As we look back at the body of work that any given artist has produced over the years, a few pieces are often singled out as being especially noteworthy. These pieces are generally considered to be the “great masterpieces” created by the artist, and they are usually the ones that define his or her overall artistic style. It is always interesting to study a master’s great works and learn what makes them so special; however, it can also be helpful to look at those same works from a more objective perspective in order to determine precisely what makes them truly great.
If you have ever taken a fine arts class, you may have been assigned to write a paper in which you tried to explain what makes a painting good — or bad. This can be an excellent exercise because it forces you to really consider every aspect of the piece and evaluate how each one contributes to its overall impact. When analyzing art, there are essentially three different components that must be considered: subject matter, composition, and technique.
Although each of these elements is important on its own merits, the way in which they interact with each other is what ultimately determines whether a work of art will stand the test of time or fade into obscurity. For example, two artists could create essentially identical paintings but if one was able
There are many different opinions, but I think the answer is clear: it has to be something new. A great masterpiece has to be original.
It’s easy to see why this is the case. For example, look at the art of the Renaissance. In architecture it produced the kind of soaring cathedrals that had been dreamed of for centuries by builders, and then — bam!! — suddenly there were also Michelangelo’s sculptures of David and Moses.
Here’s a video about David: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdK3IcwYmq4
If you want to see some other examples of great artists and their masterpieces, go to youtube and type in “Rembrandt van Rijn” or “Michelangelo”. You will find many videos showing their work and how they did it.
And remember: the great masterpieces are not just in museums; you can find them all over the internet!
A great masterpiece has to be better than a good one, right? We know that. But how much better? And how do you measure “better”?
When we say a work of art is a masterpiece, we mean something more than that it is a skillful piece of work, more than that it is technically expert. We mean some kind of magic comes through in it, something that pierces us with its power.
There are plenty of skillful artists who never produce masterpieces. And there are plenty of artists whose talent is so remarkable that they can turn out technically perfect masterpieces but leave us feeling nothing.
But at the top level there is something else going on. There has to be, because almost no one becomes a top-level artist without some kind of magic or charisma or inspiration or drive. And yet very few people are inspired by every masterpiece; in fact there are only a handful of creators whose names provoke instant recognition from everyone, even if they have never seen any of their works. So the works must be different somehow. If they were all technically excellent but otherwise indistinguishable, why do some cause a sensation and others don’t?
The power may come from the subject matter or the style; or it may come from some other quality in
The most popular works in a given period are not necessarily the best. The art market is not made up of artists trying to get rich; it is made up of people who want to collect and preserve for the ages.
The Great Masters were chosen because they were important to the development of art, not because they were inherently great. The importance of a piece of art is created by its effect on other artists, who build on what they discover and create something new. A work that has no influence on other artists is likely to be forgotten.
The history of art is the history of the worship of beauty. Artists have always tried to make their audience notice and appreciate something beautiful. So far so good, but what is beauty?
It’s not a simple question. The same person can admire a Vermeer and think that a Gothic cathedral is just a bunch of rocks stacked on top of each other. For one thing, there are different kinds of beauty, as you probably know if you’ve ever taken a class in art history.
The understanding of what makes for beauty has therefore been an evolving idea. And that includes our understanding of what defines a masterpiece.
When we look at the best paintings from 500 years ago, we feel we’re seeing the height of artistic achievement–but the artists themselves might have felt differently. What made them great was different than what makes us think they were great.
Vasari was an Italian painter who lived from 1511 to 1574 and wrote biographies of famous painters like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. He also included chapters at the end called “the lives of modern masters”–artists who were his contemporaries and fellow citizens. His standard for greatness was whether the artist had painted something truly beautiful; he didn’t insist on originality or innovation,
In the early 19th century, the European art world was revolutionized by a group of painters who came to be known as the Romantics. The movement emerged in France, but it spread rapidly across Europe and also to the United States. The Romantic painters broke with centuries of art-making tradition: they wrote manifestos and held salons; they painted outdoors, rebelling against the stifling confines of studios; they depicted subjects not previously seen in Western art, like landscapes, villages and farms, rather than religious or mythological scenes; they painted people engaged in everyday activities, rather than formal portraits or historical narratives.
The most famous Romantic artist is probably Caspar David Friedrich. He began painting when he was very young, while still living at home in Germany. His father was a pastor, but also a keen amateur artist with an impressive collection of paintings by masters such as Rembrandt and Titian. As an adult Friedrich became well known for his paintings of Gothic ruins and desolate seascapes — scenes imbued with a kind of melancholy grandeur that some found deeply troubling. In 1818 he wrote about one new piece that had been commissioned for a government building in Dresden: “The picture makes me shudder whenever I look at it, even though I have
A masterpiece is an object or experience that is perfect in every way. Every detail of it is exactly the way it should be, with nothing extraneous or missing. It is harmonious and complete in itself, but also a subtle and intriguing gateway to further discoveries.
Each artist has a unique style. This doesn’t mean that every painting by Picasso has the same features; his style evolved over time and varied from medium to medium. However, each painting had the same feeling about it: you could recognize it as a Picasso without needing to see his signature.
Another term for this is “fingerprint”, because there is no way you could make another one exactly like it, even if you copied every detail exactly. It still wouldn’t “feel” like a Picasso, though it might look nearly identical.