It’s a myth that beautiful art has to be complicated or complex. You don’t need to spend weeks or months on a piece for it to be a masterpiece. In fact, some of the most creative and amazing pieces of art ever created were simple. They did not use innovative or out-of-the-ordinary techniques, but followed the rules of art and were simply beautiful. They evoke thoughts and feelings that go beyond the canvas and draw the attention and eyes of the viewer. All the following paintings are more than the sum of their parts and do not rely on complexity or innovation to make them unique and beloved.
Widely considered the most famous and beloved painting of all time, this painting is incredibly simple, yet a complete masterpiece. It depicts a woman sitting and smiling softly. It was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci in the early 1500s. It is not done in a wildly experimental style and doesn’t tell a complex story.
This painting by Johannes Vermeer is similar to the Mona Lisa in that it is a simply painted portrait of a young woman. At first glance there is little extraordinary about it. But it is hard to deny it’s a masterpiece. The colours and command of shadow and texture are masterful and only enhance the beauty of the subject.
This iconic piece of American art shows a farmer and his daughter standing in front of their home. It is a simple painting, many people even think it’s dull. However, it is a masterpiece as it plainly and calmly symbolizes The Great Depression in America in the early 1900s.
This painting by Mark Rothko is simply made up of red and blue squares painted on a canvas. It is abstract art that seems painfully simple at first, with no apparent subject or meaning but this abstract expressionist painting sold for over $75 million in 2012. It is absolute proof that a masterpiece can be simple.
This painting by Piet Mondrian follows in line with most of his work. He often paints with geometric shapes, neatly tessellated or aligned, and bright blocks of solid colour. His paintings are definition of “painting inside the lines” as they maintain rigid order throughout. Despite, or maybe because of this rigidity, his paintings are some of the most loved contemporary abstract art in the world.
All of these masterpieces have become historically significant and beloved works of art. In addition to the place they hold in our hearts, they follow the simple rules of art involving lines, shapes, colours, textures, and shadow. If you learn these techniques, practice and use them, you can create your own simple masterpieces as well. Masterpieces are not forced and overly planned in most instances. The creativity should flow from unique inspiration and love of the art. If you can balance artistic appreciation and creative expression, you don’t need to find a way to be shocking or complex to create a masterpiece.
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