The WhiteRock Family Digital Art Gallery is presented in sections containing eight images each of famous paintings by
great artists. The works are arranged according to what are generally accepted and what the author thinks are the
best or the most important by the artists who are themselves presented according to the significance of their respective
contributions to art.
Some factors have to be considered in order to understand the criteria of the selection of the works that are included
in this gallery. Examples of these are the influence of Western philosophy in the development of aesthetic taste and the
adoption of Western values and culture in the selection of artistic subjects, the inspiration that religious faith has
provided in the creation of great art and the wealth and power of the Catholic Church to commission the services of the
greatest artists of the Renaissance and beyond.
On the other hand, the human form has always been a subject of endless intellectual speculation and this includes the
creation of tasteful art. Along this line, different cultures also have different standards of defining what is "tasteful."
These factors help explain the exclusion of certain aesthetic values and cultures in this selection as well as its liberality
over the selection of certain subjects that some individuals may otherwise find inappropriate.
Art may be objective, but the process of selecting cannot be but subjective. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Welcome to The WhiteRock Family Digital Art Gallery.
This section includes works by the following painters:
Leonardo da Vinci
Rembrandt van Rijn
Vincent van Gogh
Click on the image to view on black background; the title of the work to go to the source.
The name of the artist and location of work link to sources of more information.
The Mona Lisa or La Gioconda has been acclaimed as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most
sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world".
The subject's expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle
modelling of forms, and the atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing
fascination and study of the work. wikipedia
Mona Lisa features a pyramidal composition, a design Leonardo uses to capture the essence of different focal points
beginning at the top of the triangle that flows into detail as it widens at the base. Her softly rounded lit face draws
your attention as she appears to be looking right at you. A subtle smile, lifted cheekbones and defined chin complete
this feminine figure along with her robust chest and natural wavy hair. She properly sits with her lifelike hands are
featured as her forearm is settled on the arm of the chair. She seems relaxed and poised; dark yet calm.
This painting introduces the portrait style painting focusing on the representation of the ideal woman. Small details
are faint but exclusive such as her black veil, gold embroidery on her dress, and the definition in her hands and the
features on her face. In a distance the sky is gray and the landscape is undefined and hazy in its depiction of serenity.
This technique is called sfumato where Leonardo softly blends the edges of the surfaces to illustrate a vision rather
than a realistic scene. The hazy backdrop features the three elements of land, water and air. Settled and serene, the
space divides the elements horizontally offering different color hues. HUM 120 Course Blog
Mona Lisa on Khan Academy
Oil on canvass (1937)
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
Guernica is regarded by many art critics as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. It shows
the suffering of people wrenched by violence and chaos.
The painting was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by Nazi
German and Fascist Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was
exhibited at the Spanish display at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris and then at other venues around the world. The
touring exhibition was used to raise funds for Spanish war relief. The painting became famous and widely acclaimed,
and it helped bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.
Interpretations of Guernica vary widely and contradict one another. This extends, for example, to the mural's two
dominant elements: the bull and the horse. Art historian Patricia Failing said, "The bull and the horse are important
characters in Spanish culture."
When pressed to explain the elements in Guernica, Picasso said, ". . . this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse. . .
If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this
meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the
painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are."
According to scholar Beverly Ray the following list of interpretations reflects the general consensus of historians:
The shape and posture of the bodies express protest. Picasso uses black, white, and grey paint to set a somber mood
and express pain and chaos. Flaming buildings and crumbling walls not only express the destruction of Guernica,
but reflect the destructive power of civil war. The newspaper print used in the painting reflects how Picasso
learned of the massacre. The light bulb in the painting represents the sun. The broken sword near the bottom of
the painting symbolizes the defeat of the people at the hand of their tormentors. wikipedia
Guernica from Art History Online on YouTube
The Night Watch
Rembrandt van Rijn
Oil on canvass (1642)
Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, also known as The Shooting
Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but commonly referred to as The Night Watch is
renowned for three characteristics: its colossal size (363 cm × 437 cm (11.91 ft × 14.34 ft)), the effective use of light and
shadow (tenebrism) and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait.
The painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age. It depicts the eponymous company moving
out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch
(dressed in yellow, with a white sash). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three
most important characters among the crowd: the two gentlemen in the centre (from whom the painting gets its
original title), and the small girl in the centre-left background. Behind them, the company's colours are carried by
the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen.
Rembrandt has displayed the traditional emblem of the arquebusiers in a natural way, with the girl in the
background carrying the main symbols. She is a kind of mascot herself; the claws of a dead chicken on her belt
represent the arquebusiers, the pistol behind the chicken represents clover and she is holding the militia's goblet.
The man in front of her is wearing a helmet with an oak leaf, a traditional motif of the arquebusiers. The dead
chicken is also meant to represent a defeated adversary. The colour yellow is often associated with victory.
