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My 50 Favorite Art Masterpieces of All Time

Art Is One of Our Greatest Treasures

I still remember the day my big sister brought home this huge book from the public library. Curious, I looked inside and was enchanted by what I saw: There were pictures of beautiful paintings inside, and biographies of the people who painted them! I was seven years old, and couldn't believe that a mere mortal was capable of creating such beauty and magic!

Featured in this massive book were the movers and shakers of their day: Giotto, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Bosch, El Greco, Velazquez, Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet, and many more! I studied the glossy pages over and over, reveling in the mystery and beauty of their contents until, unfortunately, my sister returned the book to the library.

Discovering the old masters made a huge impact upon me; since then, I have held the highest regard for artists and art. I collect art books, and have amassed quite a large collection. I have a love for all kinds of art: from Bosch, to Gainsborough, to Grandma Moses.

This page showcases fifty of my personal all-time favorites--paintings that speak to me personally, and have touched me in some way. I hope you enjoy viewing them; perhaps they will speak to you, too!

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"Starry Night over the Rhone" by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

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The bold rendering of the sky brings to mind a fireworks display, which makes this piece, along with the luminous reflections in the water, very exciting, beautiful, and magical.

"Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh (1889)

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Who doesn't love van Gogh's "Starry Night," one of the most recognizable masterpieces in the world? I am caught up in the energy conveyed through the bold brush strokes, bright colors, and swirly sky. The dusky, dead tree in the foreground provides ominous overtones as well as contrast. I like the way it resembles a castle.

"Allegory of April--Triumph of Venus" by Francesco Del Cossa (1476--84)

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I love the fantasy aspect of this piece, which is considered one of the earliest Post-classical paintings of the three Graces. I particularly enjoy the harnessed swans pulling a barge. This is one of twelve frescoes created by Del Cossa to commemorate each month of the year, utilizing mythology and the zodiac. "Allegory of April" is one of seven surviving frescoes in the series. This painting is the first tier of three. View the complete fresco here.

"Lady With An Ermine" by Leonardo da Vinci (1490)

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The beautiful lady, with close-fitting hair wrapped under her chin, elongated head, and long, graceful neck, resembles the ermine which she holds in her arms, an act of genius by da Vinci.

"View of Toledo" by El Greco (1597--99)

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I enjoy the drama here, which is prevalent in all of El Greco's work. There are stormy clouds with blue sky peeking through, and darker clouds on the horizon. I like the way the sunlight still manages to light up the landscape, even with an ongoing storm. The jagged appearance of the castle-like buildings add even more wonderful drama to El Greco's turbulent landscape.

"The Burial of Count Orgaz" by El Greco (1586--88)

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The arched shape of this painting perfectly sets off this composition. I am taken in by the great contrasting colors, emotional overtones and touching gestures. El Greco, one of my favorite artists of all time, never fails to excite through his mannerist style of painting, which perfectly captures and projects the mood and message intended for the viewer.

"Cardinal Fernando Nino de Guevara" by El Greco (1600)

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I enjoy all the shapes, colors, and textures here: The cardinal's hat is shaped like a cathedral, and the folds and peaks in his robe almost resemble bat wings. His round, dark glasses lend him a pensive, scholarly appearance. The red material of his robe appears to be taffeta, with a wonderful pattern of swirling, zigzaging threads of lights, contrasting beautifully with the white, lacy undergarment. All is set wonderfully against a gold brocade-looking background and patterned floor.

"The Commemoration of Guidoriccio Da Fogliano at the Siege of Montemassi" by Simone Martini (1328--30)

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I've loved this painting since I was that little girl gazing through a huge art book from the public library many years ago. I enjoy the horse, with his harlequin-patterned coat, ridden by Guidoriccio, who wears a matching coat. There is something about the combination of horse and harlequin design that is very becoming to me. I'm mezmerized by the hills and castles in the background, which (unintentionally, I'm sure) look like a fairy tale.

"Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez (1656)

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I enjoy the curious composition of this painting. The figures appear to be caught in mid-activity, as if they have been interrupted. The full, elegant gowns of the females against a background of rectangular shapes (paintings, doorway, mirror, and canvas) is very eye-catching. The woman on her knees seems to be trying to persuade the little girl to turn around and pose for the artist (a self-portrait of Velazquez). I enjoy the stark contrast of the beautiful, dainty doll-like little girl and the dwarves and dog.

"The Dance Foyer at the Opera on the Rue Le Peletier" by Edgar Degas (1872)

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This painting takes me back to my younger days, when I attended ballet class twice a week. In fact, I used to have a silk screen picture of this exact painting (I probably still have it somewhere--I just can't find it!). Degas' ballet class scene brings back fond memories. Degas was a master of anatomy in dancers, and perfectly captures every single ballet position without a hitch.

"A Bar at the Folies Bergere" by Edouard Manet (1882)

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As far back as I can remember, this has been one of my favorite paintings. I like the reflections in the mirror of the immense crowd present, the chandeliers, and the gentleman she is speaking with. I enjoy the richness of textures and color: the velvet and lace of her dress, the flowers, the wine, the oranges, and the crystal. The story aspect of this painting piques one's curiosity. What has the man said to the woman to make her so sad?

"Adoration of the Magi" by Gentile da Fabriano (1423)