French Title: Le Marché aux Chevaux
Artist: Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur, considered by some to be the best female artist of the 19th century, is well known for her animal paintings. This is her most renowned work and depicts the horse market held at Boulevard de l’Hospital in Paris. Bonheur attended this market dressed as a man for 18 months, and created this masterpiece using the sketches that she made during this period. After being put on display at the Paris Salon in 1853, this masterpiece was shown throughout Europe and the United States, bringing international fame and recognition for Bonheur. Even Queen Victoria had high praise for the painting.
Russian Title: Burlaki na Volge
Artist: Ilya Repin
This painting shows 11 laboring men dragging a barge on the Volga River. It was inspired by scenes that Repin witnessed while traveling on the Volga in 1870. The characters in the painting are based on actual people whom the artist met while preparing the work. This painting won international praise for its accurate portrayal of the hardships endured by working class men. It was the painting that launched Repin’s career and established him as a master of documenting social inequality. Barge Haulers is the most renowned masterpiece of one of the most acclaimed Russian artists ever.
Artist: Thomas Eakins
Thomas Eakins, the leading American realist of his time, is best known for his ability to bring out the individuality of the models in his portraits. This painting depicts Samuel D. Gross, a renowned American surgeon, presiding over an operation to remove a diseased bone from a patient’s thigh. Eakins included himself in the painting, and he can be seen on the right-hand side of the painting next to the tunnel railing, with a white cuffed sleeve. Admired for its extreme realism, this painting is considered by many art historians to be one of the best American paintings ever made.
French Title: L’Angelus
Artist: Jean-Francois Millet
Jean-Francois Millet is famous for his depictions of peasants. This piece of work is the last of his iconic trio of paintings after “The Sower” and “The Cleaners.” This painting shows two peasants bowing down to say the Angelus at the end of hard day’s work. A church can be seen in the distance, and it’s the ringing of the bell from this church that has supposedly led to the peasants stopping their work to say their prayers. The Angelus, a masterpiece of social realism, was one of the most widely reproduced paintings in 19th century France.
Artist: Andrew Wyeth
This painting is one of the most famous American paintings of the middle 20th century. It shows a woman lying in a field looking at a gray house in the distance. The woman in this painting is Anna Christina Olson, who was Wyeth’s neighbor in South Cushing, Maine, and she suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that prevented her from walking. Wyeth was inspired to paint this masterpiece when he saw her crawling across the field from his window. It’s now regarded as an icon of American art.
French Title: Un Enterrement à Ornans
Artist: Gustave Courbet
This painting depicts Courbet’s great uncle’s funeral in the small town of Ornans in France. This painting caused a storm when it was first displayed at the Paris Salon in 1850-51. Firstly, because it is a huge work, measuring 10 feet by 22 feet (such a huge scale had traditionally been reserved for the heroic or religious scenes of history painting). Secondly, its unflattering realism without any sentimental narrative shocked the art world. This painting is regarded as one of the major turning points of 19th-century French art.
Artist: Edward Hopper
Hopper is best known for using his artwork to reveal the solitude of modern life and forcing the viewer to play a more active role in the narrative of his artworks. This particular painting depicts people in a downtown diner late at night, and was inspired by a restaurant in Hopper’s neighborhood in Manhattan. It has been interpreted as an illustration of the chilling effects of the Second World War, and also as a portrayal of the isolation of an individual among the hustle and bustle of life in New York City. This painting has influenced many future American artists and it has been widely referenced in popular culture.