The Egyptians created art as a religious gift to accompany the Pharaoh throughout his infinite life after death. The Grecians focused all their efforts in the development of The Doryphoros and used art to represent their idea of exact perfection and undeniable beauty. The artists of the early 20th Century began to explore the notion of art itself, challenging their audience’s idea of “great art” as far as possible. Art has always been at the centre of our lives and it has always retained great power. The following 10 pieces of art are so powerful that they have all, in their own way, managed to change the world.
Is architecture really art? When we study the lives of the Egyptians, nothing that they created was considered art in their eyes. Their paintings, their carvings and the sculptures were all created in honour of the Pharaoh and to deliver him or her safely to the Gods after their death. However, as the work of the Egyptians has been discovered over time, we have come to recognise its beauty and, in the case of the temple structure built for Queen Hatshepsut after her death, sheer size as artistically valuable. It is one of the largest pieces of artwork to date and a testament to the powerful reign enjoyed by the Egyptians for so many years.
Policleto’s The Doryphoros, 5th Century B.C
Between the 4th and 6th Centuries B.C, the Grecians made discoveries and concerned themselves with mathematics and philosophies that would change the world forever. Along with their need for knowledge came a desire to use art as a way of reproducing their idea of absolute beauty or perfection. The sculptor, Policleto, in the 5th Century B.C. was responsible for the creation of The Doryphoros. The naked, athletic figure of a Grecian male, perfectly formed according to a tight mathematical order where the head of the sculpture would fit into the length of the body eight times. Even in today’s art, we see examples of anatomical perfection borrowed and learned from Policleto. The Grecian legacy is very powerful.
At the end of the Paleochristian Era and towards what is recognised as the period of Medieval Art, a potent representation of Jesus Christ began to emerge that would change the world forever and help to place Christianity in one of the most strongest religious and political positions ever reached by other religious movements before and after. These paintings and carvings were later referred to as Christ in Majesty or Christ in Glory. The Altar Frontal with Christ in Majesty and the Life of Saint Martin is one of these paintings. Taking reference from the previous power of the Roman Emperor, enthroned and represented as being forever young, the artists employed to produce the Christ in Majesty paintings were the first artists to place Christ enthroned at the centre of their paintings.
Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa
Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa, painted in roughly 1503 or 1504, is also known as La Gioconda or La Joconde. It is most famous the central figure’s smile. The nature of the smile has been a universal debate for centuries. The reason behind The Mona Lisa smile is unknown and still provokes a lot of interest and theories. Housed at The Louvre in Paris, it is almost impossible to ever get a real good look at The Mona Lisa nowadays thanks to the hoards of interesting gallery visitors, snapping away as best as they can at the famous lady and her famous smile.
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, 1889
Van Gogh was plagued by mental anguish and depression his entire life. He is most famous perhaps for cutting off his ear in the name of love and while internalized in an asylum in Saint-Rémy in 1889 he produced The Starry Night. The Starry Night is a perfect example of the impressionist painting movement which threw caution to the wind, opened up brush strokes and introduced a new approach to the use of colour. It emphasises the sentiment and poetry behind the image on the canvas instead of merely representing what the artist could see. Van Gogh grew to be one of the most fascinating impressionist painters because of his love of the night and his infatuation with paintings in the dark.
Edvard Munch’s The Scream 1893
One of the fascinating things about The Scream, by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch is that Munch created a number of versions of the work including an oil presentation, a pastel drawing and lithograph, all between the years of 1893 and 1910. The subject matter of the painting is particularly dark as the central figure, a man, is clearly suffering from a private moment of anguish and despair, while the other people featured in the painting, appear to be blissfully unaware of his anxiety.
Kandinsky’s First Watercolour (Untitled), 1910
The Russian painter and graphic artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was one of the great masters of modern art. His work made great strides in the world of pure art, art for art’s sake and abstract painting. He was an incredibly dominating figure in the first half of the 20th century and his really memorable work began with his very first watercolour, an untitled piece thathe produced in 1910. The year 1910 was a crucial year for both Kandinsky and for the world of art in general. This first abstract watercolour, in which all elements of representation and association appear to have been completely lost, was groundbreaking. Kandinsky’s work can be found in The Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France.
Dali’s Persistence of Memory, 1931
Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory 1931” is considered by many to be a surrealist masterpiece. The images that we are presented with include clocks which seems to be melting over branches and ants which are hungrily devouring a pocket. The background of the painting is clearly a beautiful representation of the landscape of Port Lligat in Dalí’s native Catalonia, but as a whole works as an amazing hallucination, full of fascinating yet confusing details, like the kind of mixed images that we experience when we dream. Dali and his surrealist contemporaries were responsible for leading the masses through yet another hugely important and challenging artistic movement.
Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, 1952
In 1952, Harold Rosenberg, a writer for ARTnews, was responsible for first referring to Jackson Pollock’s work as “action painting” and what a fantastically accurate description of Pollock’s painting it was. When Pollock begins to paint, he doesn’t see the image, he doesn’t have the image in mind. He sees space and he looks for space, so that he can fill that space with action. Pollock is famous for throwing paint at a canvas to see what might happen and his 1952 creation, Blue Poles, is a bold example of the colour, movement and individuality associated with its author. Pollock’s Blue Poles changed the world by showing us that art did not have to have any kind of meaning at all and that nor did it have to be composed with exactitude.
Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, 2007
Is it a crown jewel or a kitsch novelty? Few people can decide. Once again, For the Love of God, Damien Hirst’s diamond covered skull in 2007 brings art to the forefront of our conversations and questions what it means to be artistic. In 2007, it seems that it is the artist’s job to provoke, to annoy, to cause disgust and outrage. For the Love of God is just one of Damien Hirst’s artworks to cause controversial opinion and interest all over the world. Art was once created as a gift to the Gods and now it is created in order to challenge and disturb. The power of art is endless and it is exciting to think about where it will lead us to next.