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These are the masterpieces worth a pilgrimage or, if you are lucky enough to live near one of them, an infinity of repeated viewings. Although be warned, as one skeptical art lovah said: "Something isn't great because you've been told it's great..."




This is a compilation from viewers of whom contributed lists and single recommendations and displayed a magnificent seriousness. It shows how bad most reporting and commentary on art in newspapers lets down its readers, who are interested in so much more than who wins the Turner prize.

You crave the absolute and the supreme in art and are prepared to go a long way in search of it - from Tikal in Guatemala ("The setting is great - all covered in jungles and crawling with monkeys") to Constable country ("That countryside still exists, if only in snippets: sometimes it can be glimpsed between a motorway bridge and a little chef").

A few artists make it on to almost everyone's list: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso. Michelangelo is the artist who inspires the greatest awe. "My head believes Darwin; my heart trusts Michelangelo," said one contributor, while another wrote - accurately - that David seems to breathe. Michelangelo still gets only one work on the list; it should be taken as read that all the works of listed artists are worth a look.

The special - possibly exaggerated - place that western culture has given to art and artists since Michelangelo's day means that if you love great art, you're going to spend a lot of time in Florence, Rome and Spain. Yet the most beautiful work of art in Spain, the Alhambra, is a north African work. "The walls and indeed the floors and ceilings are covered in tessaleting abstract weaves that do one's head in," wrote an admirer of the exquisite Islamic masterpiece.

Richard Serra's Torqued Ellipses - widely and rightly championed - prove it is still possible to make great art. Antony Gormley's Angel of the North manifests an enduring belief in art and its power, although I've never been convinced it lives up to its ambition. "Only when you stand underneath it do you realize how huge and then how beautiful it is... this is surely one the greatest examples of art that can only be appreciated up close, in person," says one art lover.

Perhaps it doesn't matter, as long as you find what you are looking for, or something that hits you right in the gut. One person contributed a sensitive and highly personal account of seeing Georgina Starr's video crying. "It was euphoric I suppose. A release. Another piece of me wanted to climb through the screen and give her a cuddle. Tell her it would be okay." Crying hasn't made the list, but the type of experience the contributor described is what this list is about - the most intense encounters we have with art.

Everything listed here can sustain a long and living engagement, which means even the oldest (the Chauvet cave, painted 30,000 years ago) is contemporary. Great art is not so much timeless, as always timely.

The list, in no particular order:



  • Piero della Francesca The Baptism of Christ (1450s), National Gallery, London

  • Antony Gormley The Angel of the North (1998), Gateshead

  • Masjid-i Shah (now Masjid-i Imam) Mosque (largely 1612-1630) Isfahan, Iran

  • JMW Turner Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway (exhibited 1844), National Gallery, London

  • Claude Monet Nymphéas (1914-1926), Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

  • Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, Utah

  • Tikal (AD300-AD869), Late Classic Maya site, Guatemala

  • Jackson Pollock One: Number 31, 1950, Museum of Modern Art, New York

  • John Constable The Hay Wain (1821), National Gallery, London

  • The Alhambra (mostly 14th century), Granada

  • Mark Rothko The Rothko Chapel (paintings 1965-66; chapel opened 1971), Houston, Texas

  • Matthias Grünewald The Isenheim Altarpiece (1509-1515), Musée Unterlinden, Colmar

  • Masaccio The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (c. 1427), Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

  • Edvard Munch The Scream (1893), National Gallery, Oslo

  • Giotto Fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel (1305-1306), Padua

  • Vincent van Gogh The Starry Night (1889), Museum of Modern Art, New York

  • Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor (c. 210BC), Shaanxi province, China

  • Sandro Botticelli Primavera (1481-1482), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

  • Stonehenge (2950BC-1600BC), Salisbury Plain, UK

  • Limbourg brothers Les Très Riches Heurs du Duc de Berry (1413-1416), Musée Condé, Chantilly

  • The Book of Kells (c. AD800), Trinity College Library, Dublin

  • Ishtar Gate (c. 575BC), Pergamon Museum, Berlin

  • Pieter Pauwel Rubens Descent from the Cross (1611-1614), Antwerp Cathedral

  • Hieronymous Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights (1505-1510), Prado, Madrid

  • Jan van Eyck The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin (c. 1435), Musée du Louvre, Paris

