Historically the most expensive paintings consisted of Old Master pieces such as the work of Rubens - review. The age of these works borders art with antiquity as highly collectable. However, there has since been a shift towards Modern paintings as the most expensive investment since the 1987 sale of Vase of Fifteen Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh for $39.9 Million / £24.75 Million, which was sold at auction by Christies. Modern paintings now dominate the most expensive works in the world. In this edition of Top 10 Passion Palette reflects upon the most expensive paintings following the recent record-breaking sale of Paul Gauguin's When Will You Marry Me? to a museum in Qatar.
Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903)
When will you Marry Me? $300 Million / £196.7 Million
French Post-Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, has recently hit the headlines following the record sale of this oil painting featuring two Tahitian Woman. The private sale was made by Swiss Collector, Rudolf Staechelin, a retired Sotheby's executive, to a museum in Qatar. Gauguin completed the painting during his visit to Tahiti in 1891 before returning to France 2 years later.
The works created during the visit were met with indifference on his return. In fact, the artist did not receive notable recognition for his art until after his death of a morphine overdose at the age of 54 years old.
The artist began his trade under the guise of impressionism before breaking away to pioneer a new style known as Symbolism. Gauguin was inspired by the primitive arts of Africa & rebelled against the European art world of his day in the name of Primitivsm. This cultural movement believed that less developed countries were closer to spirituality, which fuelled their work.
Paul Cézanne (1839 - 1906)
The Card Players, 1892/3 - $269.4 Million / £176 Million
Another French Post-Impressionist painter reaches the heights of the most expensive paintings in the form of Paul Cézanne. The Card Players, part of a series of 5 oil paintings, was purchased by the Royal Family in Qatar. This purchase more than doubled the auction record for a work of art at the time taking the art market into a new era. In it the painting featurs 2 Province peasants involved in a card game.
Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956)
No. 5, 1948 - $162.7 Million / £106.7 Million
Jackson Pollock is the youngest artist on the Most Expensive list with his painting No. 5 & breaths a new genre of art into the fray. The American abstract expressionist adopted a drip painting technique to achieve the colourful mass of intertwined layers, which inform his work. The artist had the luxury that many didn't in the sense that he achieved noteriety within his lifetime as a successful & influential artist. Created on fibreboard using liquid paints the painting was sold in a private sale by the co-founder of American Film Company, DreamWorks Studios, David Martinez in 2006.
Willem de Kooning (1904 - 1997)
Woman III, 1953 - $159.8 Million / £104.8 Million
Following hot on the heels of Jackson Pollock is another abstract expressionist painter in Dutch Willem de Kooning. Woman III is part of the artist's most successful series featuring 6 paintings titled Woman. This painting was purchased by Steven A. Cohen, an American Hedge Fund Manager, in 2006.
Although known as an abstract expressionist painter de Kooning never fully abandoned the human figure & included elements of cubism & surrealism into his expressionist works.
Pablo Picasso (1881- 1973)
Le Rêve, 1932 - $155.9 Million / £102.2 Million
There are very few artists whose work is as instantly recognisable as Picasso's. His art practice progressed dramatically throughout his career as he flirted with many different genres of art. He was an inovative multimedia artist who is credited with co-founding many genres of art including Cubism & Collage work. He began studying his craft by practicing in a representational manner before exploring other genres with expressive appeal as he developed. This eventually led to the portrait of his known mistress at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. There is a not-so-subtle eroticism present in the muse's face.
The painting is famed for being in the possession of Casino tycoon, Steve Wynn who accidently damaged the painting by putting his elbow through it when showing it to friends. Le Rêve was later sold to billionnaire art collector Steven A. Cohen (who also owns an earlier inclusion in the Most Expensive list) in 2013.
