Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Which works of art matter the most to you?

The Guardian's new online sites - the Arts Blog and Art and Architecture section (featuring online visits to new exhibitions) - decided they'd get off to a good start last week by tackling the question, long beloved of art historians, of which works of art matter the most.

Jonathan Jones is inviting people to nominate what they think deserves to be on a list of 50 works which "matter the most" - the ones you want to make sure you see before you die! He's started with his personal list of 20 which matter the most to him and is using the comments section of his post "The works of art which matter the most?" to attract nominations for contenders. Here's his list.
So - what are the journeys that are really worth making to see art? To launch the Guardian's new arts blog, let's work together to make a definitive list of works of art everyone should, at least once in a lifetime, travel to encounter - a list of 50 Works of Art to See Before You Die.

I'm kicking off the debate by listing my own top 20 (see a slideshow of the works here):

Jan van Eyck, The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, c.1435, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Caravaggio, The Burial of St. Lucy (1608), Museo di Palazzo Bellomo, Syracuse, Sicily

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1654), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

San Rock Art, South African National Museum, Cape Town

Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire from Les Lauves (1904 - 6), Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Michelangelo, Moses (installed 1545), Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

Leonardo da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi, (c. 1481), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Mark Rothko, The Rothko Chapel (paintings 1965-66; chapel opened 1971), Houston, Texas

Vermeer, View of Delft (c.1660-61), Mauritshuis, The Hague

Matthias Grünewald, The Isenheim Altarpiece (c.1509-15), Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, France

Hans Holbein, The Dead Christ, (1521-2), Kunstmuseum, Basel

Velázquez, Las Meninas (1656), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun (1333-1323BC), Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Masaccio, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (c.1427), Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937), Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid

Titian, Danaë (c. 1544-6), Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Raphael, The School of Athens (1510-11), Stanza della Signatura, Vatican Palace, Rome

Parthenon Sculptures ("Elgin Marbles"), c. 444 BC, British Museum, London

Henri Matisse, The Dance (1910), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
If you want to see what they all look like then try the slideshow on the blog site. This will be a feature of future items on the blog - online versions of new exhibitions - with commentary.

Jones confesses his list is a very eurocentric view of what's worth travelling to see. However, what surprised me most was the total absence of 'big names' like Van Gogh and Monet - or any female artists at all. Which, since the Guardian is the original home of the 'wimmins' page', strikes me as a bit of hook to get women writing in. Either that or maybe he has yet to have a full induction into the 'way we do things round here' at the Guardian. Whichever, he's obviously in need of some further education!

Check out also the suggestions made by those making comments underneath the item. they're coming in fast and furious - it's a very long list already and it's only been there for two days!

His criteria for being a work of art which matters the most is.....
These are the works I swear by, always return to, and cannot forget. They are masterpieces that I guarantee will enrich, even change, your life......I think a work of art worth travelling to see has to be a really great statement about serious things. Something not just to fill your life but deepen it.
I've travelled to see quite a few works of art which matter the most to me and which aren't on his list and am thinking of starting a list of my own personal top 20 - the ones I'd want to see again and the ones I'd still travel to see. It would certainly include two sets of paintings /frescoes whose size and audacity simply took my breath away when I first saw them:
What else? I can see I'm going to have to do some thinking to narrow it down........

How about you - what have you travelled to see or what is on your own list of art you want to to see before you die?

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  1. Ah those Monet waterlilies - such a wonderful combination of painting and architecture – I saw them 12 years ago and they were wonderful. I'm not sure that I can play this game though as I can't keep the numbers down

  2. Very interesting post Katherine and informative with the links you have added. There are definitely a lot of Masters paintings that I did not get to see on my trip to Europe, so I will have to start my list. It will be very long.

  3. I really don't have a problem with having a very long list! ;)

    I've decided that I want a list of 20 drawings to see before I die. It's very difficult to rate a drawing against some of the paintings - even if they are superb of their kind.


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