The 10 most famous black paintings - Artst (2023)

The challenge of representing light and dark has always been present for artists in most of the major art movements of the last few centuries.

Black paintings are often done to express a sense of darkness or damage, but modern painters have created them for a variety of different meanings.

In this article, we take a look at some of the most famous black paintings in history, as well as the artists behind the works and why they painted them. squareKasimir Malewitsch

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One of the most iconic works of modern times and certainly one of the most famous black paintings in recent history was created by Kazimir Malevich.

Born in the Ukraine near the height of the Impressionist movement, Malevich attempted to produce his own new style of movement in a variety of forms when he began his career in the late 19th century.

The painting for which he is best known is titled Black Square, and the first version of this work was completed in 1915 at the height of his career.

As the name suggests, this work consisted solely of a large black square in which the artist used copious amounts of black paint on canvas to create a distinctive appearance once dry.

Historians and art critics have taken note of this painting and its unique perception. It is a perfect representation of modern art and represents a sense of exploration of styles not previously considered.

2.two oldfrancisco goja

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Francisco Goya is considered one of the most important painters of the Romantic era, which took place in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

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Many of his works exhibit a predominant sense of darkness or blackness, which is often believed to have been intended to represent evil in his paintings.

One of Goya's best-known works is titled Two Old Men. This painting was completed in 1823, but it is believed that Goya took at least 3 years to complete, as he was considerably older than most of his peers in the Romantic movement.

As the name suggests, the painting depicts two old men against a dark, black background.

This painting is part of a series of 14 such works known as Goya's Black Paintings. Each of these paintings depicts twisted, somewhat cartoonish figures on a dark black background.

3.Quince, cabbage, melon and cucumberJuan Sanchez Cotan

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Juan Sánchez Cotán is considered one of the few avant-garde painters of the Baroque in Spain. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Cotán explored the interpretation of his works in extremely realistic detail, rather than idealizing his subject matter.

One of Cotán's most notable works is the one he completed in 1602 at the height of his career. It is titled Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber and depicts a common still life style motif on a black background.

This work is a classic example of Cotán's distinctive style of still life painting, which consisted of a very dark background intended to better define the objects within the painting.

The very dark background of these paintings contrasts with the work of other still lifes, which usually have a lighter background.

4.dead bullfighterEdward Manet

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Édouard Manet is best known as one of the greatest painters of the 18th century French Impressionist movement. However, the artist displayed a masterful ability to depict subjects in the very popular Realism style, also present in the mid-19th century.


One of his greatest works of realism is also a painting that ranks among Manet's most morbid. Completed in 1865, this painting was titled El muerto or the dead bullfighter because it depicts the body of a bullfighter lying on the ground, crutch in hand.

The bullfighter's clothing is mostly black, and the painting contains exceptional amounts of realistic detail, reflecting Manet's mastery of skill as an artist.

5.Man mocked by two womenfrancisco goja

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Another famous black painting by Francisco Goya shared many of the same qualities and characteristics for which his work Dois Velhos was known.

The work was also made at the same time as the end of Goya's life and at a time in his life when many of his works were clearly black.

The painting is titled Man Mocked by Two Women and was completed in 1823 and is in many ways similar to Goya's other black paintings, depicting distorted human faces that many critics describe as somewhat demonic.

This painting was one of his 14 famous works known as Goya's Black Paintings.

6.abstract painting #5Advertising Reinhardt

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American painter Ad Reinhardt was one of many abstract artists living in the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

As the Industrial Revolution ushered the United States and Europe into a new era, the works of art created by many painters reflected a much more distinctive character than that of previous generations.

Reinhardt's work was known to be particularly dark, and his most famous painting is Abstract Painting No. 5.

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The iconic black painting was painted in 1962 and features a canvas that appears to be stained with black paint. This, like almost all of Reinhardt's other work, was done entirely in black ink.

7.iberianRoberto Mutterwell

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Robert Motherwell is another famous abstract artist of the mid-20th century. The American painter is best known for his many diverse works, including heavy use of black ink and dark tones on canvas.

