Modern Paintings Analyzed (NEW!)
Interpretation of 19th/20th Century Masterpieces

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The Daughters of Edward
Darley Boit (1882)
Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
By John Singer Sargent.
Considered to be one of the
Greatest Modern Paintings
of the nineteenth century.

Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000)
Explanation of Works by the Finest Modern Painters


List of Modern Paintings Analyzed


In this section we explain some of the great paintings of modern art (1800-1970) and later contemporary art (from 1970). We will be covering all the main movements of painting from this period, including Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and lots more.

Bookmark this page for explanations of portraits, landscapes, still lifes and genre paintings, by the most famous modern artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

For analysis of EARLIER pictures, from the era of Gothic art onwards, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed (1250-1800).

List of Modern Paintings Analyzed

Please Note
(1) New paintings are added each week.
(2) Unless otherwise stated, the medium is oil on canvas.

Listed A-Z By Artist

Realist-style painter associated with the early Impressionist movement. Gave generous financial support to Monet and others. Died at only 29.
- Family Reunion (1867)
- Bazille's Studio (1870)

MAX BECKMANN (1884-1950)
German expressionist painter, associated with Die Neue Sachlichkeit group, best-known for his self-portraits and three-panel triptychs.
- The Beginning (triptych) (1949)

PIERRE BONNARD (1867-1947)
Post-Impressionist French painter, printmaker, decorative artist, co-founder of Les Nabis, best-known for intimate domestic scenes and dreamlike colourism.
- The Green Blouse (1919)
- The Terrace at Vernon (1939)

Like Bazille, a wealthy patron of the Impressionist group but now recognized as a highly talented if inconsistent painter.
- The Floor Scrapers (1875)
- Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877)

CARLO CARRA (1881-1966)
Italian Divisionist and Futurist who became noted for both his 'metaphysical paintings' and his classical Renaissance-inspired paintings.
- The Drunken Gentleman (1916).

MARY CASSATT (1845-1926)
Paris-based and wealthy, she was the leading female American Impressionist painter. Famous for her female portraits and genre pictures.
- Young Woman Sewing in the Garden (1886)

CEZANNE (1839-1906)
Persuaded by Pissarro to adopt Impressionist-style plein-air painting, Cezanne's desire for form and structure led him to develop a personal Post-Impressionist idiom with strong classical features that combined nature and art. Influenced both Cubists and classical realists.
- The House of the Hanged Man (1873)
- The Bridge at Maincy (1879)
- Mont Sainte-Victoire Paintings (1882-1906)
- The Boy in the Red Vest (1889-90)
- Man Smoking a Pipe (1890-2)
- Woman with a Coffee Pot (1890-5)
- The Card Players (1892-6)
- The Large Bathers (1894-1906) London and Philadelphia
- Lady in Blue (c.1900)
- Young Italian Woman Leaning on her Elbow (1900)

Italian painter and writer, inventor of Metaphysical painting, active in the Classical Revival that gathered momentum in the 1900s. Acknowledged as a pioneer of Surrealist painting
- The Uncertainty of the Poet (1913)
- Song of Love (1914)
- The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street (1914)

COURBET (1819-77)
The acknowledged leader of French Realism, he is best-known for his use of huge canvases to add extra monumentality and significance to his radical pictures honouring the common people and their environment.
- A Burial at Ornans (1850)
- The Artist's Studio (1855)

DEGAS (1834-1917)
Impressionist genre painter and portraitist who specialized in pictures of ballerinas, women at their toilette and jockeys at the races. Like his friend Edouard Manet, Degas revered the Old Masters and preferred studio work to plein-air painting.
- The Bellelli Family (1858-67)
- Race Horses in front of the Stands (1866-8)
- The Ballet Class (1871-4)
- Absinthe (1876)
- Portraits at the Bourse (1879)
- Women Ironing (1884)
- Woman Combing Her Hair (1887-90)

DELACROIX (1797-1863)
Leader of French Romanticism, he specialized in history paintings as well as Orientalism. Personified the free-flowing, colourist wing of French painting, in contrast to the calm. measured neoclassicism of J.A.D. Ingres and others.
- Death of Sardanapalus (1827)
- Liberty Leading the People (1830)

GOYA (1746-1828)
Spanish Romantic artist, official portrait painter to Charles IV, noted for his etchings and engravings as well his aptly named "Black Paintings", which reflected the deep depression and paranoia from which he suffered in his sixties and seventies.
- The Third of May, 1808 (1814) Oil on canvas.
- The Colossus (1808-12) Oil on canvas.
- Saturn Devouring his Son (1822) Mural painting transferred to canvas.

