Famous Works of Art That Are Lost ForeverAlthough we may not realize it, art is a cultural statement that remains to inform and educate future generations of how life once was. This is what makes certain pieces of art more poignant and famous than others, when they come to symbolize a generation or period of time. Yet there are certain works of art that can no longer teach us these invaluable lessons. Here are ten of the most famous masterpieces that have been forever lost to mankind.
1. The Colossus of Rhodes, Charles of Lindos
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek Titan Helios, the personification of the sun, on the island of Rhodes, constructed by artist Charles of Lindos in 280 BCE. The statue, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 226 BCE, stood over 30 meters (98.4 feet) high and was one of the tallest statues in the ancient world. Until today, it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, constructed to celebrate the victory of Rhodes over the ruler of Cyprus in 305 BCE.
2. The Painter, Pablo Picasso
One of the most famous paintings by the modern art world’s beloved creator, this 1963 painting entitled «Le Peintre» (The Painter) was lost in a 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111 off of Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the time of the crash, the painting was valued at about one and half million dollars. «Le Peintre» was part of a famous series in Picasso’s revolutionary ‘Blue Movement’.
3. Fourteen Paintings, Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian symbolist painter in the mid to late 19th century whose work focused on the female form and were noted for their eroticism. Serena Lederer was a wealthy Viennese art collector and a prominent member of Austria society who collected fourteen of Klimt’s paintings that came to be known as the Fourteen Paintings. In 1943, Lederer sent the paintings to the Schloss Immendorf museum for safe keeping during the war, however the opposite occurred. The Nazi Party set fire to the Schloss Immendorf Museum in 1945, ruining all of Lederer’s Klimt works along with thousands of other pieces of art.
4. Water Lillies, Claude MonetOne of Claude Monet’s most famous works as the founder of the French impressionist movement, two of the paintings from the series were destroyed by fire in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in 1958. The entire Water Lillies series was completed by Monet in 1883 and contained over 250 oil paintings, and which were also painted while Monet was suffering from cataracts. In April, 1958, a fire broke out on the second floor of MoMA, which was supposedly set off by a worker who lit a cigarette too close to paint cans and canvas.
5. Portrait of Winston Churchill, Graham Sutherland
In 1954, the artist Graham Sutherland was commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of Winston Churchill in celebration of is 80th birthday. Sutherland was considered a ‘moderate painter’ and was known for capturing the ‘real side’ of his subjects, which is why the House of Commons and House of Lords donated money to have the painting done in 1954. Yet Sutherland’s true-to-life style was not so appreciated by Churchill himself, nor his wife, and after the public presentation, it was never officially displayed. In 1977, following Lady Churchill’s death, it was discovered that she had destroyed the painting upon receiving it.
6. Leda and the Swan, Michaelangelo
The Greek myth of Leda and the Swan was painted into life by Michaelangleo around 1530. In the story of Leda and the swan, the Greek god Zeus appears in the form of a swan and rapes and seduces Leda. From that encounter, Helen and Polydeuces are born, the former to later become the reason for the Trojan War. According to the story, Michaelangelo gave the painting to his friend and student, Antonia Mini, who then took the painting with him to France. There, Mini may have sold the painting because it was last seen in the royal collection of Fontainebleau in 1530. The court painter, Rosso Fiorentino, painted a copy of it and it is the only copy that still remains, besides Peter Paul Rubens reproduction of it.
7. Mississippi River Panorama, John Banvard
John Banvard was an American panorama and portrait painter best known for his panoramic views of the Mississippi Valley. In 1840, the New York-born artist spent months traveling up and down the Mississippi River in a boat to sketch and take in the scenery. Eventually, he transferred his sketches to a large canvas which he then beautifully painted. It is believed that the finished work measured 12 feet high and a mile and a half long, and toured the United States in the mid-19th century. Towards the end of the 19th century, the panorama was cut into several pieces for storage and some of those pieces have never been recovered.
8. The Painter on His Way to Work, Vincent Van Gogh
Another of the world’s infamous modern artists and the creator of the famous Starry Night, this painting was finished in July of 1888, just two years before the artist’s death. Of the nearly two thousand works of art completed in Van Gogh’s life time, this is one of six that has disappeared. The painting was housed at the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum, which was destroyed by fire in the Second World War. The painting is believed to be one of Van Gogh’s many self-portraits, in which he is carrying his painting supplies in Montmajour.
9. Spring, Jean- Antoine Watteau
Known as the rejuvenator of the Baroque style, Watteau was a well-known French painter in the early 18th century. In 1716, Watteau painted a series of seasonal images for Pierre Crozat, a prominent French art collector, entitled Spring (Printemps), Autumn, Winter, and Summer. Of the four seasonal paintings, only one remains today. Spring was magically rediscovered in 1964, only to be destroyed by fire just two years later, and Autumn and Winter have never been found.
10. The Concert, Johannes Vermeer
Painted in 1664 by the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, The Concert depicts a man and two women playing music. It belonged to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but in one of the most famous art heists in history, was stolen in 1990 and remains missing. The estimated value of the painting is about $200 million, thought to be one of the most valuable unrecovered stolen paintings. The thieves were believed to be disguised as police officers, and stole 13 more works of art from the museum, including Rembrandt’s «The Storm of the Sea of Galilee».