Art is a matter of personal taste, but when it comes to the values that paintings fetch at auction, there is no doubt who are considered the greatest painters. For instance, Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes D’Alger (Version ‘O’) that fetched an eye watering $179.3 million at Christie’s auction house in May 2015. This made it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. So, Picasso makes our list, as will 3 other painters as highly rated.
Picasso was a Spanish painter born on 25 October 1881 in Malaga, Spain. His full name consists of 23 words: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. His long name, that he was given when he was baptised, can be attributed to a list of relatives and saints. Picasso, apart from being a painter, was also a sculptor, ceramicist, printmaker, and a theatre designer. He would spend most of his adult life in France.
Picasso’s most famous painting is his Guernica. It depicted an aerial bombing raid upon Guernica, a Basque town, which took place in April 1937. This was during the Spanish Civil War. It is not only one of his most famous paintings worldwide, but one frequently searched for on Google.
Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter famous for his Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888), The Starry Night (1889), The Bedroom (1889), and his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889). On 23 December 1888, he famously cut off his left ear during an argument with Paul Gauguin, an artist he had been working with at The Yellow House in Arles, southern France. 130 years after Van Gogh cut off his ear, the Art Newspaper would name the young woman that he gave his ear to as Gabrielle Berlatier.
In 1987, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers sold to an anonymous buyer for $39.85 million. After it was painted, the artist had hoped it would sell for $125.
Claude Monet, known also as Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the founders of the French impressionist movement. The key aspect to the impressionist style was in the way the sun or moon would clad objects in different types of light. Monet would develop his passion for painting over time, beginning with caricature, and then encouraged by his father would progress to painting, which he was to study at the Swiss Academy in Paris in 1859.
Proving how much paintings can increase in value, Monet’s Haystacks series which sold for $2.53 million in 1986 would later sell for $110.7 million in 2019. Between 1890 and 1891 Monet would devote thirty of his paintings to the haystacks that were in a field close to his home at Giverny.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Da Vinci was said to have been the greatest genius of all time, with an estimated IQ of around 220. This is with the average IQ set at 100 in the UK and 98 in the US. A very high IQ is thought to be anything above 130. To become a member of Mensa, a world-renowned organisation that measures IQ, you would need to score 132 on the Stanford-Binet scale or 148 on the Cattell one. Apart from being highly intelligent, Italian Da Vinici was also a polymath and diversely talented. He was a Renaissance painter, sculptor, military engineer, inventor, architect, and draftsman.
Mostly famously, Da Vinic painted the Mona Lisa, a painting which resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris, hanging behind bulletproof grass. It has been part of the collection there since 1804. It is a very realistic portrait that demonstrates Da Vinci’s understanding of the skull that lies beneath the skin. The portrait apparently has no eyebrows because women in the Renaissance period would shave their facial hair, including their eyebrows. Interestingly, French inventor and engineer Pascal Cotte has reportedly said that using a high-definition camera he was able to ascertain that Da Vinci did originally paint the eyebrows and eyelashes that famously the finished work does not display.
The Mona Lisa is in the Guinness World Records for having the highest insurance value of any painting. It was assessed at $100 million on 14 December 1962. This was, taking inflation into account, estimated to be the equivalent of $850 million in 2019.