Galleries and museums are vital elements in our society. They are one of the forms of preserving human history. Art galleries are no different; museums help document and preserve art history, which is deeply related to humankind’s history, not only aesthetically but also regarding valuable concepts, values, and moral standards. This article aims to shed light on some of the most famous portraits in many worldwide galleries.
Jean Dominique Ingres’ “Grande Odalisque” – Louvre (France)
Musee du Louvre, or the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, is arguably the most distinguished art gallery in the world, housing countless artworks, ranging from famous paintings such as the Mona Lisa to grandiose monuments from ancient civilizations. Therefore, instead of choosing the Mona Lisa, which would be the most obvious choice, we decided to select another marvelous and famous artwork housed at the distinguished museum.
Jean-Dominique Ingres is an exquisitely singular artist, and this artwork is a great example of this. The artist was a master of playing with the representation of the human body. At first, the viewer could simply perceive a beautiful painting executed in a classical manner. However, upon further examination, one can notice the strangely elongated body of the sitter. This is the magic of Ingres’s art; with his profound knowledge of human anatomy, the artist was able to create harmonious yet anatomically incorrect anatomy.
Diego Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” – Museo del Prado (Spain)
With over 200 years of history, the Museo del Prado is one of, if not the most, important fine arts museums in Spain and in the world. It proudly houses artworks from Hieronymous Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens, El Greco, Titian, Diego Velazquez, and an astounding collection of Francisco de Goya’s artworks.
“Las Meninas” is certainly the museum’s most famous painting. It’s also among some of the most debated, mysterious, and famous portrait paintings in art history. Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece is complex both in narrative and execution. The composition shows a precise rendering of light and dark and human figures. Arguably the most compelling element of the painting is a mirror showing two people. However, the people projecting the image are not there.
Vincent van Gogh’s “The Schoolboy” – MASP (Brazil)
The Sao Paulo Museum of Art, or MASP, is one of Brazil’s most important artistic landmarks, housing several vital artworks of Western art, ranging from artworks from the Antiquity, Renaissance, and Modern art. It’s internationally recognized for its distinguished collection and considered one of the finest museums in South America.
The museum houses one of Vincent van Gogh’s famous portraits, “The schoolboy”, also known as the portrait of Camille Roulin. This is an interesting portrait because it depicts one of the five members of the Roulin family, in which the artist made one portrait of each. The most famous is the Portrait of Joseph Roulin, representing the family’s father.
Jan Vermeer Van Delft’s “The Milkmaid” – Rijksmuseum (Netherlands)
Jan Vermeer Van Delft’s masterpiece “The Milkmaid” is housed at the distinguished Rijksmuseum, a unique and forward-thinking museum with one of the finest art collections in the Netherlands. The artwork was painted between 1658 and 1661 and is one of the finest artworks in the museum’s collection, attracting crowds of dedicated visitors who marvel at this strongly illusionistic depiction of a domestic servant.
The painterly execution is evident when the viewer notices the extraordinary skill in the composition. It shows a complex interplay between light and dark and the dignified representation of the subject, which is impossible to achieve by applying simple mechanical reproduction. As a result, the Dutch masterpiece is a singular art portrait.
Jan van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Portrait” – The National Gallery (Great Britain)
Jan Van Eyck’s masterful “Arnolfini Portrait”, created in 1434, is a startling representation of a mutual union and a fascinating glimpse into a world long gone. Currently housed at the distinguished National Gallery in London, Van Eyck’s celebrated masterpiece renders the symbols of companionship and marriage with elegance and eloquence.
Commissioned by Giovanni Arnolfini, a wealthy banker who had moved to Bruges with his young wife, this reproduction of their likenesses is set in a traditional marital chamber, and a light from an open window throws an ephemeral light onto the pair. Yet all these elements almost fade compared to the dominant focal point of Van Eyck’s masterful artwork: the convex mirror set a short distance behind the couple anchors the entire work, creating a compelling composition.
Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” – (USA)
Grant Wood’s 1930 painting “American Gothic” is the subject of countless reproductions and has been parodied many times in popular culture. “American Gothic” achieved instantaneous fame for Grant Wood and became engrained in the popular mindset of the 1930s when the overall American life shifted from a decidedly rural one to primarily urban.
The artwork is an imagined reproduction of a conventional rural Midwestern family; Wood’s iconic artwork is a reflection of his upbringing in the state of Iowa. It also owes a great deal to portraits created during the Northern Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Now located at the Art Institute of Chicago, Wood was inspired by a quaint house in the town of Eldon, Iowa. The house was designed and built between 1881 and 1882 in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style. The artwork is a representation of what kind of people the artist imagined would live there.
Art galleries and museums will forever be one of humankind’s most precious locations. Nowadays, with the help of technology, anyone can visit any gallery around the world online and even order hand-painted reproductions of their favorite paintings with the help of specialized companies. It’s never been easier to see and even own real works of art in the comfort of your own home.