Gustav Klimt (1862- 1918)
The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 - $155.8 Million / £102.1 Million
Gustav Klimt is referred to as an Austrian Symbolist painter who specialised in paintings as well as commissions to create multiple murals in Theatres & Churches. The Symbolist movement became the voice of a younger generation of artists who rejected the principals of Naturalism in favour of a return to earlier Romanticist ideals. This favoured the emotion, which opposed the true represention of reality in favour of the sensation that gave rise to it.
The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is part of Klimt's golden phase & provides one of his more representative works. Bloch-Bauer commissioned the painting of his wife who requested for it to be donated to the Austrian State Museum upon her death. The Nazis invaded Austria interrupting this request. Following the War the Austrian Government maintained that the painting was rightfully the possession of the State. Adele Bloch-Bauer's Niece, Maria Altmann, fought this claim successfully & sold the painting in auction. The muse's wish that the painting should be accessible to the public was unfulfilled prompting much criticism claiming that a story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust had been blocked.
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)
Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890 - $152 Million / £99.7 Million
Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most famous names on the Most Expensive list & one of saddening review. The artist suffered from well publicised psychological illness, which saw him use art in an almost therapeutic sense as he dutifully & prolificacy experimented with his work. His ill mental health would ultimately lead to his death at the age of 37 years as a result of a widely accepted suicide attempt by gun shot. He is known to have sold only one painting in his entire lifetime.
The artist did not officially begin his trade until his late 20s & he completed many of his best-known works in the final 2 years of his life. Portrait of Dr. Gachet is an example of this. It depicts Dr. Gachet who took care of Van Gogh in the final months of his life.
The painting was purchasd by a Japanese Businessman at a Christie's auction in 1990. It was revealed that the owner, Ryoei Saito, wanted the painting to be buried alongside him upon his death. Saito has now passed away & no one from the international art market currently knows the location of the painting....
Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992)
Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969 - $145 Million / £95 Million
British abstract figurative painter, Francis Bacon makes the list as the most expensive piece of art by a British artist at number 8. Bacon was a latecomer to the world of art as he famously worked as a furniture designer & interior decorator until in his mid 30s as the artist was uncertain of his own artistic ability.
He had a fondness for Triptych as featured here in the Three Studies of Lucian Freud confessing that he sees images in a series of their own. The artist worked on the 3 large canvas simultaneously in his studio at the Royal College of Art in London. The panels of the triptych were initially sold separately to the disgust of Bacon himself who expressed that each piece was meaningless unless united with the others. One of the owners, a Roman lawyer named Francesco De Simone Niques who made his fortune selling bottled mineral water, decided to reunite the pieces. This led to a fierce bidding war at auction, which eventually resulted in the triptych being viewed collectively once again.
Renoir (1841 - 1919)
Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876 - $143.9 Million / £94.4 Million
French Impressionist painter Renoir is the third representative of France on the list who worked in the same era as the earlier mentioned Gauguin & Cézanne. His work was more alligned to that of Monet who he practised alongside when painting a number of his landscape scenes in true impressionistic style.
Renoir preferred to embrace a brighter palette for his paintings, which gave them a happier, pleasant feeling.
Bal du moulin de la Galette depicts a regular social gathering in a dance garden in the district of Butte Montmartre. The painting was bought in auction by Japanese businessman, Ryoei Saito in 1990. The same Ryoei Saito who purchased Portrait du Dr Gachet in the same year.
Pablo Picasso (1881- 1973)
Garçon à la Pipe, 1905 - $131.1 Million / £86 Million
Pablo Picasso proves himself to be a highly collectable artist with his second entry on the top 10 Most Expensive list. If you delve deeper into the Most Expensive list you will see that the artist has no less than 6 entries in the top 30, which is unequalled by any other artist.
The oil painting Garçon à la Pipe was painted by a 24 year old Picasso during his Rose period. Little is known about the muse in this portrait, however he is known to be a local boy to where Picasso was staying at the time Le Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre. It was sold at auction by Sotheby's to Guida Barilla, Chairman of the Barilla Group that trades Italian pasta on a global scale.