EDWARD HOPPER (1882-1967)
American realist artist best-loved for his offbeat urban genre paintings as well as his personal vision of 20th-century America.
- Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929)
- Nighthawks (1942)

J.A.D. INGRES (1780-1867)
Conservative neoclassical-style academic painter, best-loved for his female nudes and portraits. Led the opposition to Delacroix's Romanticism
- The Valpincon Bather (1808)
- La Grand Odalisque (1814)
- Portrait of Monsieur Bertin (1832)
- Portrait of Madame Moitessier (1844-56)

Dutch-born American abstract expressionist painter, member of the New York School, best-known for his style of gestural painting, as exemplified by his semi-abstract images of women.
- Seated Woman (1944) Oil and charcoal on canvas.

FERNAND LEGER (1881-1955)
Cubist-style painter, member of Section d'Or, inventor of "Tubism" - a Cubist idiom that used cylindrical shapes rather than flat overlapping planes of mainstream Cubism. During the 1920s and 30s he joined the Classical Revival.
- Soldiers Playing at Cards (1917) Kroller-Muller State Museum, Otterlo.
- The Mechanic (1920) National Gallery of Canada.
- Three Women (Le Grand Dejeuner) (1921) MOMA, New York.
- Nudes against a Red Background (1923) Kunstmuseum, Basel.
- Two Sisters (1935) Gemaldegalerie SMPK, Berlin.

One of the founding fathers of modern art, greatly admired by Monet and others, he was a realist painter with Impressionist tendencies.
- Dejeuner sur l'herbe (1863)
- Olympia (1863)
- The Balcony (1868)
- Portrait of Emile Zola (1868)
- Portrait of Berthe Morisot (1872)
- The Road-Menders, Rue de Berne (1878)
- A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
French painter, printmaker and graphic artist, famous for his expressionistic, highly coloured imagery. Together with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, Matisse is considered to be one of the three most influential artists of the early twentieth century.
- Nasturtiums and the 'Dance' (1912)

French Realist painter, contemporary of Courbet, member of the Barbizon School near Fontainebleau. Best-known for his dignified genre paintings of peasants tilling the soil.
- The Gleaners (1857)
- The Angelus (1859)
- Man with a Hoe (1862)

MODIGLIANI (1884-1920)
Highly innovative Italian painter and sculptor, active in Paris, best-loved for portraits and female nudes executed in a 'flat' primitive style marked by elongated faces and figures. Died of tubercular meningitis at the age of 35.
- Portrait of Juan Gris (1915)
- Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne (1918)

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Founder and driving force behind French Impressionism, and probably the greatest ever exponent of plein-air painting. Dominated by his lifelong quest to master the depiction of sunlight, he painted the same scene (Gare Sainte-Lazare, Rouen Cathedral west facade, Hay Stacks, Water Lilies) many times over in order to capture the changing conditions of sunlight and colour.
- Women in the Garden (1866-7) Musee d'Orsay.
- La Grenouillere (1869) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- Beach at Trouville (1870) Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CT
- Impression, Sunrise (1873) Musee Marmottan-Monet, Paris.
- Poppy Field (Argenteuil) (1873) Musee d'Orsay.
- Gare Sainte-Lazare (1877) Musee d'Orsay
- Rouen Cathedral Paintings (1892-4)
- Water Lilies (Nymphéas) (1897-1926) Various art museums
- Water Lily Pond: Green Harmony (1899) Musee d'Orsay.

