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Top 9: The most controversial paintings in art

In the world of art paintings are the most reliable witnesses of the events of a certain time. This doesn’t mean that other arts don’t represent the feeling of a society in a specific historic moment or an important event in the artist’s life. But painting is one of the most ancient arts and therefor, one of the most acknowledged ones to create controversy through time. History proves that many revolutionary artists have received critiques for opening new roads in art; painting becomes initiator of disputes because of its content, its characters or its esthetics.

According to, this are the 9 most controversial paintings in arts’ history, which one is missing?


  1. The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David


This is a famous painting that portraits the death of the French revolutionary leader Jean Paul Marat. The painting was one of the most controversial ones during the French Revolution since it displays the death journalist in his bathtub. It’s a 64×50 oil painting on canvas. Currently it can be found in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium.


  1. Madame X by John Singer Sargent


The picture of Madame X portraits Virginie Avegno Amélie Gautreau, consider as a vile character of 19th century French society due to the commitment of adultery. The painting displays an expat American woman that got married with a French banker and acquire notoriety in high society thanks to her beauty and rumors about her infidelities. The picture portraits this woman wearing a revealing black satin dress. The piece is characterized by the contrast between her pail skin and the color of the dress. Madame X can be currently found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.


  1. Burial in Ornans by Gustav Courbet


This piece is considered to be an important point of inflection in 19th century French art. The painting represents the funeral of Courbet’s uncle in the small city of Ornans. One of the causes of controversy is that the picture doesn’t display the mourners with expressions of sadness. It’s a timeless painting that exalts the representation of a simple funeral.


  1. The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali


Dali is one of the most controversial characters in the world of art and this is one of his most polemic paintings. The piece has been interpreted with different meanings; as its surreal nature suggests, the painting can be approached in different ways. The picture is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1934.


  1. The Night Watch by Rembrandt


Rembrandt was a Dutch painter recognized for representing in his paintings aspects of everyday life. The Night Watch portraits a musketeers gathering, a dark version consistent with Rembrandt’s mysterious atmospheres that followed his famous portraits production. The controversy of this painting lies in its representation of a daytime celebration but with a light, or absence of light that result on an intentional contradiction meant by the artist.


  1. The Last Judgment by Michelangelo


The Sistine Chapel is regularly consider as Michelangelo’s most important piece, and the Last Judgment is a representation of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world with the Apocalypse. The painting presents the souls of humanity that elevate or descend, judged by Christ. The artist used naked human shapes that looked tortured. This generated disputes between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo, who was accused of immorality and obscenity.


  1. The Young Ladies of Avignon by Pablo Picasso


Painted in 1907 by one of the most controversial artist of modern times, The Brothel of Avignon, as it is also kwon, represents the beginnings of Picasso working with African influences in the faces of his characters. This painting sets a new starting point that eliminates depth and that time ideals about female body.

The picture suffered critiques and generated controversy among artist, collectors and critics of the time, who didn’t understand Picasso’s new turn. The piece is currently exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


  1. The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci


One of the most famous pictures in the world that has transcended time is the Last Supper. It portraits the last meeting of Jesus with his disciples before his death was caused by the treason of Judas Iscariot. The painting has become a legend and many books and movies try to reveal its hidden secrets. It has been analyzed by experts and artists of all times.


  1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci


Without any doubt this is the most famous picture of the world. The Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, who was consider to be wife of a banker. The painting is one of the most polemic ones because of its supposedly secret messages that have to do with Christ’s life. We can appreciate the illusionism used by Da Vinci to present the Mona Lisa with an almost imperceptible smile from one angle while in another one the smile disappears. The painting is permanently exhibit in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

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