Our team loves to discuss art history and the many tales and insights that go along with the discoveries made in our conservation studio. Here are 101 of our favourite art history facts that we think every art lover should know covering paintings, furniture, ceramics and more!
1. Claude Monet was a popular caricaturist working under the name ‘Oscar Monet’ before becoming the renowned impressionist painter we know him as today. His original caricatures sold for just 10-20 francs each. In 2019 one of his early sketches was sold in New York for $37,575.
2. William Hogarth had a pug called Trump, who famously features in several of his paintings. Louis-François Roubiliac created a sculpture of Trump in terracotta to accompany a bust of Hogarth in 1741.
3. Rembrandt van Rijn signed his paintings in many different ways. His early work is often initiated with a Latin monogram: RHL (Rembrandus Hermanni Leydensis). He also used RHL-van-Rijn before settling on a simple signature of just ‘Rembrandt’. Although his artwork is now some of the most famous and highly priced in the art world, he died in poverty in 1669.
4. We associate Hans Holbein The Younger with Tudor era portraits but he also had an interest in metalwork. Later in his career, Holbein designed jewellery and trinket cups for Anne Boleyn and armour for King Henry VIII, featuring elaborate engravings.
5. Renaissance master Paolo Veronese completed the largest oil painting on canvas of the 16th century. ‘The Feast in the House of Levi’ is 5.6 x 13.1 metres and can be viewed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. This painting was originally supposed to depict The Last Supper but Veronese went overboard and included many types of people and animals – much to the disapproval of the Catholic church.
6. Some art historians believe that Dutch master Johannes Vermeer used a camera obscura to create his paintings. This was an invention which could project a scene onto a wall in a dimly lit room. This theory came about as scans show that Vermeer didn’t use initial outlines for his paintings and yet was able to achieve a near-perfect perspective.
7. Vincent Van Gogh fell in love with his cousin Kee Vos Stricker. On one occasion he asked to marry her, putting his hand over a candle to show his love for her and saying he would not remove it until they could marry, however, Kee’s father blew out the candle and banned Van Gogh from their house.
8. The device that allowed for the tonal quality of a mezzotint print came to England with Prince Rupert of the Rhine who popularised under the reign of King Charles II. Prince Rupert’s ‘The Great Executioner’ is still seen as one of the greatest mezzotints to have ever been produced.
9. The Kiss by Rodin is a very well-known sculpture. However, few people know that it was originally titled “Francesca da Rimini” after the character in Dante’s Inferno. Francesca falls in love with her husband’s brother Paolo, the sculpture shows them about to kiss. Rodin has chosen not to allow their lips to touch, hinting at the doom which is about to come their way.
10. Lawrence Alma-Tadema is known for his lavish depictions of ancient history and the decadence of the Roman empire. Due to his skill at painting beautiful marble surfaces, he was often called the ‘marbellous painter’. Alma-Tadema’s art often features interior scenes, recreated as accurately as possible through his study of objects at the British Museum.
11. Louis Wain’s anthropomorphised cats were popular in Victorian England. This work was inspired by a cat called Peter who had belonged to his late wife. Wain’s struggle with mental illness meant that he was later sent to Bethlem Royal Hospital (known as Bedlam) where his drawings became increasingly more abstract and psychedelic.
12. In the 17th and 18th century the highest form of oil painting was known as history painting which required the most amount of imagination, as it depicted scenes from mythology and literature. This was popular throughout continental Europe, but in England portraiture was the most commercial genre. To elevate their art, portrait painters would infuse history into their works, turning their sitters into gods, goddesses and mythological characters.
13. Fauvism is an early 20th century art movement that emphasised bright colour and brushstrokes over the realism in conventional impressionist work. Henri Matisse is the most famous artist from this movement, although it only lasted for around six years before other artforms began to dominate the market.
14. The Pre-Raphaelites take their name from the idea of the renaissance artist Raphael being the height of artistic achievement, as taught to them at the Royal Academy. They saw Raphael’s work as becoming ‘grandiose’ with ‘disregard of the simplicity of truth’ whilst their group aim was to focus on the purity of the natural world and individual morality.
