The 100 Most Important Art Works of the Twentieth Century

The King Wants You: Anonymous painter of the Tiajuana movement (ca. 1985)

Numbers 50-100:

  1. Georgia O'Keefe, Black Iris (American Realist: 1926): flower, really close-up
  2. Pablo Picasso, The Three Dancers (Cubist: 1925)
  3. Grant Wood, American Gothic (American Realist: 1930): ma, pa, pitchfork.
  4. Paul Klee, Twittering Machine (Blaue Reiter: 1922): a wagon full of snappy stick critters.
  5. Yves Klein, Anthropometry Performance (Neo-Dada Performance Art: 1960): nude women frolicking in paint. I may not know art, but I know what I like.
  6. Edvard Munch, Dance of Life (Expressionist: 1900): unhappy lawn party.
  7. Diego Rivera, The Arsenal: Frida Kahlo Distributes Arms (Socialist Realist: 1928): heroic peasant revolt.
  8. Vera Mukhina, Worker and Farm Girl (Socialist Realist: 1937): heroic Commies.
  9. Alberto Burri, Sacking and Red (1954): pile of burlap.
  10. Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World (American Realist: 1948): girl in field.
  11. Giacomo Balla, Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (Futurism: 1912): enthusiastic dachshund.
  12. Francis Bacon, Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef (Expressionist: 1954): pope and meat.
  13. Pierre Bonnard, Nude in Bath (Impressionist: 1936): very relaxed (with dog)
  14. Francis Picabia, Amorous Parade (Dada: 1917): happy machines
  15. Max Beckmann, Self-portrait with a Red Scarf (1917): creepy boy scout
  16. Christo, Surrounded Islands (Conceptual Art: 1980-83): floating pink in Biscayne Bay
  17. Fernand Leger, The Builders (Cubist: 1950): hardhats and girders
  18. Pablo Picasso, Girl with Mandolin (Cubist: 1910): refracted banjo player.
  19. Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red (Fauvist: 1908): setting the table
  20. Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation No. 30 (Abstract Expressionist: 1913)
  21. Robert Rauschenberg, Retroactive I (Neo-Dada: 1964): JFK and astronauts
  22. Henri Matisse, The Green Stripe (Fauvist: 1905): portrait of the old lady.
  23. Giorgio de Chirico, Uncertainty of the Poet (Surrealist: 1913): torso and bananas
  24. Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue (De Stijl: 1930): strictly divided space.
  25. Juan Gris, Homage to Pablo Picasso (Cubist: 1912)
  26. Raoul Hausmann, The Spirit of Our Time (Dada: 1919): mechanical head.
  27. Jackson Pollack, Blue Poles, (Abstract Expressionist: 1948): squiggles -- now with lines!
  28. George Grosz, Gray Day: banker, veteran and ditch-digger, to work. (New Objectivity: 1921)
  29. Robert Delaunay, The Eiffel Tower (Cubist: 1911)
  30. Kurt Schwitters, Merzbild 25A, The Star Picture (Dada: 1920):
  31. Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs (Conceptual Art: 1965)
  32. Henry Moore, Reclining Figure (1929): lumpy lady.
  33. Pablo Picasso, Self-Portrait (Cubist: 1903)
  34. Francis Bacon, Study of Red Pope (Study from Innocent X) (1962)
  35. Umberto Boccioni, States of Mind I: The Farewells (1911)
  36. Umberto Boccioni, The Noises of the Street Invade the House (1911)
  37. Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party (1974)
  38. Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man (1960): spindly stick man.
  39. Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (Fauvist: 1952)
  40. Marc Chagall, I and the Village (1911): happy farm montage.
  41. Lucio Fontana, Spatial Concept (1951): gash in red.
  42. Ad Reinhardt, Black Painting (Abstract Expressionist: 1960-66): solid black square, I kid you not. The man hikes down to his local Home Depot, buys a bucket of Sherwin-Williams, and slaps it on a canvas. And it took him six years to do it.
  43. Peter Halley, CUSeeMe (1995)
  44. John Heartfield, Hurray, the Butter is Gone! (Dada: 1935): hungry Nazis.
  45. Eduardo Paolozzi, I was a Rich Man's Plaything (Neo-Dada: 1947): movie poster.
  46. Dorothea Tanning, A Little Night Music (Surrealist: 1946): unwholesome playground. Children in a hallway.
  47. Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (Post-Modernist: 1991): shark in a case
  48. Jenny Holzer, Protect Me From What I Want (Conceptual Art: 1985-86)
  49. Hermann Nitsch, Orgien Mysterien Theater (1985): Jesus and meat.
  50. Giorgio de Chirico, Song of Love (Surrealist: 1914): mask of Alexander the Great and rubber glove. I'm afraid to ask what this has to do with love.
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Statistically and methodologically speaking, I should probably end this list with number 86. Noises of the Street and every work before it appear in at least three books in my study, so they definitely belong on my list. Unfortunately, I then counted 167 art works that appear in two of the books in my study. This means that in order to present an even hundred, I had to subjectively select 14 out of the 167.

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Last updated November 2002

Copyright © 2002 Matthew White