In the summer of 2016 I was thrilled to find a T-shirt emblazoned with one of my favourite paintings – The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix. When I posted a selfie of me wearing it, on Twitter, calling it – quite randomly – “My Third Favourite Painting”, someone asked what the others were. And so I have compiled a Top Ten of My Favourite Paintings.
The rules were simple – they had to be paintings as opposed to prints, or pastels, or sketches (I’m holding those back for a separate Top Ten), and I had to have seen them in Real Life. I broke this last rule in the case of the Bosch, which for many years I had on my wall in the form of a poster. But obviously, no reproduction or uploaded photo is never going to do justice to the scale, colour or texture of the original. Thus the pictures on this page cannot hope to convey the sheer scale of The Raft of the Medusa or The Death of Sardanapalus. Nor can they do more than hint at the magical quality of the light of View of Delft or L’empire des Lumières. I can only urge you to seek out the originals, should you happen to find yourself in the cities where they reside. If you click on the links you can find more information about each painting or artist.
Here, then, in no particular order, are ten of my favourite paintings. They don’t all tend towards the gruesome and/or sinister. But most of them do. It’s not a definitive list, so I may well add to it at some point. I also like, for examples, some of the Italians, Pre-Raphaelites and British landscape, but found it hard to whittle it down to individual paintings.
I’m sorry if you find it excessively European (mostly French and Flemish/Dutch), but these are the traditions in which I was raised, and which I know best.