15. Marcus Aurelius on horseback is one of the only surviving Roman bronze statues. This is due to iconoclasm that happened in Europe during the medieval period, destroying any hints of “pagan” civilisation. All bronze images from the pre-Christian Roman empire were sought out to be destroyed. The only reason this statue survived is that it was mistaken to represent the Christian emperor Constantine.
16. When it comes to religious art, symbols are very important. You can often spot which saint is which by knowing what to look for. The apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all have specific figures which will help you to know who you’re looking at. Matthew has a winged angel, Mark a winged Lion, Luke a winged bull and John an eagle.
17. George Romney is known for his many portraits of Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Lord Nelson. During his career he painted her over 60 times, sometimes in the guise of goddesses and historical figures.
18. Chippendale furniture is one of the most sought after varieties in this antique market. However, not all pieces are British. Thomas Chippendale produced a famous book of designs in the mid 18th century, allowing recognisably ‘Chippendale’ furniture to be created around the world with examples found in the United States, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark and Germany.
19. Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup collection comes in a set of 32 silkscreened canvases, each representing the 32 separate soup varieties that the company sold at the time. Warhol never gave instructions on how to exhibit them, so the Museum of Modern Art in New York hung them chronologically, in the manufacturing order in which the soup flavours were introduced to the American public.
20. Olympic events are now associated with sporting achievements, but the founder of the modern games began with the aim of artistic talent as being just as great as that of athletes. Between 1912 and 1948 numerous medals were awarded for sport inspired architecture, sculpture, musical talent, paintings, and works of literature. The Olympic art events ended in 1954 because artists were considered to be too professional, while the athletes were required to be amateurs. Since 1956, the Olympic cultural programme has taken their place instead.
21. The Pietà is the only piece of work that Michelangelo ever signed. He later saw this as an embarrassing display of his own pride and never signed an artwork again.
22. Vermeer’s masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring is not a portrait. She is a character known in art as a ‘Tronie’ – a figure typically found in Flemish Baroque art that is used to convey an emotion or allegory. Tronies are typically found in generic paintings of elderly people to examine themes of old age, or figures laughing and pulling dramatic expressions.
23. My Wife’s Lovers is an 1891 oil painting on canvas by Austrian artist Carl Kahler. It depicts 42 Turkish Angora cats owned by millionaire Kate Birdsall Johnson. 42 might sound like a lot, but Mrs Johnson was reported to have at least 350 cats in her Californian summer house.
24. Many artists have produced wine labels, which are highly prized by collectors. Famous names to put their art to the bottle include Picasso, Braque, Henry Moore, Miró, Kandinsky, Warhol, Keith Haring, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Anish Kapoor. Château Mouton Rothschild is the label to look out for in these artistic collaborations, as even Dalí created an emblem for their 1958 vintage.
25. The oldest known animal painting in the world was discovered in a cave in Indonesia. The painting of a wild pig is at least 45,500 years old and was created using red ochre pigment. It has been remarkably well preserved, allowing archaeologists to determine the painting’s age from analysing a calcite deposit. The oldest painting in the world is the Red Neanderthal Hand Stencil in Maltravieso Cave, Spain from 64,000 years ago.
26. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, art exhibits opened with inspiration from the everyday staples of the nationwide lockdowns. Two galleries opened up in London selling their own versions of ‘essential items’ sold at regular grocery prices.
27. The colours used in paintings are not always down to artistic choice. Many patrons commissioned how much of each shade could be used, as some pigments such as ultramarine were extremely expensive. It is often used on the robes of the Virgin Mary, showing the level of devotion and expense the patron gave towards the creation of the artwork. Ultramarine was one of the most expensive pigments until 1826 when a much cheaper synthetic variety was invented.
28. There are five versions of The Scream by Edvard Munch. The earliest versions were created with tempera and crayon, these are now in the Oslo National Gallery and the Munch Museum. The third pastel version from 1895 is privately owned, after selling for $120 million at auction. A fourth version from 1895 is a lithograph print. Munch created the final version in 1910, due to the popularity of the prior incarnations. This may be the most famous version of The Scream, as it was stolen in 2004, though luckily was restored back onto public display in the Munch museum after its recovery in 2006.
