Photo: wikimedia commons
A painting costs no more than a few thousand dollars to create. But it can sell for hundreds of millions.We looked at the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction.
Notably absent are masterpieces that were given to a museum. For instance, the Mona Lisa is valued on insurance papers at $730 million.
Sold for $57 million in 1993. Inflation-adjusted value: $86.4 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by the son of Emil Georg Bührle to Walter H. Annenberg in 1993. Adjusted sale amount 2010 dollars: $86.3 million.
The Painting: Dutch Post-Impressionist movement -- A 28x36 inch, oil on canvas.
One of three painted outside the St-Rémy mental asylum near Arles, France where van Gogh was a patient in 1889.
The Artist: van Gogh was profoundly troubled by how drastically his mental illness affected his personal and professional life.
He cut off the lobe of his left ear, in a brothel, with the same razor he had shortly before threatened his close friend Paul Gaugin.
'Keep this object carefully,' he told the prostitute to whom he handed the severed flesh.
Source: van Gogh's letters
Sold for $80 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $86 million.
Buyer/Seller: David Geffen to Kenneth C. Griffin
The Painting: Neo-Dadaist movement -- 67x54 inch, oil on canvas. The painting has each of its main colours labelled and is considered a classic example of iconography.
The Artist: Johns grew up in South Carolina and attended University of South Carolina for three semesters before moving to New York and attending Parsons School of Design.
Johns is the first painter or sculptor since 1977 to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It bestowed through an act of Congress and is the highest civilian award in the United States.
Sold for $86.3 million in 2008. Inflation-adjusted value: $87 million.
Buyer/Seller: The Moueix Family to Roman Abramovich.
The Painting: Existentialist movement -- 78x58 inch, oil on canvas.
The two end panels represent a man whose head rests on a melting body, the centre appears to depict a 'chandelier' made of human and animal body parts.
The Artist: Margaret Thatcher described Bacon as, 'That man who paints those dreadful pictures.'
He was the subject of three major Tate retrospectives -- in his lifetime.
Despite his success Bacon worked in an terribly small and cramped studio.
Following his death, his biographer claimed that as a boy Bacon was locked in cupboards for hours on end by his nanny, and as a result had come to prefer enclosed spaces.
Source: The Guardian
Sold for $76.7 million in 2002. Inflation-adjusted value: $93 million.
Buyer/Seller: An Austrian family to Kenneth Thomson.
The Painting: Flemish Baroque movement -- 56x72 inch, oil on panel depicting the massacre ordered by King Herod painted in 1610. Record price for an Old Master.
The Artist: Rubens is known for forceful paintings without a lot of detail and the term 'Rubenesque,' which refers to a voluptuous female body type.
The model for most of the depictions in these paintings, composed during the 1630's, is Ruben's second wife, Hélène Fourment, who he married in 1630 when he was 53 and she, 16.
Sold for $87.9 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $95.2 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Maria Altmann to an unknown buyer.
The Painting: Vienna Secession movement -- 75x47 inch, oil on canvas depicting the wife of Klimt's patron, industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The only woman he ever painted twice.
The Artist: In 1876, Klimt received a scholarship to art school in Austria, where he became exposed to the works of local up-and-coming psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Klimt was fond of painting dominant woman, used lots of gold leaf and frequently incorporated phallic imagery in his work where he explored Freud's sexual repression and castration theory.
Source: Gustav Klimt 1862-1918
Sold for $71.5 million in 1998. Inflation-adjusted value: $95.3 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Heirs of Jacques Koerfer to an unknown buyer.
The Painting: Dutch Post-Impressionist movement -- A 13x16 inch, oil on canvas. A series of self-portraits painted in succession, much like his Sunflower series, this piece is unique in that the artist depicts himself without a beard.
The Artist: Although he didn't start painting until his late 20's, van Gogh completed 2,000 works of art -- 900 paintings and 1,100 sketches -- by the time he shot himself in the head at the age of 37.
This catalogue of work does not take into account the newly confirmed fact that van Gogh overpainted up to a third of his canvases.
Source: Art History Archive
Sold for $100 million in 2008. Inflation-adjusted value: $100.9 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Annibale Berlingieri to an unknown buyer.
The Painting: Pop Art movement -- A 12 foot canvas, part of a once larger 37 foot canvas.
There are many double and triple Elvises, but only one Eight Elvis print.
The Artist: Warhol produced over 10,000 works from the time he left graphic design in 1961 until his death in 1987 at the age of 58.
Despite the large number, Warhol's have proven recession proof and consistently command the highest prices of any post-WW II artist.
Source: Religious Art of Andy Warhol
Sold for $59.3 million in 1987. Inflation-adjusted value: $102 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Whitney Payson to Alan Bond.
