late Rembrandts. I was I think the only person in the room. Now a late Rembrandt you would never mistake for anything other than a painting. He's basically just smearing and blobbing the paint onto the canvas at that stage. But it felt like the room was full of people.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

  • Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    This is just begging for a mention of Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves, isn't it?
  • Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    This is just begging for a mention of Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves, isn't it?

    Oh yes!
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    This is just begging for a mention of Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves, isn't it?

    Is there another paiting so we can compare Mr Cromwell ?
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    This is just begging for a mention of Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves, isn't it?

    Is there another paiting so we can compare Mr Cromwell ?

    Eh? Do you mean Thomas - another Holbein. Not sure what one Holbein portrait can tell you about another different one.

    Or Oliver? Painted by Walker, Cooper and Lely (and probably others).

    What point are you trying to make?

  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Firenze wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    This is just begging for a mention of Holbein's portrait of Anne of Cleves, isn't it?

    Is there another paiting so we can compare Mr Cromwell ?

    Eh? Do you mean Thomas - another Holbein. Not sure what one Holbein portrait can tell you about another different one.

    Or Oliver? Painted by Walker, Cooper and Lely (and probably others).

    What point are you trying to make?

    How are we to know how accurate is the famous painting of Anne of Cleeves
  • ArielAriel Shipmate
    What's Cromwell got to do with it?
  • Telford wrote: »
    How are we to know how accurate is the famous painting of Anne of Cleeves

    Like others, I am uncertain what point you are trying to make. But I am aware of at least one other painting of Anne. It does not guaranty "accuracy" (whatever that might mean in this context--even photos can present subjects in a good or bad light as the photographer chooses), but it does at least allow for some comparison.


  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Ariel wrote: »
    What's Cromwell got to do with it?

    Bringing her over to marry Henry VIII was his bright idea and it cost him his head.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    edited February 23
    Although Holbein did paint Anne at the most flattering angle to hide the size of her nose*, the painting was considered accurate--very significantly, Holbein suffered no consequences from Henry due to the picture and still received commissions from him.

    One major tenet of Impression is an alternate accuracy--the absolute presentation of color without superimposing an interpretation (it's not an apple, it's shades of red...). A famous phrase that at least used to be said in Art Schools was "paint what you see, not what you know"--it inspired Peter Greenaway to create the movie The Draughtsman's Contract to explore and expand on the concept.

    * Henry's first choice was still Christina of Denmark, but she allegedly rejected him with "if I had two heads, one of them would be at the King of England's disposal".
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Belisarius wrote: »
    Although Holbein did paint Anne at the most flattering angle to hide the size of her nose*, the painting was considered accurate--very significantly, Holbein suffered no consequences from Henry due to the picture and still received commissions from him.

    One major tenet of Impression is an alternate accuracy--the absolute presentation of color without superimposing an interpretation (it's not an apple, it's shades of red...). A famous phrase that at least used to be said in Art Schools was "paint what you see, not what you know"--it inspired Peter Greenaway to create the movie The Draughtsman's Contract to explore and expand on the concept.

    * Henry's first choice was still Christina of Denmark, but she allegedly rejected him with "if I had two heads, one of them would be at the King of England's disposal".

    The story is that Henry did not fancy Anne. At that stage in his life, Henry was very unfit and not attractive . It could have been that Anne just didn't fancy Henry and he couldn't deal with it.
  • BelisariusBelisarius Admin Emeritus
    It's true that Anne's reaction to him was probably a significant factor (besides that Anne was too tall for his taste and didn't know French, Music, etc.).
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Hedgehog wrote: »
    I find myself moved by the paintings of Jerome Witkin. "Beautiful" is not a term that would be used for them. They are disturbing. Unsettling. They are not pleasant to look at, but I find them profoundly moving.

    Kinda reminds me of John Hoyt, but with a more varied and idiosyncratic collection of imagery.

    (Hoyt, who used to teach at a Lutheran college, also seems more explicitly religious. Google "John Hoyt Alberta artist". I used to quite like him, but then I started to notice his images getting repetitive.)
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    edited February 24
    Speaking of Canadian artists, my one claim to artistic insiderness is a relative of Mr F's (who died last year at 103), who was a friend of the Group of Seven - A Y Jackson in particular.

    She had a fantastic flat in a building on Kingston waterfront, hung with their paintings. We visited Ontario several times, and reckon to have seen the site of The Red Maple.

    In fact, seeing the Group's depictions before I visited the country gave me a rather singular experience of the landscape altogether.
  • Telford wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    I just like paintings to look real. If they don't look real, I am not impressed.

    What does looking 'real' mean? No painting looks 'real' any more than poetry is actual speech.
    Before we had photography we had to rely on pictures that were real

    Ummm ... no.

    Photographs aren't 'real' either.

    The visual arts aren't only about apparently accurate representations of 'reality'.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not against what's often called 'photo-realism' in painting.

    But some of the most 'realistic' looking paintings can lack lyricism and 'soul'.

    That's not always the case of course.

    A portrait, whether of Anne of Cleves or an arty photograph of an actor or celebrity isn't like a police identikit drawing in a murder hunt or those pastel artists impressions of a courtroom scene where cameras aren't allowed.

    Besides, the notion of 'reality' and accuracy in visual terms is a loaded one. Different cultures and societies visualise things in a different way.

    Hokusai was as excited by what he saw in reproductions of Dutch art as westerners were when they first saw his prints.

    Religious icons are paintings but are not meant to be 'art' as such and the intention behind them determines how they look.

    The strange perspective and the stylised landscapes and forms found in iconography aren't there because the iconographers can't 'draw properly.' They are there to indicate that we are dealing with spiritual reality, with a world beyond our own, as it were.

    Picasso famously said that he spent 16 years learning to paint like Raphael, the rest of his life learning to paint like a child.

    So, no, it's not as simple as saying 'That paintings looks like Anne of Cleves'.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Back when I was an archaeologist, it was quite interesting to look at the pictures that had been made of historical sites before the advent of photography. Very often, they were useless for the purposes of seeing what the site had looked like in the 18th century, because the artist would invent details to make the scene look more dramatic. Yet these pictures were the only source for most people to know what the ancient ruin or stately home looked like before modern tourism. For instance, Caergwrle Castle in North Wales (one of the sites I dug at) had various arcades that we actually looked for, and they didn't exist.
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