29. It was once concluded that the average lifespan of a sofa is 2,958 days, this adds up to around 8 years. However, antique settees from centuries past continue to prove this theory wrong, thanks to careful and expert conservation techniques.
30. Maiolica is a popular style of tin-glazed pottery, with items dating as far back as the Italian Renaissance. As well as in Italy, this form of pottery developed in France as ‘faience’, in Spain and Mexico as ‘talavera’ and in England and The Netherlands as ‘delftware’.
31. Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted more than 30 portraits of Marie Antoinette over a six year period before fleeing during the French Revolution. Although she later returned to France, she became more successful throughout the rest of Europe. Vigée Le Brun’s lifetime of work includes 660 portraits and 200 landscapes.
32. The Venetian old master Titian is recorded to have lived to over 100 years old, living from 1474 to 1576. In his life he is known to have created 400 paintings, of which 300 survive. His final painting was a very dark version of the ‘Pietà’ which he intended to have decorated his own tomb. His most expensive painting depicts the myth of Diana and Actaeon; it was bought for £50 million by the National Galleries of London and Scotland in 2009.
33. A banana duct-taped to a wall that sold for $120,000 at Art Basel in Miami was eaten by performance artist David Datuna. The original artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan was entitled Comedian. The subsequent performance of it being eaten was called Hungry Artist.
34. The term Art Deco can be traced back to 1925, following the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. Spanning from Les Invalides to the Grand Palais on both sides of the river Seine, over 15,000 people and companies exhibited with a total of sixteen million visitors over seven months. Within the exhibition there was a focus on ‘Style Moderne’ which was a particular focus for the Arts Décoratifs area, popularly becoming shortened to Art Deco.
35. Posters as we know them today are thought to have been created in the 1870s by Parisian artist Jules Cheret, who introduced a new printing technique that produced bright and rich layered images. By 1890, the streets of Paris were plastered with these lithographs, advertising all manner of goods and entertainment.
36. One of the unusual techniques Salvador Dalí used to gain inspiration for his paintings was to capture his own dreams. To remember what he had seen, he would go to sleep with a heavy key in his hand. As he fell into a deep sleep the key would drop from his hand into a plate. This would wake him up and he would quickly record what he had experienced.
37. Eye miniatures were a Georgian trend to commission a painting of the eye of a family member, child, friend or loved one. The Prince of Wales (later George IV) wore a miniature of his lover’s eye under his lapel to preserve anonymity and decorum.
38. The sleek and iconic designs of mid-century modern furniture exist due to an economic upturn in the United States following World War II. Designs needed to be easily manufactured and marketed to the masses, as well as being affordable and functional. Designs were made from non-traditional materials including plastic, vinyl, plywood, plexiglass, and acrylics. Today mid-century modern furniture is praised for durability and simplicity in an appealing retro design.
39. Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat depicts the demise of a revolutionary leader and friend of the artist. David was part of the national convention and had previously voted for the death of Louis XVI. His depiction of Marat composes him in the same style and lighting expected of a religious martyr.
40. Clarice Cliff was a leading Art Deco ceramic designer. Today the auction prices for Clarice Cliff pieces can vary depending on their rarity, ranging from £100 to almost £40,000. Cliff’s mass-produced crocus pattern or transfer-printed items may not be of high value, but rare patterns and more experimental techniques (such as an appliqué range from 1930-31) can fetch high sums at auction.
41. The Fayum mummy portraits date back to between the 1st and 3rd centuries. Dozens of these portraits exist thanks to a consistently hot and dry Egyptian climate, with bright colours surviving due to their tempera or wax base.
42. The Charging Bull bronze statue by Arturo Di Modica was created following the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. In December 1989, Di Modica arrived on Wall Street and left the bull outside the New York Stock Exchange without a permit. It was removed by the police, but due its popularity was later installed nearby at Bowling Green where it has remained to this day.
43. Renaissance artist Elisabetta Sirani died aged 27 but during her short life accomplished over 200 paintings, 15 etchings, and hundreds more drawings. Sirani painted so many artworks in a short time that many doubted that she painted them all herself. To refute this she invited her accusers in 1664 to watch her paint a portrait in one sitting.
