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Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings Ever

Hundreds of thousands — even millions — of dollars are spent every year by art patrons eager to own the world's most sought-after paintings. Find out a little more about this shortlist of Picasso's, Van Gogh's and more works from famous artists who still command the highest prices, what makes these paintings so special, and why they're worth so very much...

1. Nafae faa ipopo? (When will you marry?) by Paul Gauguin ($300,000,000)

Gauguin's 1892 painting and sales record breaker
Detail from Nafae faa ipopo? (When will you marry?) by Paul Gauguin

The oil-on-canvas features a pair of Tahitian girls seated next to a tree and was produced in 1892 during Gauguin's first visit to French Polynesia.

The painting by French Impressionist Paul Gauguin beat all records for the most expensive painting ever sold when it was reportedly purchased in February 2015 by a museum in the oil-rich country Mideast country of Quatar. The ticket price? A whopping $300 million.

Before the historic sale, the Gauguin artwork had been previously owned by a private Swiss collector, Rudolf Staechelin, a retired Sotheby executive.

Les femmes d’Alger” (Version “O”) 2. Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) by Pablo Picasso ($179,300,000)

The 1955 cubist masterpiece “Les femmes d’Alger” (Version “O”) sold at auction in May 2015 for almost $180 million. A lifetime admirer of the painter Delacroix's Les femmes d’Alger, Picasso painted 15 variations on the painting between December 1954 and February 1955, designated as versions A through O.

The sale beat the previous auction record of $142.4 million set by Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud." 

3. Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon ($142,000,000)

Three Studies of Lucian Freuid by Francis BaconPainted in 1969, the triptych (a three-panel painting) by Francis Bacon depicts artist Lucian Freud, a close friend of the Irish-born British painter.

Sold at auction at Christie's in New York for what was then a record-breaking price for a painting at auction, the sale took all of six minutes following a short burst of "fierce" bidding.

4. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt ($135,000,000)

Klimt's portrait of adele bloch-bauerThe record-breaking sale - which followed a court order by the Austrian government to return the painting to Bloch-Bauer's heir - was the culmination of a years-long dispute over the painting looted by Nazis during World War II.

Painted by the art nouveau master Gustav Klimt in 1907, the portrait was purchased in 2006 by cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder.

The Scream, by Edvard Munch5. The Scream by Edvard Munch ($119,900,000)

One of four that exist, this most vibrant version of the original iconic image created by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch sold at auction in May 2012 for close to $120,000,000.

The 19th century image, portraying what the artist called "the great scream in nature" soon became the subject of countless parodies throughout the 20th century and, today, remains on a par with Da Vinci's Mona Lisa as one of the most recognized images in the world.

Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur6. Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust) by Pablo Picasso ($106, 500,00) Created in a single day in March 1932, Picasso's painting set a world record auction price for a work of art at Christie's in May 2010. The painting, more than 5 feet by 4 feet, shows Picasso's mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, both reclining and as a bust.

7. Garçon à la Pipe by Pablo Picasso ($104,100,000)

Garcon a la Pipe by PicassoGarçon à la Pipe was created during the artist's famous Rose Period, during which Picasso painted with a cheerful orange and pink palatte. The oil on canvas painting, measuring 100 × 81.3 cm (slightly over 39 × 32 inches), depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand.

The record price auction at Sotheby's New York on May 4, 2004 was a bit of a surprise to art buyers, since it was painted in the style not usually associated with the pioneering Cubist artist.

8. Dora Maar with Cat by Pablo Picasso ($95,200,000)

Dora Maar with CatAnother big surprise followed in 2006, when this painting near doubled its presale estimate and fetched a record $95,200,000 at auction at Sotheby's on May 3, 2006.

Painted in 1941, Picasso's controversial portrait (one of his last) is sometimes described as an unflattering depiction of his mistress, Dora Maar, who was an artist/photographer and mistress of Picasso whose relationship lasted ten years during the 1930s and 40s.

9. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh ($82,500,000)

Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van GoghThis painting by the Dutch Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh suddenly became world-famous when Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito paid $82.5 million for it at auction in Christie's, New York. Saito was so attached to the painting that he wanted it to be cremated with him when he died. Saito died in 1996 ... but the painting was saved.

Vincent van Gogh actually painted two versions of Dr Gachet's portrait. You can view the other version, with a slightly different color scheme, at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

10. Le Bassin Aux Nympheas by Claude Monet ($80,451,178)

Produced by the Impressionist master in 1919, the painting depicts the water lilies that grew in Monet's garden located just outside Paris, it sold at Christie's London auction house for a £40,921,250 pounds ($80,451,178) in June 2008, the highest price for a work of art sold by Christie's in Europe. The estimate was £18–24 million.

 

Updated May 2015


Various sources, including: Bruno Dillen - ART in the PICTURE .com - An Introduction to Art History


 

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