Another interpretation proposes that Rembrandt designed this painting with several layers of meaning, as was
common among the most talented artists. Thus, the Night Watch is symmetrically divided, firstly to illustrate the
union between the Dutch Protestants and the Dutch Catholics, and secondly to evoke the war effort against the
Spaniards. For instance, according to Rembrandt's multilayered design, the taller captain (in black) symbolizes the
Dutch Protestant leadership, loyally supported by the Dutch Catholics (represented by the shorter lieutenant,
One of the most important aspects of The Night Watch is that the figures are nearly human size. Rembrandt gives the
illusion that the characters jump off the canvas and into real space. wikipedia
The Night Watch on Khan Academy
Oil on canvass (1898-1905)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Occasionally referred to as the Big Bathers or Large Bathers to distinguish it from the smaller works, The Bathers
is considered one of the masterpieces of modern art and is often considered Cézanne's finest work. Cézanne worked
on the painting for seven years, and it remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1906. wikipedia
Paul Cézanne created a series of bathers' paintings at the end of his career. The Large Bathers is so called because it
was Cézanne's largest composition in the series, and it was the last to be produced. When creating The Large Bathers
Cézanne was attempting to produce a piece that would be timeless. The artist did not follow fashionable painting
trends and felt no pressure to conform to nineteenth century methods.
The story that some critics have told describes the women in The Large Bathers as goddesses in the middle of nature.
The trees are acting as their theater and the figures in the background are watching their actions. There is a distinct
triangle shape that forces the viewer to focus on the lake and the small figures in the background. Despite the
movement in the picture there is a sense of calm among the bathers. The viewer appears to take a voyeuristic peek into
their private world.
Cézanne's scene, with its tranquil lake and church tower is not an exact representation of a real village. Cézanne
created this image using his imagination and drawing from nature. The artist enjoyed painting landscapes and was
inspired by nature but he wanted to understand it and paint more than what was on the surface.
Paul Cézanne prepared a number of practice paintings of figures before he started working on The Large Bathers. He
experimented with how he wanted the figures to relate to each other and preparatory pieces show the bathers
interacting with each other in various different ways. Despite it's unpolished state The Large Bathers is considered a
masterpiece of modern art and has appeared on television shows as one of the greatest compositions of all time.
Artble; The Large Bathers
The Large Bathers from Nerdwriter1 on YouTube
Oil on canvass (1914-7)
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Water Lilies is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet. The paintings depict
Monet's flower garden at his home in Giverny, and were the main focus of Monet's artistic production during the last
thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts. wikipedia
Monet had moved with his family to the commune of Giverny, 50 miles west of Paris, in 1883 and keenly begun filling
his garden with arbours, fruit trees and ornamental flowers. Leaving the French capital behind – scene of his and his
fellow Impressionists’ great rise – he now opted, aged 43, for a more sedate life. “I’m good for nothing except painting
and gardening,” he declared.
After a decade and a bit in Giverny, he looked to expand his two-acre property – his specific aim to divert the River
Epte, a tributary of the Seine, and create a water garden for himself across the road, adorning it with water lilies
from Egypt and South America. The neighbours and local council objected, convinced he would poison their water
with his strange flowers, but Monet proceeded anyway.
The water lilies weren’t just a source of prolonged inspiration for Monet, t hough: in a way, his paintings serve as an
alternative diary for him. He famously suffered with cataracts from 1912 onwards, and this explain – at least, in
part – the coarse, thickly applied strokes of blues, purples and greens in Irises two years later.
In November 1918, meanwhile, the day after Armistice was signed, Monet promised a set of huge water-lily paintings to
the French nation, as a “monument to peace”. These would end up as decorative panels in the Orangerie building at
Paris’s Tuileries Gardens. Alistair Smart for The Telegraph
Water Lilies on Khan Academy
The Calling of Saint Matthew
Oil on canvass (1599-1600)
San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
The Calling of Saint Matthew is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, depicting the moment at which
Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him. It was completed in 1599–1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church
of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it remains today. wikipedia
The tale of the calling of Saint Matthew is found in the New Testament, Matthew 9:9: "And when Jesus passed on
from thence, he saw a man sitting in the custom house, named Matthew; and he said to him: Follow me. And he arose up
and followed him." In this painting, Caravaggio depicts the very moment when Matthew first realizes he is being
Caravaggio's The Calling of Saint Matthew was executed for the left wall of the Contarelli chapel in the French
church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. Cardinal Matteo Contarelli had saved for years to pay for the decoration of
his chapel with scenes from the life of Saint Matthew, his namesake.
The painting can be divided into two parts. The figures on the right form a vertical rectangle while those on the left
create a horizontal block. The two sides are further distinguished by their clothing and symbolically, by Christ's
The artist's use of light and shadow adds drama to this image as well as giving the figures a quality of immediacy. Many
other artists later followed Caravaggio's example and copied this technique. The figures are engulfed by shadow and
it is only the beaming light that shines across the wall and highlights the fact of Saint Matthew and the seated group
that brightens the canvas.