44. In 2018 a lost portrait of Charles Dickens was discovered in a trinket box during an auction in South Africa. The miniature by Margaret Gillies had not been seen for 175 years.
45. Paul Cézanne was a perfectionist when it came to his art. The French impressionist painter would get so stressed with his work that he was often known to rip up canvases and destroy them. When painting outdoors, some of these paintings would end up being thrown into bushes by the frustrated artist. He was once spotted trying to retrieve a painting back from a large tree after he had calmed down.
46. Regency portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence was a child prodigy, from the age of ten he was supporting his family with pastel portraits before moving to London to establish himself as an oil painter. Lawrence became one of the most fashionable portrait painters in Europe, but died with many works left unfinished as they took a notoriously long time to complete.
47. Paintings on wooden panel have a surface that is often a build-up of gesso. Each layer is applied and then sanded down when dry, this is completed over a few days or weeks. Some artworks on panel have as many as 15 layers of gesso beneath their surface.
48. Frida Kahlo’s reputation as an artist had grown to such extent after her death that Mexico declared her works part of the national cultural heritage. This prohibited their export from the country, making their appearance at auctions and retrospective exhibitions very rare.
49. Marietta Robusti was also known as Tintoretta as she was the favourite daughter of renaissance master Tintoretto. She worked in her father’s studio and his decline in work after her death is attributed to his grief in losing her. Later artists of the romanticism movement often drew inspiration from a scene of Tintoretto painting his dead daughter.
50. Mirrors became popular during the 16th century, the most fashionable designs were from Murano on the coast of Venice – an epicentre of glass manufacturing that thrived with the patronage of wealthy merchants and Mediterranean trade. Early renaissance mirrors used a tin-mercury amalgam to achieve their reflective quality, this was adhered by fire-gilding one side on a flat piece of glass.
51. Peter Paul Rubens often preferred wooden panels rather than canvas as a more robust base for this artwork, creating complicated surfaces out of as many as 17 pieces of wood.
52. Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights was sometimes referred to as ‘the strawberry painting’ throughout history due to the predominance of the fruit in the composition.
53. Bauhaus artist Paul Klee experimented with many different mediums, including oil with watercolour, oil with tempura, watercolor with pen and India ink, impasto and spray paint. His surfaces also varied using mixed media such as gauze, cardboard, fabric, newsprint and foils.
54. Water-soluble ink is a Chinese invention that can be dated back to 2500 BC. The first ink used in calligraphy was composed of black soot mixed with a sticky binding agent, this often included fish bones that had been turned into glue. To mask the fishy odour, perfume was also added to the mixture.
55. Gustav Klimt never painted a self-portrait, stating “I am less interested in myself as a subject for a painting than I am in other people, above all women. There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night. Whoever wants to know something about me… ought to look carefully at my pictures.”
56. Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix depicts Parisians rebelling during the French Revolution of 1830. In 1832, the French government, then loyal to the King, quickly purchased the painting in order to remove it from view. It was not until 1848 that it was reinstated to public display in The Louvre, where it remains to this day.
57. The pigments or dyes in Japanese woodblock prints can begin to fade in low levels of light. When Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Red Fuji were displayed at the British Museum, research suggested that if these prints were displayed for just three months at 50 LUX, they would have to be stored in the dark for at least a year before being exposed again. When they were displayed, it was only for 20% of the time to only a dim amount of light.
58. In 1976, Georgia O’Keeffe refused to lend her work to a major exhibition called ‘Women Artists: 1550 to 1950’. Her reasoning was that she was not one of the best female artists, but “one of the best painters” of her time. Despite numerous shows which focused on female artists in the 1970s, no woman was featured in a leading textbook entitled Jason’s History Of Art until 1987.
59. The painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel took Michelangelo four years to complete. He was originally only commissioned to paint the twelve apostles but persuaded the pope to allow him to compose a much more dynamic scheme including the creation, the fall of man, and the genealogy of Christ and the promise of salvation. The completed artwork is over 500 square metres and contains over 300 figures.
60. The word ceramics can be traced to the Greek term ‘keramos’ which relates to pottery. The word ‘keramos’ comes from the Sanskrit term for something burning. This ancient art form has examples from as far back as 28,000 BC during the late Palaeolithic period. The oldest piece is a small statue of a woman, called Venus of Dolní Vêstonice.