His works have been viewed by critics and scholars as not only abstract, but in many ways philosophical and even politically motivated.

One of his greatest masterpieces is titled Iberia and was created in 1958. This work shows Motherwell's distinctive way of using a solid color of different depths to create lighter and darker tones on the same canvas.

This, like many of his other paintings in the Motherwell Elegies series, contains abstract designs of intricate shapes and columns.

While Motherwell is known for working in many colors to produce this style of painting, one of the best known is Iberia, known for being simple and deeply thoughtful.

Many critics believe that Motherwell's unique painting style was related to the Spanish Civil War and the darkness that accompanied those violent conflicts.

8.Untitled (black on grey)1969 –Markus Rothko

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Another abstract artist known for using solid colors on a large canvas was Mark Rothko. In fact, this particular style of abstract expressionist painting later became synonymous with the equally respected name Rothko.

The painter often created works that seemed too simple to the casual viewer, but were deeply connected to the more complicated subjects they represented.

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One of Rothko's most famous paintings is titled Untitled (Black on Grey) from 1969. This work is considered one of the most iconic paintings of the abstract movement and is undoubtedly known as one of the best dark paintings of the time. .

9.cart with black ox– Vicentevan Gogh

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Although it is known that Vincent van Gogh went through various periods in which his mental and emotional state was distinctly dark, his painting style was almost exclusively bright and rich in colour.

Many of his works revolved around flowers, the landscapes he created "en plein air" and other natural paintings that displayed the impressionist style.

Van Gogh was deeply disturbed in the latter part of his short life and spent many months in various asylums and mental hospitals in the south of France and near the city of Paris. One of his most notable black paintings is titled Cart with Black Ox and was completed early in his career in 1884.

The artist is known to have created several other variations on the same particular theme and is said to date from his time spent in the small farming town of Nuenen in the south of France.

10ZebraVictor Vasarely

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Our list of highly obscured subject paintings would not be complete without mentioning the works of Victor Vasarely, famous for his style of abstract painting in which he creates optical illusions.

Vasarely is known to have used a variety of different methods to create optical illusions, but he often relied on ultimate blacks to create these unique effects on his viewers.

One of his best works bears the simple title Zebra. This iconic 1937 painting was created using black and white colors along with the specific placement of the two zebras to create a strange and distinctive visual effect.

The necks of the two zebras in the painting are entwined, giving the impression that the stripes of each animal are deceptively intertwined.

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Who is the most famous black painter? ›

Modern black artists
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Are there any famous black painters? ›

Explore works from Black artists across centuries, mediums, and geographies, ranging from 19th century still life painter Robert Seldon Duncanson to modern and contemporary pieces by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Alma Thomas, Sam Gilliam, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and more.

What artist is known for creating solid black paintings? ›

Ad Reinhardt is an American abstract painter who is most famous for his huge black paintings. Not paintings in black and white, but large canvases painted in solid black oil paint.

Who was the 1st black artist? ›

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first successful African-American artist. He triumphed in a world that was predominantly white to create paintings of power, beauty and poignancy. Tanner's mother was a black slave who had dramatically escaped via a railroad.

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Henry Ossawa Tanner was the United States' first African-American celebrity artist.

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She began to gain prominence in the United States during the Civil War; at the end of the 19th century, she remained the only Black woman artist who had participated in and been recognized to any extent by the American artistic mainstream.
Edmonia Lewis
Patron(s)Numerous patrons, American and European
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What is the highest selling painting by a Black artist? ›

Did you also know that the most expensive painting of a living artist is of African descent? 'Past Times' by Kerry James Marshall fetched the highest auction price ever registered in history. The 9 foot by 13-foot piece of art was sold at $21.1 million inclusive of fees at Sotheby's Contemporary art sale.

Who were Black painters in 1960s? ›

Some African-American artists did make it into important New York galleries by the 1950s and 1960s: Horace Pippin, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Richard Hunt, William T. Williams, Norman Lewis, Thomas Sills, and Sam Gilliam were among the few who had successfully been received in a gallery setting.

