There have been a countless number of artists over the centuries. As such, it can be overwhelming to analyze every famous painting to find what you like. This means it’s often much easier to break art down into time periods to really appreciate the masterpieces of the time. The 19th century is one such century full of beautiful and awe-inspiring paintings. These are some of the most famous masterpieces created during this century.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas Moran ended the 19th century with a sweeping view of the Grand Canyon. The painting was done completed between 1893 and 1901 and captures the landscape with a surprising amount of realism. Through the colors and technique, you can see not only the canyon but the light and fog spilling over it as well.
The Nude Warrior with a Spear oil painting is an interesting and thoughtful piece that depicts a man leaning over a spear and looking off into the horizon. The choice of using a nude pose also lets us see the skill that Gericault demonstrates in painting a replica of the human form which he’s done with impressive mastery.
This classic piece is also sometimes shortened simply to Island of San Bartolomeo and was completed in around 1825 to 1828. The painting depicts a landscape portrait of San Bartolomeo, Rome instead of a naturally occurring landscape as The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone does. You’ll notice that the painting follows the Impressionist techniques that were popular in the 19th century as opposed to the hyper-realism that had been made popular in the previous centuries.
The Caress by Mary Casset was painting at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The painting, as does a number of Casset’s other paintings, depicts daily life for women and children. This painting, in particular, showcases a mother caring for her young children. It depicts a close and loving relationship between not only the mother and her children but the two siblings as well.
Aurora Triumphans by Evelyn De Morgan was completed in 1877 to 1878 and it’s absolutely rife with symbolism. The painting shows Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn bringing in the new day. She is depicted by the nude woman in the bottom right corner of the painting while Night, the dark-robed figure, flees in the opposite direction. This positioning is also meant to showcase Aurora and demonstrate the anonymity of Night. The three angels above the two figures blowing their trumpets tie together the feeling of triumph.
Edwin Long painted Queen Esther in 1878 and, interestingly, went on display almost immediately. The painting depicts the biblical Queen Esther from the Book of Esther. The painting was originally going to be hung next to a sister painting by Long that depicted Ahasuerus’ first wife Vashti from the same biblical story. The painting of Esther was inspired by Long scouring illustrations in the British Museum to create an image of the biblical queen.
This is perhaps one of the most famous paintings of the 19th century. The story behind the painting is a Romanized version of the Greek myth about the Titan Cronus who, in the Romanized version, was named Saturn. Saturn was essentially a god who feared being overthrown by his children. This eventually happens in mythology but Saturn tries to avoid his fate by eating each of his children as they’re born. The painting was part of the “Black Paintings” series that Goya did. The painting was transferred from the wall of Goya’s house onto canvas after his death, giving us one of the most popular, horror-inspired paintings to date.
In contrast to Goya’s piece, Evelyn de Morgan looked at Roman mythology through a lighter lens with her Flora painting. Flora was actually the Roman goddess of flowers, so the nature surrounding her is not only beautiful but thematical as well. The largest plant surrounding her is a fruit-bearing loquat tree which is particularly symbolic for a goddess charged with nature and growth. It’s hypothesized to have taken some inspiration from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus thanks to the similar themes and posturing.
Throughout the ages, we’ve seen different artists, art forms, and techniques rise to and fall out of popularity. This gives us plenty of artwork to admire and keep in our museums and homes. This list just touches the tip of the iceberg of masterpieces in the 19th century. There are plenty of other pieces of art from this era that you might want to be replicated alongside these in your home or office.
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