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6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know

In this article, we examined the most important works of some of the greatest painters who lived in the last century under the heading “6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know“. With these most famous paintings in the world, it is possible to observe how social, cultural, and political changes in the world are reflected directly in the art of painting.



6 Most Famous Paintings Of Modern Times


American Gothic

Painter: Grant Wood


6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know

American Gothic – Grant Wood | 6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know


Grant Wood, who spent the early years of his life in a small town, also gave the first examples of his works here. He was educated at the Art Institute of Chicago. Following this training he toured Europe.

During his travels to France and Netherlands, he made studies of the Renaissance and Gothic Flemish School, which we must acknowledge deeply influenced the works he gave in the following years.

He worked on lithography, ceramics, wood, and metal. Known as the painter’s most famous work, “American Gothic” is a picture of two people standing in front of a gothic window with their daily clothes.

In a mystical atmosphere, the presence of Renaissance influences makes itself felt in the painting, the woman represents Wood’s sister and the man represents the dentist.

The artist emphasizes the traditional and regionalist understanding in rural areas of the USA. While the woman in the work draws attention in a colonial-style outfit and facial expressions on her face, the straw harrow in the man’s hand symbolizes the working class working under harsh conditions.

The flowers and the general appearance of the house reflect a typical American family.



Persistence of Memory

Painter: Salvador Dali


6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know | Persistence of Memory, 1931 by Salvador Dali

Persistence of Memory, 1931 by Salvador Dali | 6 Most Famous Paintings Of Modern Times


Salvador Dali was born in Spain and he is one of the key representatives of surrealism.

It is possible to observe the influences of cubism and dadaism in the first works of the artist, who enrolled at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) in Madrid in 1922.


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Salvador Dali, who was dismissed from school from time to time due to his undisciplined behavior despite possessing a talent that cannot be ignored, opened his first exhibition in Barcelona in 1925 and got full marks from both critics and art lovers.

Pablo Picasso, whom he met a few years later in Paris, became his first close friend. He was very impressed by him in his works of that period.

Sigmund Freud, whom he met in London, also deeply affected the painter’s life.

During his lifetime, Salvador Dali painted more than a thousand five hundred paintings and numerous sculptures. One of the artist’s most famous paintings, “Persistence of Memory”, uses time and memory by taking symbols from the melting pocket watches.

The work is an important example of Dali’s understanding of “softness and firmness”. Inspired by Camembert cheese melting in the heat of an August sun, his work with oil paint is a protest to the time when we think it is immutable and solid.



The Two Fridas

Painter: Frida Kahlo


6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know | The Two Fridas, 1939 by Frida Kahlo

The Two Fridas, 1939 by Frida Kahlo | 6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know


Frida Kahlo, who was seriously crippled in a heavy traffic accident at the age of fifteen, spent the rest of her life between hospitals and surgeries.


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She was educated at the National Preparatory School, which had a reputation as the best educational institution in the country, and became curious about painting. To get away from the troubles she suffered, she shared his paintings passionately with the painter Diego Rivera, who would later become her husband.

Almost every painting of Frida, who married in 1928 and divorced eleven years later, was inspired by the pain she had endured throughout her life. It would not be a wrong statement to say that Frida made her work as a kind of morphine in order not to forget and not feel her pain.

She brought the difficulties that women face in society and the image of women under male domination. The most important painting of Frida Kahlo, “The Two Fridas”, usually paints in front of a mirror from where she lies, is in a sense a reflection of her dialogue with herself and her dark inner world.

The most important difference between the two Frida is that one is sitting in a European and the other in a Mexican-style outfit.

Sitting on the right, Frida has a picture of her husband Rivera on the locket in her hand which refers to her troubled relationship with her. The painting carries Kahlo among great painters as it reflects fine details and the inner world of a special woman.




Painter: Edward Hopper


6 Most Famous Paintings Of Modern Times

Nighthawks, 1942 by Edward Hopper | 6 Most Famous Paintings Of Modern Times


His works were mostly about the loneliness of everyday American life.

Bars, restaurants, and even gas stations became the center of Edward Hopper‘s attention. Thanks to this style, he played an important role in the success of using shadows to highlight what he wanted.

He had the opportunity to work with Robert Henri in New York. He traveled to Europe between 1900 and 1906 and was impressed by the art scene in Paris and the atmosphere created by this city’s passion for art. He was inspired by French impressionism.

The artist who gave up impressionism completely in the last years of his artistic life became one of the first representatives of the “Pop Art” movement. “The Nighthawks” painting, inspired by a restaurant in Manhattan, is one of the most important works in the history of American painting.

The work focuses on three customers who stand close to each other but never speak, despite the city sleeping late at night. In the picture made after the famous Pearl Harbor attack, the sailor’s hat on the waiter’s head refers to this dire event. The disconnection and pessimism of three people who have never spoken to each other are considered psychological reflections of the American society of the time.



Something of the Past

Painter: Jackson Pollock


Something of the Past - Jackson Pollock | 6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know

Something of the Past, by Jackson Pollock | 6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know


The special technique he used in painting became the secret of Jackson Pollock‘s success. He learned a lot about art from Thomas Hart Benton.

Ignoring traditional techniques such as distillation, mixing paint, and brushing, he opened large canvases on the floor and painted with the paints he poured on.

In his later works, with the effect of alcohol addiction, he created more dark and withdrawn works.

The painting “Something of the Past” left the artist immortal fame, with the harmony of colors and the way the figures were used.

It is clearly seen that there is unity in the work created by the painter using all colors and that the linearity is never distorted.



Campbell’s  Soup Cans

Painter: Andy Warhol


Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962 by Andy Warhol | 6 Most Famous Paintings Of Modern Times


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Print artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol moved to New York in 1949 and did his most successful work here. He used whatever attracts the attention of daily life, such as dollars, canned food, or famous artists, in his works.

Warhol has become an important representative of a new trend, pop art, in mass production and works featuring popular objects or figures.

The radical understanding of art was a social change and a reaction to things that were the same. On the other hand, popular culture elements never lost their originality in the artist’s works.

Warhol’s best-known work “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” tells about 32 same soup cans.

With these identical objects, the painter makes a serious reference to popular culture. Canned foods, which were widely used in the USA in the 1960s, took their place on the canvas with Warhol’s creative criticism.



The website, where you can view “6 Paintings of Modern Times You Need to Know” and more than 50,000 world-famous paintings of art in high resolution, has been made available free of charge by the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). You can access the website here and see other works of art you are interested in.



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