A Brief History
On May 2, 2012, one of the 4 versions of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream (Skrik in Norwegian) sold at auction in New York for an American record $120 million. Munch painted 4 versions of his famous painting between 1893 and 1910, with this version (1895) referred to as pastel on cardboard being the most colorful one. Some of the truly great works of art are non-traditional, with no attempt to copy every natural detail like a photograph or replicate styles that came before. Here are 10 examples of great works of art that the artist obviously wanted to be “different.”
10. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can.
How a faithful reproduction of a can of soup could become an American masterpiece could only be foretold by an artist with vision, for the familiar red and white can painted in 1968 and sold for $1500 is instantly recognizable as a Warhol piece. Note: Warhol is credited with the “everybody is famous for 15 minutes” saying we hear so often. Warhol is the only American artist with a museum dedicated to his works.
9. The St. Louis Gateway Arch.
This enormous piece of art is 630 feet tall and 630 feet long, the largest arch in the world. Designed by Saarinen and Bandel (Finnish and German Americans) in 1947, it was built from 1963 to 1965. Unmistakably the symbol of St. Louis it is one of the most stunning works of art in the entire world. Hollow inside to accommodate a tram taking visitors to an observation deck, it is the world’s largest stainless steel monument.
8. Crop Circles.
In spite of being a hoax to fool gullible UFO’ologists somebody came up with a pretty nifty form of art with crop circles. Made in a variety of designs that can only be appreciated from far above, they certainly are different.
7. Gustave Eiffel, The Eiffel Tower.
Over 1000 feet tall, this unique structure stood as the world’s tallest man-made structure for 41 years. Completed in 1889, it is hard to believe today that this landmark so closely linked to Paris and to France was built only as a temporary structure meant to be torn down after 20 years and was built with the stipulation that it be easy to dismantle! Luckily, the gateway to the 1889 Paris World’s Fair was not torn down and stands today as the world’s most visited paid admission monument (about 7 million visitors per year).
6. Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum, Mount Rushmore.
The giant sculpture cut into the face of a mountain depicting the 60 foot tall heads of 4 of our greatest presidents was supposed to have been even larger, showing each man from head to waist. When funding ran out in 1941, the project stood completed with just the heads sculpted. Still, nothing like it had been done before and it stands as a huge and wonderful work of art.
5. Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
This Dutch Master painted his signature piece around 1500. A large work, it is a triptych (three panel painting) that is about 6 feet wide by 7 feet high when closed, and about 12 feet wide and 7 feet high when opened. When closed a vision of the Earth at creation is depicted, and when opened a fantastical assortment of Adam and Eve, various nude figures, giant fruit, bizarre stone formations and a hellscape showing the torments of the damned. Obviously, in a painting that large there is a lot of detail, and modern scholars debate the symbolism to this day. Looking like an LSD inspired fantasy, this masterpiece is not the typical Dutch Master painting.
4. The Washington Monument.
The tallest stone structure and the tallest obelisk in the world at 555 feet, this shining marble tower is unlike other monuments to great men. Not a conventional building or sculpture, this massive and stunning landmark is unmistakable and a fitting tribute to The Father of our Country. The earthquake of 2011 damaged this great piece of art, but luckily did not destroy it. Restoration and reinforcement continues.
3. Edvard Munch, The Scream.
Brought into pop-culture by tee shirts bearing its likeness and the masks used in the Scream movies, Munch’s 1893 creation is probably more accurately called The Shriek, as the Norwegian skrik would indicate. The stylized painting of a person holding their head between their hands with an open mouth is said to be reminiscent of a Peruvian mummy found with a similar expression.
2. Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Picasso worked in all sorts of artistic media, but is probably best known for his “Cubist” paintings and drawings. His 1907 masterpiece cited here is instantly recognizable as Picasso’s signature work.
1. Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory.
Dali’s 1931 masterpiece shows soft, melted looking watches to illustrate how time is really not fixed and rigid, but fluid and relative. A substantially weird dude, just reading about Dali and his colorful life is entertaining.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other works would you have included in this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Britt, David. Modern Art: Impressionism to Post-Modernism. Thames & Hudson, 2008.