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The Top 5 most Expensive Paintings of all Time

Picasso - Les Femmes d'Alger

5. Jackson Pollock, “No. 5, 1948″—$140 million

Jackson Pollock - No. 5, 1948

‘No. 5, 1948’ measures 2.44 x 1.22 m, and is an iconic example of Pollock’s work, and his importance on the history of painting itself.

Sotheby’s sold the Painting for $140 million at auction in 2006.

Jackson Pollock was one of the figureheads within the American Abstract Expressionist Movement. His distinctive style involved dripping, flipping and throwing enamel and other types of everyday paint onto his canvases. Individual expression and subjective freedom were central to the Artists of this movement, who also placed great value on the action of painting itself. The painting is so valuable because it exemplifies a turning point in the history of painting when the action of the Artist was then understood as a significant part of the finished product. This led into other areas such as performance Art, and opened up the possibilities for what painting could achieve. 

4. Pablo Picasso, “Les Femmes d’Alger”—$179.3 million

Picasso - Les Femmes d'Alger

This Artwork was painted in 1955, as part of a larger series of 15 artworks, all compositions of voluptuous nude women. Eugene Delacroix’s 1834 painting ‘The women of Algiers in their Apartment’ was a huge inspiration for the series.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, former prime minister of Qatar, bought this masterpiece by the Spanish Artist. The canvas is housed in his private collection in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Picasso, along with Braque, established Cubism as one of the most pertinent influences on painting. He consistently challenged both himself and his audience by continually reinventing his style and pushing visual culture to new heights. This Artwork is so famous because it encapsulates the prerogatives and aesthetic sensibilities of Cubism with the sensual and wild abandon that the Spanish Artist was known for. Picasso himself really paved the way for the concept of an Artist as a celebrity figure, and his influence can be felt in everything from Cars to Jean Paul Gautier aftershave bottles today.

3. Mark Rothko, “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)”—$186 million

Rothko - No 6

Rothko painted this work in 1951, and this is a more colourful variation of his distinguished and recognisable style.

Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought the Painting in a private sale for 140 million Euros ($186 million at 2014 exchange rates). At the time he acquired the artwork, it was the second most expensive artwork ever sold.

Rothko was born in Russian-ruled Latvia in 1903, before he emigrated to the USA. He was one of the figureheads for Abstract Expressionism, and he championed the importance of finding deeply emotional states in his paintings. The majority of his compositions were created with much darker colour palettes, and are renowned for the contemplative atmospheres and moods that they create.

2. Paul Cézanne, “The Card Players”—$250 million–$300 million

Paul Cezanne - The Card Players

This Painting dates back to the early 1890s, and is characteristic of the short series of works that Cezanne completed of this theme.

The royal family of Qatar bought the Artwork for an estimated price that exceeded $250 million in 2011. It is kept in Qatar.

Cezanne often painted simple scenes, and championed the commonplace and the everyday. The painting of provincial life in southern France shows peasant’s playing cards and smoking pipes. It is highly prized because Cezanne is such an important cultural figure, and without his contributions to the canon of Art history, painting would not be what it is today. He paved the way for the development of cubism, and his ‘flattening’ of the picture plane, and the way that he broke objects and scenes down into simple forms is often cited as an early influence for modernist abstraction.

1. Paul Gauguin, “Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?)”—$300 million

Paul Gauguin - Nafea Faa Ipoipo

French Post-Impressionist Artist Paul Gauguin created this outstanding painting in 1892, and he is renowned for the wildness and simple beauty that he managed to achieve in his work.

This is the most expensive painting ever sold, and was bought by an undisclosed buyer. Many believe that the Artwork was bought by a group of state museums in Qatar, who are working on acquiring a first-rate collection that is financially backed by the Emirate’s royal family. The painting previously hung in Beyeler Foundation Museum in Riehen, Switzerland.

Gauguin journeyed to Tahiti in order to re-align his work and to completely emerge himself in another culture, and shake off the shackles that he felt were constricting him in Industrialised Western society. It is in his paintings where this really comes alive, his images are representations of a western mind that has flung itself with vigor into far off lands and cultures and is desperately trying to make sense of these exotic new experiences. His Artworks are dark and magical in a deeply intense and equal measure. The combination of such a technically skilled Western Artist painting so fervently the tribal life and customs of Tahiti makes for works that are truly unique, vibrant and powerful.

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