4 Masterpieces in the History of Art

The history of the arts dates back to the prehistoric era of necessary yet intriguing cavemen drawings. Over the centuries, we have witnessed some stunning works of arts. Today, the world of arts is full of magnificent wonders, however, some timeless paintings of arts will always be remembered for their creativity, beauty, and craftsmanship. Here's our list of the top four masterpieces that stood the test of time and will forever be known for their unique and unmatched charm and beauty.

The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

The Starry Night is a classic that was way ahead of its time when it was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in June, 1889. The abstract expression depicts a scene of a swirling night sky above a small village as seen by the artist from the east-facing window at the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum. Van Gogh painted a few variations of the same scene portraying different times of the day and different weathers. In fact, a few days before creating this masterpiece, around 23 May 1889, he wrote about the view to his brother in a letter, stating, "through the iron-barred window, I can see an enclosed square of wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sunrise in all its glory." 

Today, this iconic oil on canvas painting is regarded as one of the best works of Van Gogh. Unfortunately, he wasn't considered a successful artist in his time and his work didn't get the admiration it deserved while he was still alive. However, his unique expressionism and the genius strokes of his brush gained him prominence after his death. The Starry Night now hangs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, showcasing the brilliance of Vincent Van Gogh to the world.

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 by James Abbot McNeill Whistler

Titled as Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, the painting is more commonly known as Whistler's Mother. The oil on canvas painting portrays the mother of James Abbot McNeil Whistler, Anna McNeil Whistler. She posed for her son's painting in London. The painting was completed in 1871, showcasing the artist's ambitions about art for art's sake. It became the first American work bought by the French State in 1891. Even today, the iconic painting, depicting Whistler's formalist intentions, remains one of the most prominent American works residing outside the United States.       

In 1890, he mentioned the same painting in his book, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, stating, "Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an "Arrangement in Grey and Black." Now that is what it is. To me, it is interesting as a picture of my mother, but what can or ought the public do to care about the identity of the portrait?" 

It is somewhat ironic to think that despite the formalist intentions of the artists, over the years, the painting became a symbol of motherly love and motherhood. Today, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 resides at Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art and civilization museum located in Abu Dhabi.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

Any list of the masterpieces in the history of arts is incomplete without including the iconic painting, Mona Lisa. This oil on poplar panel painting by Leonardo Da Vinci is easily the most famous painting in the world. While the exact time of the creation of Mona Lisa is unknown, it is believed that this historical piece of art was painted between 1503 and 1506. However, modern research suggests that the painting may not have been started as late as 1513. Some believe that Leonardo may have worked on it until 1517.

What makes it so special is its fine detailing that gave a demure expression to Mona Lisa. Da Vinci managed to achieve an unusual effect that changes Mona Lisa's smile, depending on where you look. The iconic picture is nothing less than a mind-boggling illusion that has been fascinating researchers, critics, and art lovers for centuries now. Professor Margaret Livingstone of Harvard University concluded in her research about the painting that Mona Lisa's smile disappears when the painting is viewed with a direct vision. This is because the human eye doesn't pick up shadows directly, which plays an important part in the picture. However, when the painting is viewed from an angle, the smile appears as the peripheral vision can pick up shadows well.

The enigmatic expression of the subject has kept us all captivated for centuries, proving that Mona Lisa is truly a work of genius. Today, the painting is displayed at The Louvre Museum in Paris, where thousands of art lovers visit it every year to marvel at the genius brushstrokes of one of the most brilliant artists of all time.

The School of Athens by Raphael Sanzio

Raphel Sanizo was an accomplished artist of his time. Known for his brilliance, this master of the Italian Renaissance was invited by the Pope to live in Rome. In 1509, he started decorating the official residence of the Pope, the Papal Palace. His work in the palace, especially The School of Athens, exemplifies the High Renaissance fresco technique. It is the perfect amalgamation of philosophy, arts, and science - capturing the true essence of the Italian Renaissance.

Painted from 1509 to 1511, The School of Athens features various figures from Greece, hinting at the coexistence of modern Christian Italian culture and pagan Greek philosophy. Critics and art historians have different theories about the characters in the painting. It is said that the painting portrays Plato and Aristotle and other celebrated characters like Socrates and Pythagoras. The classic Fresco painting still resides in the Papal Palace in Vatican City.


Whether you are looking to decorate one room or your entire house, or add professional credibility to your work place, you will find the perfect piece of art on Benarto’s Online Art Gallery. Click here to view their work.

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