61. Manet’s famous painting Olympia is his modern take on Titian’s Venus of Urbino. As well as the courtesan’s nudity, Manet’s inclusion of an orchid, a black cat, and a bouquet of flowers were all recognized as symbols of her sexuality.
62. 19th century artist Richard Dadd spent almost a decade composing The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke whilst detained in Bethlem and later Broadmoor hospital. The painting would later inspire a young Freddie Mercury during a visit to the Tate Britain, a song of the same name can be found on Queen II.
63. Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica is his response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in northern Spain. The town was bombed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at the request of the Spanish Nationalists on 26th April 1937.
64. Ivory artworks can only be sold in the UK if it has been carved before 1947. This is also the case for restored ivory, where any new elements that include real ivory cannot have been added post-1947.
65. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first president of the Royal Academy in London. One of his lectures stated that an artist should not amass too much of the colour blue in the foreground, inspiring Thomas Gainsborough to rebelliously compose The Blue Boy.
66. Joan Miró and Josep Royo’s World Trade Center Tapestry was one of the most expensive and culturally important artworks to have been lost during the events of 9/11. Other artworks lost during this event include over 300 casts of Rodin sculptures and photographs by Cindy Sherman.
67. Madame Marie Tussaud, who is known today for the worldwide wax museums, originally worked for the French aristocracy as an expert in lifesize wax figurines. Tussaud was arrested during the French Revolution and almost sent to the guillotine but was saved when she was commissioned to take the wax death masks and entire wax body casts of those who were executed during the political upheaval, including her former patrons King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
68. The use of animal feet or claws as decorative carvings on the end of furniture legs dates back to ancient Egypt.
69. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with precious metals, enhancing the importance of the damaged areas rather than hiding them. This is connected to the philosophy of wabi-sabi that accepts imperfection and impermanence as a part of life.
70. Some paintings have an inclusion of bitumen in areas of dark pigment. This often never fully dries and causes vulnerability and deterioration of the artwork in the future. The bituminous pigment known as Mummy Brown was a favourite colour of the Pre-Raphaelites, it included the ground up remains of Egyptian mummies.
71. Papier-mache can be dated back to the Han Dynasty in China (200 AD) and was used for not only decorative purposes but to also craft helmets. Across the rest of the Asian continent, it can also be found on shields and armour.
72. French artist Théodore Géricault’s most well-known painting was not commissioned by a patron. His dramatic masterpiece The Raft of the Medusa was intended to launch his career by choosing a popular subject. The shipwreck that inspired the painting had been widely discussed as a national scandal at the time and succeeded in promoting his work as an artist.
73. Tintoretto had a fast and bold painting style that led him to be called ‘Il Furioso’. His painting for Doge’s Palace entitled Paradise is often refuted to be the largest canvas painting in the world measuring 29.9 x 74.1 feet.
74. A drawing in the Royal Collection by Raphael shows one of Leonardo’s lost masterpieces, Leda and the Swan. Raphael adapted the pose for his own painting of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
75. Peter Lely’s portraits were extremely popular, to the point a system was put in place to help his studio produce hundreds of paintings. Lely would take notes of the facial features and hands of his subject and they were placed in a numbered set of poses to be finished by studio assistants.
76. The famous collages by Henri Matisse were due to him being bed bound in 1941 following surgery. Unable to paint and sculpt as he had before, he took to using scissors and paper instead – this medium has since become a defining part of his work.
77. In Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus there are 500 identified plant species, with about 190 different flowers.
78. Van Gogh was a fan of the woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige, copying two of his ukiyo-e scenes from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.
79. Man Ray was born Emmanuel Radnitzky, but refused to acknowledge that he had any other name but Man Ray, never giving any details of his family or upbringing during his career. His family had changed their surname to Ray to avoid discrimination.
80. Edward Hopper is best known for his oil paintings, but also has impressive collections of watercolours, etchings and drawings. His use of light and dark is often compared with that of film noir.
81. After his early death aged 27, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work continued to increase in value. In 2017, one of his artworks from 1982 sold for $110.5 million, becoming one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased.