The Painting: Dutch Post-Impressionist movement -- A 28x36 inch, oil on canvas painted at the asylum in 1890.
The Artist: Vincent had one brother, Theo -- four years his junior -- a Dutch art dealer who supplied van Gogh with all his painting supplies.
Only one of Vincent's paintings ever sold in their lifetimes -- the Red Vineyard, for 400 francs, immediately prior to the artist's death.
Theo died at 33 from from dementia paralytica, the last stage of syphilis, just months after Vincent shot himself.
Sold for $95.2 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $102.7 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by the Gidwitz family to Boris Ivanishvili.
The Painting: Cubist movement -- A 50x38 inch, oil on canvas painted in 1941 when Picasso was 60 and Maar 34, five years after they met.
This is one of many portraits of Dora Maar painted during their decade long relationship.
The Artist: Picasso produced about 50,000 works of art including, 1,885 paintings, 1,228 sculptures, 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.
He is one of few painters to have amassed great wealth from his art, during his lifetime.
Source: The Atlantic
Sold for $58 million in 1989. Inflation-adjusted value: $101.7 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by a private collector in Zürich to the Museum of Modern Art New York.
The Painting: Dutch Post-Impressionist movement -- A 25x22 inch, oil on canvas.
van Gogh painted the entire Roulin family at their home outside Arles, France near the mental asylum.
The clan was similar in size to van Gogh's and some believe he adopted them to replace to his own family.
Source: New York Times
Sold for $106.5 million in 2010. Inflation-adjusted value: $106.6 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Frances Lasker Brody to an unknown buyer.
The Painting: Cubist movement -- A 64x51 inch, oil on canvas.
More than five feet tall, the picture is one of a series done by Picasso of his muse and mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter.
The Artist: Picasso was a staunch communist from 1944 until his death in 1973.
His only period of turbulence with the Soviets was in the mid-1960's, when a picture he painted of Stalin was criticised by party members for being insufficiently realistic.
Sold for $104.2 million in 2004. Inflation-adjusted value: $120.3 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Greentree Foundation to Guido Barilla in 2004.
The Painting: Cubist movement -- 39x32 inch, oil on canvas. Painted in 1905 when Picasso was 24 years old, during his Rose Period.
The Artist: Picasso painted this piece while living in the Montmartre section of Paris.
The Rose Period paintings typically have a more cheery style than previous pieces and feature many circus people.
Source: Picasso Paintings
Sold for $78.1 million in 1990. Inflation-adjusted value: $132 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Betsey Whitney to Ryoei Saito.
The Painting: Impressionist movement -- A 52x69 inch, oil on canvas.
The picture is of a Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre in Paris close to where Renoir lived.
The Artist: As a boy from a working class family, Renoir worked in a porcelain factory painting designs on china before enrolling in art school.
The largest collection of Renoirs, 181 paintings, resides at the Barnes Foundation, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Sold for $82.5 million in 1990. Inflation-adjusted value: $139.5 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Siegfried Kramarsky to Ryoei Saito.
The Painting: Dutch Post-Impressionist movement -- A 23x22 inch, oil on canvas.
There are two versions of this portrait of the doctor who took care of van Gogh in his final months.
The Artist: van Gogh said of the painting: 'There are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later.'
Source: US News
Sold for $135 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $145.3 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by Maria Altmann to Ronald Lauder and Neue Galerie.
The Painting: The Vienna Secession movement -- A 54x54 inch, Oil, silver, and gold on canvas.
The second painting of the wife of Klimt's patron Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.
It took three years to complete.
The Artist: Klimt, who lived in poverty as a child, had two brothers who also showed artistic talent -- their father was a gold engraver, their mother a musician.
Sold for $137.5 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $149.1million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by David Geffen to Steven A. Cohen.
The Painting: Abstract expressionist movement -- A 68x49 inch, oil on canvas.
Owned by the Tehran museum since the late 70's, the painting was forbidden to be displayed after the 1979 revolution.
It was traded to Geffen in 1994 for a 16th century Persian manuscript.
The Artist: de Kooning left his job at a Rotterdam department store to become one of 38 artists to paint the murals at the 1939 World's Fair.
His first show was at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York 1948.
Source: New York Times
Sold for $140 million in 2006. Inflation-adjusted value: $151.8 million.
Buyer/Seller: Sold by David Geffen to Steven A. Cohen.
The Painting: Abstract -- A 4x8 foot, piece of fiberboard covered with thick amounts of brown, grey and yellow paint drizzled from the top.
The Artist: Liquid paint was a novelty at the time Pollock used it.
Time Magazine dubbed him 'Jack the Dripper' for his style.
The artist was a troubled and volatile alcoholic, reclusive, though he enjoyed a great amount of fame in his life.
He died in 1956, at 44, in an alcohol-related car accident.
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