Famous modern art
Cézanne’s The Bather represents a balancing act between timeless subject matter and avant-garde technique. Monumental and yet decidedly unheroic, Cézanne's figure almost melds into the background.
A self-taught outsider artist who won the admiration of insider peers, Rousseau was a toll-collector-turned-painter whose work was discovered by Picasso at a sidewalk sale. In time, Rousseau’s mix of dreamy naive figuration and exotic landscapes became one of the most recognizable styles in art.
Decisively breaking with the representational tradition of Western painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon represents the opening salvo of 20th-century modernism. Inspired by the African masks that Picasso had seen in Paris’s ethnographic museum at the Palais du Trocadro, and by El Greco’s painting, The Vision of Saint John, Les Demoiselles depicts a group of prostitutes in a brothel in his native Barcelona. Indeed, the titular “d’Avignon” refers to a street in Picasso’s hometown that was famous for its cathouses.
Painted a century ago, White on White’s radical nature continues to astonish. But as minimalistic as it is, Malevich’s piece was really about the artist’s belief that the Russian Revolution had ushered in a new age in which dialectical materialism would open a new road to spirituality. White on White, then, represents the ultimate expression of Malevich’s search for transcendence.
Dalí described his work as “Hand-painted dream photographs,” and certainly, this Surrealist masterpiece fits the bill with its melted watches and other enigmatic images intruding upon waking life. The coast of the artist’s native Catalonia can be seen in the composition’s background, while its center is occupied by a self-portrait in profile, stretched and flattened like a piece of Silly Putty.
This gender-bending self-portrait by the celebrated Mexican artist could be described as a monument to codependency. Prompted by the end of her stormy marriage to famed muralist and chronic philanderer Diego Rivera, the feminist icon depicts herself in a chair, hair shorn, in Rivera’s clothes—signaling, as it were, an odd transformation into her ex-husband’s likeness. Unable to quit Rivera, however, Kahlo remarried him the year following their divorce.
In 1940, Mondrian fled the Nazi invasion of his native Holland for New York, where he died four years later. Broadway Boogie Woogie, his second-to-last painting, is a love letter to his adopted home, inspired by jazz and the energy of Gotham’s streets.
“My eyes are up here” could be the subtitle of De Kooning’s painting, in which he inserts a jokey interplay between his subject’s enormous peepers and breasts. Limned with a violent flurry of brush marks, the piece is the artist’s signature work.
Measuring 18 feet long and eight feet high, Vir Heroicus Sublimis (Latin for “man, heroic and sublime”) was meant to overwhelm the viewer’s senses with color. Unlike other AbEx classics, Newman’s masterpiece isn’t about the artist’s emotions captured in a painterly gesture, but rather about the viewer’s emotional response to the canvas.
Created late in Hopper’s career, this depiction of a starkly naked woman bathed in harsh daylight as she stands before a window conveys an air of loneliness and longing. Details like the cigarette in the her hand and her kicked-off high heels under the bed offer hints of a provocative backstory, but ultimately, A Woman in the Sun is a study of alienation and resignation.