The greatest female Impressionist - along with Mary Cassatt - and a close friend of Edouard Manet whose brother she married.
- The Cradle (1873)

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986)
American artist - known as the 'Mother of American modernism'- famous for her (typically vivid) close-ups of individual flower petals, as well as her 'Precisionist' New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes.
- Black Abstraction (1927)
- Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931)

PABLO PICASSO (1881-1973)
Prolific, avant-garde Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker and designer, active almost exclusively in Paris and the South of France. Co-founded Cubism and Collage art (with Georges Braque), as well as constructed sculpture. He is the acknowledged leader of modern art.
- La Vie (Life) (1903) Cleveland Museum of Art.
- Boy with a Pipe (Garcon à la Pipe) (1905) Private Collection.
- Two Nudes (1906) Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- Portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906) Metropolitan Museum, NY.
- Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) MOMA, NY.
- Seated Woman (Picasso) (1920) Musee Picasso, Paris.
- Large Bather (1921) Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris.
- Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) (1922) Musee Picasso.
- Woman in White (1923) Metropolitan Museum, NY.
- Guernica (1937) Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid.
- Weeping Woman (1937) Tate Modern, London.
- Neoclassical Figure Paintings by Picasso (1906-30)

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
Along with Monet and Sisley, Pissarro was devoted to 'pure Impressionism', the capturing of fleeting moments of light and colour achieved by painting outdoors in front of the subject.
- The Red Roofs (1877)
- Vegetable Garden with Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pontoise (1877)
- Boulevard Montmartre (1897-8)

Hugely influential American painter, dominant figure of the post-war New York School, inventor of action painting, and chronic alcoholic. Husband of the talented artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his work.
- Pasiphae (1943) Good example of mythological painting of the modern era.
- Jackson Pollock's Paintings (1940-56)

RENOIR (1841-1919)
After Monet, the greatest of all Impressionist painters, who produced masterpieces in all the genres. These are his two great genre paintings.
- Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876)
- The Swing (La Balancoire) (1876)
- Path Leading Through Tall Grass (1877)
- Luncheon Of the Boating Party (1880-1)

MARK ROTHKO (1903-70)
Latvian-born painter of Jewish descent who became famous in the late-1940s and 50s for his signature style of Abstract Expressionism, which consisted of large-scale, "multiform" paintings, characterized by blocks of glowing colour. His huge canvases were designed to envelope the viewer with colour and trigger an emotional response.
- Mark Rothko's Paintings (c.1938-70)

HENRI ROUSSEAU 'Le Douanier' (1844-1910)
Leading contributor to 'Outsider Art', noted in particular for his primitivist jungle pictures, anticipating Cubism and Surrealism.
- The Sleeping Gypsy (1897)
- The Dream (1910)

Precociously gifted painter, one of the finest portrait artists of all time, specializing in society portraits in an Impressionist or Realist style. The Boit Sisters is his greatest masterpiece.
- Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (The Boit Sisters) (1882)
- Portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) (1884)
- El Jaleo (1882)

Inventor of 'Pointillism' a style of Neo-Impressionist painting based on the scientific theory of Divisionism. Died at the age of 31.
- A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-6)
- Bathers at Asnieres (1883-4)

Specialized in plein air landscape painting - pure Impressionism - around the Ile-de-France. Experienced great hardship and died in poverty
- Canal St Martin (1870)
- Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes (1873)
- Misty Morning (Fog, Voisins) (1874)
- Snow at Louveciennes (1878)

CHAIM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
Lithuanian-born painter who became a member of the Ecole de Paris. Best known for his expressionist portraiture.
- Portrait of Madeleine Castaing (1928)

ANDY WARHOL (1928-87)
American postmodernist artist who became a leading figure in New York's avant garde art world during the 1960s and 70s, and the dominant figure in American Pop-art. A master of silkscreen painting, he helped to develop several other new forms of contemporary art, including video, photography, assemblage and conceptual art.
- Andy Warhol's Pop Art Paintings (c.1959-73)

GRANT WOOD (1892-1942)
Iowa-born painter best-loved for his paintings of the American West. Associated with American Scene Painting (c.1925-45) and its offshoot known as American Regionalism (flourished 1930s).
- American Gothic (1930) Oil on beaver board
- Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931) Oil on masonite.

Educational Articles

For advice about how to interpret art, see:

How to Appreciate Paintings (500-present)

How to Appreciate Modern Sculptures (1800-present)


• For the meaning of other nineteenth/twentieth century paintings, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

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