Obsessed with nostalgia, Cézanne painted The Bathers from memory. It’s one of his many works that dance between reality and invention. Cézanne creates a tension here that reveres the very past it can’t quite enumerate.
When looking at A Bigger Splash today, we have art history to serve the story for us. Hockney sparked the Pop Art movement then dove in a new direction soon after. This 1967 painting represents his more naturalistic move. Swimming pools and California skies look through his lens into a deeper artistry.
Picasso painted Girl Before a Mirror as a doubled abstract portrait. It portrays his beloved Marie-Thérèse Walter. She was young and it shows in the left side of this work. Her face glows like a radiant sun. Her belly swells in pregnancy.
Hans Holbein’s painting Portrait of the Artist’s Wife with Katherine and Philipp reeks of reality. He used all his artistic magic as Henry VIII’s court painter. That work elevated his status. But it also made him a neglectful father and husband.
Caravaggio tells a compelling story in The Cardsharps painting. Our newbie in the green sleeves at front plays the leading man. He cares the most and this intensity makes us feel for him. This shows Caravaggio’s hand. He’s pulling for the kid.
The painting Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef features one of Bacon’s infamous screaming Popes. This masterpiece explores many dualities, especially Bacon’s obsession with horror. Here he plays with the two sides of terror; power and vulnerability.
Francisco de Goya painted The Colossus during Napoleon’s siege of Spain. So, many think El Gigante is the incompetent Fernando VII of Spain or Napolean. These were the major players wreaking devastation on Spain at the time of this work. Also Fernando and Napolean both had colossal egos.
America teetered on the edge of revolution in 1768. Paul Revere was an intense and articulate Son of Liberty. But the painter, John Singleton Copley, engaged to a hardcore Tory, wished to abstain from political discourse.
The iconic Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez gives us an intimate perspective on a secret world. This portrait of Spain’s King Philip IV reveals the inner court with resonant details.
Sisters dwell in distinct developmental stages for The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. This famous John Singer Sargent painting holds viewers rapt in a sisterhood spell.
Mute painter Henrick Avercamp sings an icy opera with Frozen River. In fact, his expressions range from delight to death here. Without a word spoken, Avercamp tells us a complex emotional story.
The painting EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II presents us with seductive obscurity. Frank Auerbach was a true romantic and it shows here. This painting may seem blunt at first. But the piece demands a deeper look.
War and Death ruled Paul Klee’s life when he painted Death and Fire. Torn asunder by World War II and a seering case of scleroderma – Klee suffered while painting this. His pain shows.
Pierre Bonnard painted four versions of Nude in the Bath. It wasn’t an obsession – just routine. In fact, the habit was not even his. Bonnard’s wife, Marthe de Méligny, loved bath time best.
The Annunciation marks a critical inflection point for Christianity. Keeping that in mind, painter Fra Angelico uses a golden laser beam to direct viewers’ eyes.
Paris Street; Rainy Day gives us a slice of life. It’s an unromantic, realistic painting during peak Impressionism. At the same time it captures 19th century Paris with a fresh allure.
Clarity and purpose shine through Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel. Its sharp cold bite make this more than a landscape. But on the most basic level it’s one of the best landscapes ever.
Cupid’s off to the side in Alma Tadema’s painting Unconscious Rivals. That’s because love plays a mere supporting role in this portrait. But pay no attention to the title, it’s not about rivalry either. This is a painting about friendship.
Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip delights in joyful nostalgia. No matter the life we’ve led, at some point we all had a moment like this. These scampering bare feet sing to us of freedom.
Birth of Venus serves up instant recognition. We’re all familiar with Sandro Botticelli’s masterpiece. But have we looked at it? It’s a birth – messy baby business. But this portrait shows neither mess nor baby, only beauty.