The Calling of Saint Matthew is proof of Caravaggio's ability to show biblical scenes more realistically and unfolding
before the viewer's very eyes. The artist was not creating a descriptive naturalism but instead focused on the physical
reality of this particular scene. He drew on his earlier genre figures when creating this piece and the result in Saint
Matthew and his cronies depicted as approachable figures to whom people could relate. Artble; The Calling of Saint Matthew
The Calling of Saint Matthew from Spencer's Painting of the Week on YouTube
The Creation of Adam
Fresco (c. 1508-12)
The Sistine Chapel, Rome
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, painted
c. 1508–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into
Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the
series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis.
The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity. The painting has been
reproduced in countless imitations and parodies. Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and Michelangelo's Creation of Adam
are the most replicated religious paintings of all time.
God is depicted as an elderly white-bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is
completely nude. God's right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam,
whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God's, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God
(Gen 1:26). Another point is that Adam's finger and God's finger are not touching. It gives the impression that God, the
giver of life, is reaching out to Adam who has yet to receive it; they are not on "the same level" as would be two
humans shaking hands, for instance.
Many hypotheses have been formulated regarding the identity and meaning of the figures around God. The person
protected by God's left arm might be Eve due to the figure's feminine appearance and gaze towards Adam, but was also
suggested to be Virgin Mary, Sophia, the personified human soul, or an angel of feminine build.
The Creation of Adam is generally thought to depict the excerpt "God created man in his own image, in the image of
God He created him" (Gen 1:27). The inspiration for Michelangelo's treatment of the subject may come from a medieval
hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the 'finger of the paternal right hand' (digitus paternae dexterae) to
give the faithful speech.
Several hypotheses have been put forward about the meaning of The Creation of Adam's highly original composition,
many of them taking Michelangelo's well-documented expertise in human anatomy as their starting point. In 1990, an
Anderson, Indiana physician named Frank Meshberger noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association that
the background figures and shapes portrayed behind the figure of God appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture
of the human brain. On close examination, borders in the painting correlate with major sulci of the cerebrum in the
inner and outer surface of the brain, the brain stem, the frontal lobe, the basilar artery, the pituitary gland and the
Alternatively, it has been observed that the red cloth around God has the shape of a human uterus (one art historian
has called it a "uterine mantle"), and that the scarf hanging out, coloured green, could be a newly cut umbilical cord.
Recently a group of Italian researchers published on Mayo Clinic Proceedings an article where the images of the
mantle and the postpartum uterus were overlapped. According to Enrico Bruschini (2004), "This is an interesting
hypothesis that presents the Creation scene as an idealised representation of the physical birth of man. It explains the
navel that appears on Adam, which is at first perplexing because he was created, not born of a woman." wikipedia
The Creation of Adam on Study.com
The Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh
Oil on canvass (1889)
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Starry Night is an oil painting by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June 1889, it
depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with
the addition of an idealized village. It is regarded as among Van Gogh's finest works and is one of the most recognized
paintings in the history of Western culture.
In the aftermath of the 23 December 1888 breakdown that resulted in the self-mutilation of his left ear, Van Gogh
voluntarily admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole lunatic asylum on 8 May 1889. Housed in a former
monastery, Saint-Paul-de-Mausole catered to the wealthy and was less than half full when Van Gogh arrived,
allowing him to occupy not only a second-story bedroom but also a ground-floor room for use as a painting studio.
Although The Starry Night was painted during the day in Van Gogh's ground-floor studio, it would be inaccurate to
state that the picture was painted from memory. The view has been identified as the one from his bedroom window,
facing east, a view which Van Gogh painted variations of no fewer than twenty-one times, including The Starry Night.
"Through the iron-barred window," he wrote to his brother, Theo, around 23 May 1889, "I can see an enclosed square of
wheat . . . above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory."
Van Gogh next mentioned the painting in a letter to Theo on or about 20 September 1889, when he included it in a list
of paintings he was sending to his brother in Paris. Of this list of paintings, he wrote, "All in all the only things I
consider a little good in it are the Wheatfield, the Mountain, the Orchard, the Olive trees with the blue hills and
the Portrait and the Entrance to the quarry, and the rest says nothing to me"; "the rest" would include The Starry
Night. In a letter to painter Émile Bernard from late November, 1889, Van Gogh referred to the painting as a "failure."
Van Gogh argued with Bernard and, especially, Paul Gauguin as to whether one should paint from nature, as Van Gogh
preferred, or paint what Gauguin called "abstractions": paintings conceived in the imagination. In the letter to
Bernard, Van Gogh recounted his experiences when Gauguin lived with him in 1888: "I once or twice allowed myself to
be led astray into abstraction, as you know. . . . But that was delusion, dear friend, and one soon comes up against a brick
wall. . . . And yet, once again I allowed myself to be led astray into reaching for stars that are too big - another
failure - and I have had my fill of that." wikipedia
"Now, I understand what you tried so say to me; how you suffered for your sanity."
In the soil beneath Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum waits a time capsule containing a set of the artist’s brushes - and the
sheet music for Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night). Museum staff play the song for visitors every day,
although there’s no danger of it being forgotten. Indeed, it is likely to be the American singer’s powerful portrait of
misunderstood genius that brought them there in the first place. Helen Brown in The Telegraph
The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh's Starry Night from TED-Ed on You Tube