What Is The Best Oil Painting In The World?
Calling any oil painting the best painting in the world is a subjective choice. We all see and interpret art in different ways. This means everyone you ask will give you a different answer.
You may appreciate the technical skill involved and that can be judged more easily. The style may be something that you find personally appealing. Sometimes artists just do something in a painting that ‘Brings it to life’. All these things will go towards discovering what is your own favourite oil painting.
Does The Best Mean The Most Famous?
No, it doesn’t. Remember, many of the artists we now call masters struggled during their own lives and only became famous after they died.
Just because someone is unknown doesn’t mean they aren’t great artists. It is quite possible that the best oil painting ever done is probably tucked away in the cupboard of an unknown artist somewhere in the world.
The art world may vaunt certain artists work more than others at times. It can be a fickle world of trending fashions. Whatever you appreciate most in art will affect your opinion.
This 1912 Modernist classic, Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 by Marcel Duchamp, has become one of the most famous paintings of its time. However, it was rejected by the Cubists of the time as being too Futurist. It was ridiculed at the 1913 Armoury Show in New York City. Duchamp simply said “My aim was a static representation of movement”.
Over the years many styles have become the standard in the world of art. Historically, periods like the ‘Renaissance’ and ‘Impressionist’ era of fine art have come and gone, but often leave a lasting legacy. No one style could ever be considered the best by everyone, so a list like this should always be eclectic.
10 Best Oil Paintings Ever Done
Fisherman at Sea by J.M.W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner defined the era of Romanticism. This painting ‘Fishermen at Sea‘ has to be one of the most iconic oil paintings ever done. It was first exhibited in 1796 and manages to portray the brutal power of the sea in a way that had never been seen before. This dark, atmospheric seascape has a foreboding feel, and it is skies like these that are still seen as the most brilliant ever painted by many artists today.
The Hay Wain by John Constable
The work of John Constable is still seen by many as the ultimate mastery of landscapes. His natural and realistic skies and unique style have been copied by many more modern artists. I grew up with this painting, ‘The Hay Wain‘ and I can still imagine the painting looking down at me.
The Persistence Of Memory by Salvador Dali
Surrealism was popularised by Salvador Dali. This painting, ‘The Persistence Of Memory‘ has a vast landscape reminiscent of the great Yves Tanguy shows hard objects becoming paradoxically liquefied. The sharp lines, boundless landscape and precision of the liquefied objects in the painting confuse the brain and take the viewer to a completely different dimension.
Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 by Marcel Duchamp
‘Nude Descending a Staircase No.2‘ is an oil painting by Marcel Duchamp. It is possibly a contentious choice for some. It takes the idea of cubism, popularised by artists like Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris to a whole new level. Capturing dynamic movement of the subject in such an innovative way has undoubtedly inspired many artists since.
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh’s painting ‘Starry Night‘ has to be included on this list. It is often described as iconic and it shows both an incredible artistic freedom while also depicting the emotional turmoil faced in the artists mind, during what was a very difficult period of his life.
Irises in Monet’s Garden by Claude Monet
The oil painting ‘Irises In Monet’s Garden‘ by Claude Monet was one of his later paintings. It shows a keen observational skill and fantastic use of color. He has captured the light in a way that creates real depth within this simple but truly amazing oil painting.
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt
In 1663 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn finished the painting ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee‘ at the age of 57. Rembrandt’s depiction of the biblical story of Jesus calming the storm invokes a literal flood of emotions. The tumultuous sea and terrified faces show an understanding of human emotion and an incredible brush control.
Coast Guard Station by Edward Hopper
The 1929 oil painting ‘Coast Guard Station‘ by Edward Hopper has clean lines and a simplistic, almost minimalist form. The shadows are sharp and the contrast exaggerated in a way that gives the painting a stark but natural feel. Capturing the essence of solitude is something that Edward hopper was a master of.
The Sun in it’s Jewel Case by Yves Tanguy
Yves Tanguy’s seminal 1937 painting ‘The Sun In It’s Jewel Case‘ was the pinnacle of his work. One of the pioneers of the surrealist movement, he carved the path for later artists like Salvador Dali. Vast landscapes defined much of his work and this oil painting is no exception. However, the sharp lines, long shadows and amorphous shapes make those endless panorama’s incredibly striking. His use of color is totally unique. Most of this painting is a constantly varying tone of grey, but smaller, sharply defined colored objects placed in specific locations seem to defy the predominantly monotone oil painting.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch
‘The Garden of Earthly Delights‘ by Heironymus Bosch is an oil painting that triggers conjecture, primarily because so little is known about the painter. People can only surmise what he was trying to portray in this complex and detailed three panel painting. It took him almost twenty years to complete which shows his dedication. The scholarly interpretations of its symbolic meaning are almost as varied as the characters he has painted. One thing is for sure, it will still open up discussions for generations to come.
As you see from the list above it really is impossible to give one painting the title of ‘Best oil painting ever done. Each oil painting is included in this list for very specific reasons. They may not be the most popular or most famous but they all show a mastery of the medium the artist has chosen.
Oil paint is still the most versatile and long lasting paint for any artist today. The fact we can still appreciate some of these paintings hundreds of years after they were painted is testimony to that.
If you choose your favourites they will inevitably be different to the ones I have chosen. We all have different tastes. It is those differences that make the world of art such an eclectic and exciting place to be and research.
Each of the paintings should stretch your imagination. It is the best tool we all have afteral.