SNEAK PEEK: We’ll show you a few of the incredible pieces of art that were made specifically for famous people.
One of the most recognizable faces in the world is the one and only Salvador Dali. The painter and his work have been featured on screen countless times, with everyone from Greta Garbo to Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Duchess of Windsor, and more recently, even Hillary Clinton. Dali was famous for his surrealism and for using the faces of others as part of his paintings. We’ve seen some of his work before, but this is the first time we’ve seen anything directly inspired by his iconic face.
Another Renaissance man we would like to feature on this list is the famous French novelist, Georges Simenon. He is well-known for his detective novels with the iconic black-clad detective, the Pink Panther, appearing in nearly all of them. It is only fitting that one of his last works, published in 1963, is being made into a movie in 2019. In this story, the titular character, Inspector Dreyfous, battles it out with another famous fictional detective, Mr. White, to solve the case of a missing jewel. Georges Simenon passed away in 1989, but the legacy of the Pink Panther lives on.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are another famous couple whose work has been immortalized in pictures. The duke, King George VI, and his wife, the Duchess of Windsor, were well-known for their elegance and luxury. They were also both artists, and together they amassed a truly enviable collection of work, which was exhibited after their deaths. The Duchess of Windsor was an avid painter, and her works are exhibited around the world. One of the highlights of their travels was the Venice Biennale, where their exhibition introduced centuries of art history to a new audience, including their many famous friends.
One of the most famous paintings ever made is Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The French artist and his many creative descendants have continued to be famous for their artistic contributions over the years. It is quite an honor for one of their creations to be featured on a list of famous people’s private paintings, but this is certainly the case as we can see from this small sampling. In 1964, Picasso donated this painting to the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris as a mark of appreciation for the city’s art patrons and collectors, opening the door for a more intimate glimpse into the artist’s creative process. The painting is a representation of a room in Picasso’s house when he was still living in Paris, and it includes his famous “hand” print on the wall alongside the musicians, who seem to be caught in a creative moment, their instruments seemingly in tune with one another. As you can see, this is a case of art for art’s sake, as the painting is only valuable for its aesthetic beauty.
This beautiful bronze sculpture, by the British artist, Henry Moore, was first exhibited in London in 1914. The piece, originally titled The Chariot, was originally inspired by the Greek god, Mercury, the Roman god, Pluto, and the Norse gods, Thor and Odin. The gods were commonly associated with chariots—the four-wheeled vehicles of antiquity that were pulled by horses, and this is why we have so many images of them in popular culture. Henry Moore passed away in 1902, but the Thinker stands for all the marvellous artistic minds that ever lived.
The Two Majors
Another great British artist, whose work we can’t help but think of whenever we see a scene of World War II, is of course, Graham Sutherland. He is best-known for his war paintings and drawings, which are on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London. We think of Graham Sutherland when we think of the Great War and its devastating impact on not just one generation but two. Before the war, Sutherland was a well-known landscape artist. In 1914, at the age of 42, he became a major player in the war effort, initially sketching the battle scenes that are now in our collective memories. It was the carnage of the trenches that finally made him an ‘official’ war artist. His most famous works depict the conflict from a unique perspective, showing the futility of war from the inside, as it were. One such work is his painting, The Two Majors, which in 2019, celebrates its 100th anniversary. It features two soldiers confronting one another across a trench. The younger of the two soldiers, an artillery officer, is holding a map, while the older one is holding a rifle. Around them are the various weapons—bayonets, bullets, gas masks—that they would need to fight the war. Behind them looms an artillery piece, which in the original version of the painting, had four horses attached to its base. Later versions of the painting remove one of the horses, depicting a shell-shocked world that still dreams of peace. The meaning of this piece became clear in 1939, when it was exhibited as part of the Exhibition of the Works of the Living Artists, organized by MoMA, in New York City. It was one of a number of paintings that were shown to raise money for those affected by the war, including refugees and the families of soldiers killed in action. The exhibition was a great success and led to more such exhibitions, including the War Memorial Exhibition of 1940 in London. The painting still pulls in the crowds today, although it doesn’t seem quite as powerful a message now as it did back then. But then again, maybe it never will. The futility of war haunts us all.
Blue and White
Finally, we arrive at one of the artists who defined modern art, Pablo Picasso. Like many of the other artists on this list, he too was a product of the great European art schools of the early 20th century. This painting was completed in 1937, and it was inspired by a simple, yet extraordinary event—the arrival of the French newspaper, l’Oeuvre, at the Picasso household. The paper had a limited edition of 100 signed and numbered prints. When this painting was first exhibited in Paris, in 1939, it was met with great critical acclaim. A lot of people still love this painting, and it continues to be one of Picasso’s most popular and recognizable works. What we love about this piece is its simplicity. As we’ve mentioned before, art should be simple and accessible to all. With a bit of luck and some beauty products, anyone can become an art lover. Which is why this painting will live on for generations to come. And we couldn’t put it better ourselves.