If you could own one piece of art no matter its cost, what would you choose? Well, in our recent survey, we asked you that very question. More than a thousand of you responded and here’s what you said. Drum roll please!
Who said romance is dead? The intimate embrace between a pair of lovers, depicted in Klimt’s ‘Kiss’ painting, pips the post as the artwork you would most like to own. Painted between 1908 and 1909, at the peak of Klimt’s Golden Period, the intricate layers of gold leaf applied over oil paints, is a true masterpiece of the early modern period. Presented to the public – still unfinished – at an exhibition in 1908, it was acquired by the Austrian Gallery where it remains to this day.
It may come as no surprise that the Mona Lisa makes the top ten. But is it her enigmatic smile that captivates us so? Or perhaps the novel features of the painting Da Vinci so cunningly deployed, like her three-quarter length pose? Or maybe, just maybe it’s down to what psychologist James Cutting describes as the “mere-exposure effect”. In the 1800s, Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings were considered no match for the Renaissance masters, like Titian and Raphael, whose works were worth nearly ten times as much as the Mona Lisa. It wasn’t until 1911 when an employee at the Louvre stole the painting, and it was splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world, that its popularity rocketed. And there you have it. A historical accident begins to shape its fame.
And in third place, is one of the most popular paintings in The National Gallery’s collection, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Which remains, to this day, just as fresh – excuse the pun! But what was so significant about these sunflowers that led Van Gogh to paint seven versions? For Van Gogh, the colour Yellow was an emblem of happiness and the sunflower a symbol of devotion and loyalty. In their various stages of decay, the flowers also allude to the cycle of life and death.
Another Van Gogh painting tops the list, this one painted from the window of the Saint-Paul asylum in Saint-Remy, Southern France, where Van Gogh sort respite from his emotional suffering. Describing the inspiration behind the painting, Van Gogh writes to his brother; “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”
“I’m good for nothing except painting and gardening,” wrote Monet. ‘Good’ was perhaps rather an understatement. In 1883 on moving to Giverny, Monet set about creating a beautiful water garden to cultivate aquatic plants, and it was this garden that formed the source of his inspiration for over 250 oil paintings depicting waterlilies.
Part of Munch’s semi-autobiographical cycle “The Frieze of Life” The Scream was created in four forms – two painted, one oil version housed at the National Gallery of Art, Oslo, another tempera version at the Munch Museum in Oslo, which also holds a pastel version. The final pastel version is held in a private collection, bought in 2012 for £74 million – making it the second highest price achieved at an auction at the time. Like the Mona Lisa, The Scream has been the target of dramatic thefts and recoveries, which no doubt lends itself in part to its fame.
Painted as an immediate reaction to the Nazi’s devastating bombing on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, Picasso’s painting has gained a monumental status, as a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war and an embodiment of peace. Rightly so, it tops your list as one of the paintings you would most like to own.
Thought to represent the decline of Britain’s naval power, the Temeraire is shown travelling East, away from the sunset, evoking a sense of loss. Painted with masterly skill and meticulous detail, it’s not hard to see why this makes your top ten list.
Very little is known about the artist Vermeer, and even less so about the subject of ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’. Painted in 1665, it is one of over forty images of women painted by Vermeer. The air of mystery surrounding the identity of the woman, remains very much part of the paintings allure.
And in tenth place, we have Constable’s rustic scene, the Hay Wain depicting a harvest wagon crossing a shallow stream near Flatford Mill, in Suffolk, near where Constable grew up . Originally exhibited under the title Landscape: Noon, it was Constable’s friend Archdeacon Fisher who first referred to it as The Hay Wain (the type of horse-drawn cart depicted) and the name stuck.