Famous 20th Century Paintings

Famous 20th Century Paintings

These famous 20th-century paintings highlight the great masterpieces that were created by prominent artists, during that time period.

The paintings incorporate most of the great art movements of the 20th-century: Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, and Abstract art. Now let's take a look at these masterpieces.

Famous 20th-century Artworks

  1. Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse
  2. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso
  3. Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque
  4. The Song of Love by Giorgio de Chirico
  5. The Dream by Henri Rousseau
  6. The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
  7. Tour Eiffel by Robert Delaunay
  8. The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
  9. Dempsey and Firpo by George Bellows
  10. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock


Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse

Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse 

This masterpiece painting was the focus of an art controversy during its time, due to the use of bold bright colors, non-naturalistic values, and unfettered brushwork which were all unheard of at that time.

Woman with the Hat beautifully blends the pointillist color style with a post-impressionistic technique. A colorful portrait painting of Henri Matisse's wife, Amelie Parayre.

Parayre is portrayed wearing an elegant outfit with classic attributes of the French bourgeoisie.

Matisse had learned Paul Signac’s use of bright colors and he masterfully applied the method on this artwork. To add opposing colors that he used to complement various hues.

The painting was revolutionary and it rendered new ways of using color in the art world. The painting is currently being showcased at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings by Henri Matisse


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is internationally viewed as Picasso's first step towards his Cubist style of art.

Picasso prepared for six months for the creation of "Les Demoiselles" he did so, by executing hundreds of sketches, drawings, and paintings.

The painting was unprecedented. In that, it showcases five women with shapes fashioned in various geometric planes, and their faces are similar to Iberian sculptures. The women seem somewhat menacing and are presented with irregular body shapes.

The painting's title is a reference to a street in Barcelona known for its brothels.

What made Les Demoiselles d'Avignon fascinating is one of the main subjects in the painting seems to be looking back at you, the observer.

Pablo Picasso Quotes 


Violin and Candlestick by Georges Braque


This work encapsulates the dynamic and lively characteristics of the Cubism movement, a progressive, creative style spearheaded by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso to portray three-dimensional items on a canvas without the utilization of customary renaissance style of view.

The composition was a result of George's fixation for structure and solidness, fuelled with a longing to create a 3D illusions in the observer's psyche.

The Violin and Candlestick was designed to be seen from various edges.

This is what Braque said about his style of painting

“When fragmented objects appeared in my painting around 1909, it was a way for me to get as close as possible to the object as painting allowed.”

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The Song of Love by Giorgio de Chirico


A brilliant work of surrealism. The painting stands amongst one of the most celebrated 20-century artworks due to the metaphysical art movement created by the composition and the implementation of the surrealistic style.

De Chirico shows a classical sculpture, a ball, and an elastic glove on the canvas, and on the left side of the painting, there is a train. All these items suggest the passage of time, however, there are numerous interpretations of this painting.

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The Dream by Henri Rousseau

The Dream by Henri Rousseau

The Dream is one out of twenty-five 'jungle' paintings created by Rousseau. The composition stars a surreal portrait of Yadwigha (Jadwiga), Rousseau's Polish mistress from his youth, resting naked on a sofa.

The rich jungle, wild animals, and the horn player in the background were all inspired by Rousseau's visits to the natural history museum of Jardin des Plantes. The museum had a zoo and botanical garden.

Rousseau described his visits to the museum as,

"When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream."

The painting seems to express the theme of relaxation and freedom. The nude model stretching her arm out, seeking comfort, just like animals do at times in the jungle.

What makes Rousseau artwork special, is that he was a self-taught artist, who started painting very late in his life. 

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The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

The Kiss Painting by Gustav Klimt 

The Kiss is probably Klimt’s most famous painting, it's a perfect display of Klimt's 'Golden Period'- When he painted various works of art with fashions of gold.

The painting portrays a couple embracing one another, in a field of flowers. The man is leaning over the woman, and she is clasping tightly to him, anticipating the kiss to come.

Love, intimacy, and sexuality are frequent themes in Klimt's paintings. The male figure is distinguished by square and rectangular forms, while the female has delicate colorful lines with floral patterns.

The work indicates the influence of Japanese prints and has apparent ties to Art Nouveau.

The style of the painting invokes an ambivalence between two and three-dimensional subjects, which is a central theme in modern art.

The Kiss is currently housed in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna’s Upper Belvedere Palace.

Top 10 Famous Paintings by Gustav Klimt


Tour Eiffel by Robert Delaunay


Delaunay has a series of paintings depicting the Eiffel Tower, this is his self-proclaimed "destructive" phase. In this painting, Delaunay displays the tower in a form which may be observed from various angles.

Delaunay picked a subject like the Eiffel Tower, due to the fact, he enjoyed viewing tremendous structures. Delaunay painting technique is known as Orphic Cubism, where color is applied to design planes and lines are of conflicting colors.

The Eiffel Tower is a remarkable French symbol of creation and aspiration.

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The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory is possibly the most famous Dali painting. It's oftentimes referred to as the "Melting Clocks". It's viewed as one of the greatest surrealist masterpieces.

Four clocks appear to be melting in an empty desert scene. Which outlines Dalí's theory of "softness". As analyzed by Dawn Adès:

"The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order".

This analysis hints that DalĂ­ was incorporating Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity in his painting.

However, when asked by Ilya Prigogine whether this was true, DalĂ­ replied:

"The soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a Camembert melting in the sun."

Salvador Dali Quotes


Dempsey and Firpo by George Bellows


One of George Bellow's most famous works of art, it catches a critical minute of boxing history of September 14, 1923.

The prizefight between American heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and his Argentine opponent Luis Angel Firpo. The painting captures a sensational minute when Firpo thumped his rival out of the ring with a colossal hit to the jaw.

Bellows’ style is not all the way realistic, however, the forms of his subjects are a bit geometric in form and are painted with rough brushstrokes which appear dynamic, full of action and excitement.

The composition contains a dark setting, which is revealed by bright lights of the arena, radiating down from the upper corners on to the ring and the subjects.

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Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock

Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) by Jackson Pollock

Autumn Rhythm would come to be known as one of Pollock's popular paintings because of its unique hue color combination of dark black, white, and tan.

Since there was no major theme in this composition, the artwork has a timeless feel to it, in a sense, it allows the observer to interact and connect with the painting on there own.

Autumn Rhythm, is a perfect example of Abstract Expressionism which began to take hold in the American art scene, with Jackson Pollock as one of its primary advocates.

Pollock's method of painting meant working on an unprimed canvas, he would usually place his canvas on the floor of his studio, spilling paint from bottles, using sticks, densely loaded brushes, and other tools to manage the stream of paint, as he dripped, and tossed it onto the canvas.

This what Jackson Pollock said about his style of painting

"I'm very representational some of the time, and a little all of the time. But when you're working out of your unconscious, figures are bound to emerge. Painting is a state of being. Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is."

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