  • Jan Vermeer View of Delft (c. 1660-1661), Mauritshuis, the Hague

  • Caravaggio The Burial of St Lucy (1608), Museo di Palazzo Bellomo, Syracuse, Sicily

  • Rembrandt Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1654), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

  • Francisco Goya The Third of May 1808 (1814), Prado, Madrid

  • Edouard Manet The Dead Torero (1864), National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

  • Paul Cézanne Mont Sainte-Victoire from Les Lauves (1904-1906), Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

  • Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling and altar wall frescoes (1508-1541), Rome

  • Leonardo da Vinci The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1481), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

  • Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937), Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid

  • Titian Danaë (1544-1546), Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

  • Raphael The School of Athens (1510-1511), Stanza della Signatura, Vatican Palace, Rome

  • Parthenon Sculptures (Elgin Marbles) (c. 444BC), British Museum, London

  • Henri Matisse The Dance (1910), Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

  • Théodore Géricault The Raft of the Medusa (1819), Louvre, Paris

  • Katsushika Hokusai Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1829-1833), series of woodblock prints, copies in major museums worldwide

  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder Hunters in the Snow (1565), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

  • Ice Age paintings (about 30,000 years old) in the Chauvet Cave, Ardèche

  • Richard Serra Torqued Ellipses (1996), includes works on permanent view at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

  • Jasper Johns Flag (1954-1955), Museum of Modern Art, New York

  • Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi The Annunciation (1335), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

  • Jean-Antoine Watteau Gilles (1718-1719), Louvre, Paris

  • Hans Holbein, The Dead Christ (1521-1522), Kunstmuseum, Basel

  • Diego Velázquez Las Meninas (1656), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

  • Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun (1333BC-1323BC), Egyptian Museum, Cairo

  • San Rock Art, South African National Museum, Cape Town, and at open air sites.

    Ready? Set? GOOGLEZ.

    Comments

    ( 8 whispered — Speak )
    writerwench
    Mar. 8th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
    Um, Sistine Chapel also being in the Vatican, of course...

    This is my all-time favourite artwork. I absolutely love him. He's hung in the National Gallery, London, at the end of a long sight-line through several gallery areas. He's so enormously vital and life-size and just... gorgeous.
    Photobucket
    none_too_subtle
    Mar. 8th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
    It's odd that you put a horse up there -- I've been rough-sketching them all week :D I'm pretty good with the horses, and like them this way -- rared up and ready to run. :) :) I loved that scene in the movie "300" where the evil guys rode over the mountain, robes flowing and the horses so strong and proud... :)
    writerwench
    Mar. 8th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
    This portrait of Whistlejacket was a tremendous shock in its day. Stubbs had a reputation for painting nice calm pictures of big, flat-backed, rectangular, tiny-headed English horses, and along came this amazing image of an Arabian stallion, all curves and flashing dark eyes and passion! I've always loved this image. It's the essence of Horse. Perhaps it's because in Chinese astrology I'm a wooden Horse!
    none_too_subtle
    Mar. 9th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
    Oooooooo a Trojan horse!! I did notice that his head was smaller than the horses I've been working on.
    writerwench
    Mar. 9th, 2008 08:14 am (UTC)
    He was a direct descendant of the very first Arab horses to reach England in the 17th century. They caused a revolution in horse-breeding.

    http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Estates/3095/BHTbArabAnces.html
    There's a lovely story at the bottom, which might even have a grain of truth in it!
    ayoub
    Mar. 8th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
    The Louvre itself is a must see... So amazing...

    And yeah... Stonehenge... I love going there :D
    none_too_subtle
    Mar. 9th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
    Yes, both are worthy of revisits over and over again! :)
    writerwench
    Mar. 9th, 2008 08:18 am (UTC)
    Stonehenge is a wonderful place. And still an excellent, accurate astronomical calendar. Its prime purpose was to tell the midwinter sunset on the shortest day, but it also had many other alignments and a system of post holes - the Aubrey holes - that used a group of movable smaller stones to foretell eclipses.
    It's on a very busy road, sadly, and the cut-and-cover tunnel to contain the road that was planned has now been shelved due to lack of money. However, it's still a thrill to crawl up the slow rise from Amesbury roundabout, as the traffic reluctantly merges two lanes into one, then crest the hill and there it is, laid out on the turf, looking like a child's model until you get close enough to realise its true scale. There really is a humming power about it, ancient beyond words.
    ( 8 whispered — Speak )

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