This is my own top ten list of all-time masterpieces. From enigmatic 30,000-year-old cave drawings to Jackson Pollock’s ‘cathedral of the mind,’ art critic Jonathan Jones selects his top works of art — and where you can see them.
1.The Foetus In The Womb
Leonardo’s depiction of the womb resembles an opened horse chestnut capsule, and he captures the human predicament in a nutshell. The beginning of us all is laid naked inside. This is one of the finest works of art. This painter and physicist could depict the human enigma with astonishment that is not spiritual but physiological, and he stands mankind up as a truth of nature five hundred years ago. It is, in my opinion, the most magnificent work of art on the planet.
In a prison yard, Caravaggio depicts a violent scene. The executioner has pulled a knife to remove John the Baptist’s final tendons and skin. From a barred window, someone is seeing this awful scene unfold. This is one of the finest works of art. There’s a gloomy atmosphere all around. As its scale and darkness daunt and dominate the imagination, this masterwork bares death and human brutality.
The Mona Lisa’s mysterious grin has captivated the world’s attention. The Mona Lisa depicts an unnamed lady who has achieved eternity. This artwork took Leonardo Da Vinci a lifetime to complete; he carried it around for years, working on it and improving it. This is one of the finest works of art. Why has the Mona Lisa captivated the world’s attention? – Because there is something in the artwork that surpasses ordinary human cognition — beauty and innocence, but also the Beyond’s unaware grin.
Michelangelo’s four-year labour of love. Unrivalled in magnitude and grandeur, it takes visitors’ breaths away. This is one of the finest works of art. Michelangelo’s commissioning Pope believed he would pick subjects from the New Testament, but he chose scenes from the Old Testament. God is making Adam here, expressing that elusive human-God connection.
Who created these stunningly accurate animal portraits? Because there was no writing during the ice age, no one knows what these early people’s names were, if they ever had names. This is one of the finest works of art. Cave painters might have been men, women, or children. What is known is that Humans evolved, our species of humans, left an indelible stamp on the world with these works of art that are as beautiful and clever as anything created since.
6.One: Number 31
Jackson Pollock’s work is a contemporary enigma. This is one of the finest works of art. How did he achieve such beauty and interior structure by splattering paint on a canvas on the ground? His freeform improvisations loop and lurch like a Charlie Parker or Jimi Hendrix solo, but they attain a profound oneness. Pollock was only able to keep it together for a brief moment of brilliance. This artwork is a mental cathedral.
However, certain works of art have had such a deep impact on the art world that they have been designated as masterpieces in history books. Art is, after all, subjective. However, there are obvious masterpieces that we can all agree are essential to the current state of the art world.