Throughout history, the world has gifted us with numerous geniuses who have showcased their artistic prowess consistently for ages for us to behold. From veterans like Claude Monet and Renoir to modern day artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Bourgeois many have come and gone but I would like to emphasize on the works and lives of a handful who can be called the best of the best namely Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gough and Rembrandt. These heroes have reshaped the process of learning and most importantly living for the better part of the last hundreds of years.
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Leonardo Da Vinci is considered by many as the father of modern science was a sculptor, designer of costumes, mathematician and botanist. The man who dug into graveyards at night to steal corpses and study human anatomy drew the plans for the first armored car in 1485, invented the bicycle 300 years before it appeared on the road, sketched the first parachute, first helicopter, first aero plane, first tank, first repeating rifle, swinging bridge, paddleboat and the first motorcar. Among his most famous works are The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa whose lips took him 10 years to draw. He was simply a jack of all trades and also the master of all of them.
Pablo Picasso was seen as an artistic prodigy as a child. He is quite possibly the most famous artist that has ever lived. This prolific painter and leading artist of the 20th century created many masterpieces among which is Cubism, an art movement that altered art history forever where he “analyzed” an object or scene from every angle, and then painted a single composition that combines each viewpoint. He had two famous phases in his career – blue period and rose period. His name had 23 words, his first word was pencil and this man was a playboy! His place in history was already assured by the 1920’s, and over the next fifty years as he continued to paint, sculpt, and create.
Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance period, was a sculptor, painter and architect. His work demonstrated an unparalleled blend of psychological insight, physical realism and intensity. The most famous of his work is the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting which is the emotion-infused The Creation of Adam, in which God and Adam outstretch their hands to one another. Other notable works are The Pieta and David where he inscribed his name on Virgin Mary’s chest. He was also the first person to have an autobiography published during his lifetime and was so prominent that even after retiring at age 74 the Catholic Church literally begged him to finish seemingly never-ending work on St. Peter’s Basilica.
Vincent Van Gogh a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter is among the most famous and influential figures in all of the Western art. His influence on Expressionism, Fauvism and early abstraction was remarkable and his Portrait of Dr. Gachet, sold for $148.6 million, was the most expensive painting to be sold at an auction. In his lifetime he created 900 paintings, 1,100 drawings and sketches in only 10 years, but only sold one painting- The Red Vineyard. He produced his most famous artwork the Starry Night while in a mental hospital and he killed himself in 1890 by shooting his chest.
Last but not the least is the Dutch draughtsman, painter, and printmaker Rembrandt. A prolific and versatile master across three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists and is best known for his expressive use of light and shadow (also called chiaroscuro) in his many portraits. He was a master printer and produced hundreds of historical paintings, including The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, The Military Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Aristotle with a Bust of Homer. This man married his art dealer’s cousin, outlived his five children, made a lot of money and lost it all, reportedly painted his dead pet monkey and was stereo blind, yes he could not see in 3D like we do. Yeah, to be great you got to be different!
Honorable mention- Ai Weiwei
This Chinese contemporary artist and activist is a living legend. Why is he worth mentioning? His works are often highly political, and unapologetically tackle China’s history, human rights abuses worldwide, and the global imbalance of power. He was tasked to design the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Upon on seeing the dismal working conditions at the Olympic stadium first-hand, he began to speak out against Chinese authorities who fought him and Ai created ‘Straight’, which is a poignant and memorable piece, consisting of 150 tons of steel rebar, recovered from buildings collapsed by the Sichuan earthquake. It represents the schools that crumbled in the earthquake. The government backlashed. They shuttered his work by bulldozing his studio in 2010. He was arrested for 81 days but was released due to public outcry.
Art is a hero giving a voiced to the ones oppressed by local authorities. Get inspired. It takes a lot to be great but once you get there, the view from the top is breathtaking.
Images source: Collage made with images from Google
Writing Source: A Mim Likhon