What are Black Paintings called? ›

The 'Pinturas Negras', or 'Black Paintings', are fourteen works by Spanish artist Francisco Goya . Created during his later years in Spain from around 1819 to 1823, the paintings depict haunting images and dark themes. These intense creations reflect his fear of insanity.

Who is the most famous painter today? ›

Gerhard Richter is at the very top of our list—the most famous living painter today. Born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany, Richter currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany. Richter dedicated his career to exploring the medium of painting in close relation to the effects of photography.

Who was the black paint artist from the 80s? ›

Jean-Michel Basquiat (French: [ʒɑ̃ miʃɛl baskja]; December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist who rose to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement. New York City, U.S.

Where are the original black paintings? ›

It should also be said that the Black Paintings were made during the period when Spain was ruled by a liberal government which lasted from 1820 to 1823; this once again changed with the restoration of absolute monarchy. Today, Goya's The Black Paintings are on permanent display at the Museo del Prado.

What artist is known for his black and white paintings? ›

Picasso Black and White is the first exhibition to explore the remarkable use of black and white throughout the Spanish artist's prolific career. Claiming that color weakens, Pablo Picasso purged it from his work in order to highlight the formal structure and autonomy of form inherent in his art.

How many black paintings are there? ›

The Black Paintings (Spanish: Pinturas negras) is the name given to a group of 14 paintings by Francisco Goya from the later years of his life, likely between 1819 and 1823.

Who named the Black Paintings? ›

Francisco Goya

What was the first #1 hit for an African American artist? ›

On September 29, 1958, Tommy Edwards became the first Black artist to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “It's All In The Game,” an oldie swing song prophesying a couple's first kiss.

Who was the biggest selling black artist of the 1950's? ›

Fats Domino was the rock and roll pioneer who brought the genre to the masses and, most importantly, bringing black music to white teenagers. Domino became a massive star during the 1950s. But his music went beyond rock and roll.

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This exhibition is the first nationally touring retrospective to celebrate the art and legacy of Aaron Douglas who is today considered the foremost visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance and “the father of Black American art.” The exhibition included approximately 100 paintings, works on paper, and book illustrations.

Who were the revolutionary black artists? ›

The Black Arts Movement started in 1965 when poet Amiri Baraka [LeRoi Jones] established the Black Arts Repertory Theater in Harlem, New York, as a place for artistic expression. Artists associated with this movement include Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, James Baldwin, Gil Scott-Heron, and Thelonious Monk.

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When it comes to pioneers in African American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Muhammad Ali are often mentioned—and rightfully so.

Who are the top 10 artists in Africa? ›

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1. Burna Boy: The best African musician on our list is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu known professionally as Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer and rapper. After releasing the lead single of his debut album “Like to Party” he broke into limelight.

Who is the most famous African-American female artist? ›

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Who was the first professional black painter in the United States? ›

Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21, 1859 – May 25, 1937) was an American artist and the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.

What black artist painting sells for millions? ›

'The Sugar Shack,' painting from 'Good Times' and Marvin Gaye cover sells for $15.2M. Some recognize the painting from "Good Times," the 1970s sitcom about a Black Chicago family. Others who see it think of Marvin Gaye's 14th studio album, "I Want You."

What is the highest selling art piece of all time? ›

This is a list of the highest known prices paid for paintings. The current record price is approximately US$450.3 million (which includes commission), paid for Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi ( c. 1500).

Who created the blackest black paint? ›

Since his "pinkest pink," Semple has gone on to create a color that is strikingly similar to International Klein Blue, called "Easy Klein: IKB Incredibly Kleinish Blue." His studio also makes what it calls the "greenest green" and -- crucially -- paint it claims to be the "blackest black."

Who is the greatest black inventor of all time? ›

Generally, when people think of famous African-American inventors, one of the first names that springs to mind is George Washington Carver. Perhaps most famously, Carver discovered over 300 different uses for peanuts – including making cooking oil, axle grease and printer's ink.


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