Four Famous Oil Paintings

In its simplest form, oil paint is a mixture of pigment (the color element), binder (the oil) and thinner, which is added to make the viscous pigment-oil mixture easier to paint with. Famous artists have utilized this medium for centuries, creating some of the world’s most iconic artworks. Here are four of the most famous oil paintings from around the globe.

Mona Lisa“Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci

Probably the most famous oil painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci painted “Mona Lisa” between 1503 and 1506. The history of the “Mona Lisa” painting is still shrouded in mystery, including the identity of the featured woman who commissioned the painting, how long da Vinci worked on and kept the painting, and how it made its way to the French royal collection. “Mona Lisa,” alternatively known as “La Gioconda,” is also the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait, and her famous smile is a visual representation of the idea of happiness.

“The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

One of the most famous oil paintings of all time, van Gogh paintedThe Starry Night” in 1889. Many interpret the painting’s curving, swirling lines of the hills, mountains and sky, the contrasting blues and yellows, and the thickly layered brushstrokes as an expression of Vincent van Gogh’s turbulent state of mind. Van Gogh’s use of simplified forms, thick impasto and boldly contrasting colors makes “The Starry Night” so compelling to subsequent generations of viewers and other artists.

“Water Lilies” by Claude Monet

Claude Monet spent the last 30 years of his life painting water lilies, and totaled roughly 250 oil paintings by the time he passed. Monet loved to garden and observe nature and at his home in Giverny, France, he developed a magnificent garden with a pond full of water lilies, which is where he began painting the natural scenes, full of life and vibrant colors. Disregarding what others said art should look like, Monet created his own style, ignoring the principles of art defined by artists before him. Monet painted outside, or “en plein air,” simply painting what he saw and capturing the vibrant colors as seen in natural lighting.

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

Painted in 1893, “The Scream” includes similarities to “The Starry Night,” as it uses bright, exaggerated colors and simplistic figures and shapes, expressing not so much realistic depictions as stylized expressions of emotion and character. Norwegian artist Edvard Munch painted this piece during a transitional period in art history, between the Realist era, which was marked by photographic authenticity in art, and the Expressionist phase of the early 20th century. Both works by Munch and van Gogh were painted in this span, and are often cited as serving as sparks that led artists to shift their focus to expressing their innermost feelings through art.

The scene of “The Scream” was located on a hill in Ekeberg, Norway, along a path with a safety railing. At the bottom of the hill was the mental asylum where Munch’s sister was hospitalized. Some interpretations hold that the audible cries of disturbed mental patients – and animals being slaughtered at a nearby butchery – likely inspired Munch, in addition to his own personal struggles with anxiety and insanity.

These famous paintings have inspired generations of artists to refine and develop their skills in search of making magnificent artworks of their own. At Hunakai Studio, we can help to unlock your abilities through our Oil Painting classes, offered for both teenaged students and adult artists this fall. Register online today or contact us for more information on any of our fall classes, starting Sept. 14.

Do you have a favorite painting that isn’t on the list? Add a comment below and let us know your favorite!