82. Gustave Courbet was imprisoned for political reasons in Saint-Pelagie in Paris, where he was allowed to paint, but without any models to pose for him. This is where he composed a famous series of still-life paintings of flowers and fruit instead of his usual figurative art.
83. The very first abstract works in Western art history are attributed to Hilma af Klint, a 19th century Swedish mystic and artist who used complex spiritual ideas in her work, she was often inspired by group séances. Along with Anna Cassel, Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman and Mathilda Nilsson, she was part of ‘The Five’ – a group of artists who followed the theosophical teachings of Helena Blavatsky.
84. Renoir’s children and grandchildren went on to work in the film industry, his grandson Claude Renoir was a cinematographer who worked on films such as On the Waterfront (1954), Cleopatra (1963), Barbarella (1968) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
85. La Maja Desnuda by Francisco Goya is referred to as the first life-size female nude in Western art history without any allegorical or mythological symbolism. The painting was never exhibited in his lifetime, it was confiscated from its original owner by the Spanish Inquisition for being too obscene.
86. Wassily Kandinsky likened painting to composing music, stating “colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
87. Egon Schiele died during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, three days after his pregnant wife. In the days in between their deaths he drew sketches of her.
88. The painting style of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot could be so easily copied that many forgeries came into existence, it was once said that “Corot painted three thousand canvases, ten thousand of which have been sold in America”.
89. Edgar Degas’ friendship with Mary Cassatt ended due to their clashing political views. Degas was an outspoken antisemite with no support for women’s rights, Cassatt later expressed satisfaction at the irony of his work being exhibited in aid of women’s suffrage.
90. Red is a play by John Logan based on the life of Rothko, the original cast included Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.
91. Scottish artist Henry Raeburn was originally a goldsmith’s apprentice before his skill at painting miniatures was noticed by his employer who encouraged him to work in oil paint. He was later knighted by King George IV for his contribution to art.
92. Divisionism, also called chromoluminarism, is a form of painting used in Neo-Impressionist art. This is defined by the separation of colours into individual dots or patches which interact optically when viewed as a whole. Examples can be found in the work of Georges Seurat such as A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
93. As well as being president of the Royal Academy, Frederic Leighton joined the first group of 38th Middlesex Artists’ Rifle Volunteer Corps, quickly becoming captain, lieutenant colonel and later their commanding officer. Leighton was the first artist to be given a peerage, although he died the next day making it the shortest peerage in British history.
94. Jackson Pollock began numbering his paintings instead of naming them to evade the viewer’s need to look for figurative elements in his work.
95. Whistler’s Mother was originally seen as a failure in artistic experimentation, as the simple setting and colour palette clashed with the sentimentality and far more flamboyant tastes of Victorian society. It was rejected to be exhibited by the Royal Academy in London, when it was later accepted it was displayed in an unfavourable position.
96. The term Poor Man’s Bible is often used to describe artwork found in churches and cathedrals, such as stained glass windows, that would have used imagery to explain Christian stories to what was historically an illiterate population.
97. The Velázquez masterpiece Las Meninas is one of his many portraits of Infanta Margarita Teresa. There were numerous depictions of Margarita Teresa throughout her childhood to document her appearance, these were often sent to her uncle, Leopold I Holy Roman Emperor, who would later become her husband.
98. Portrait painter to George Washington, Rembrandt Peale was from an artistic family, his siblings were also after old masters with names such as Rubens, Angelica Kauffman, Raphael, Sophonisba Angusciola and Titian Ramsay.
99. Although his painting Nu Couché realised $170,405,000 at auction, becoming one of the most expensive paintings ever sold, Modigliani only had one solo exhibition in his lifetime and often gave his work away in exchange for meals in restaurants.
100. Jan Van Eyck was the only 15th-century Netherlandish painter to sign his canvases. His motto always contained variants of the words ALS ICH KAN which translate to ‘As I Can’ or ‘As Best I Can’ – these are a pun on his name in his native Limburgish dialect.
101. Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is said to be the most reproduced artwork in the world, it can be found on everything from clothing and shoes to technology and household goods. The original woodblock print was made around 1831.
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