Best Paintings in the World: In 2006, media mogul David Geffen sold Jackson Pollock’s masterwork, No. 5 1948, for $140 million.  This made Pollock’s work the most expensive painting in modern history, leading a list of the world’s most highly acclaimed artists.  From Pollock to Picasso, Renoir to Van Gogh, famous fine art fetches an other-worldly price on today’s market.  In celebration of their masterworks and the riches now behind them, here is a list of the 15 most expensive paintings in the world.

To round out this list, we’ve arranged these paintings by an adjusted price in 2008 dollars.  The U.S. dollar has inflated quite a bit since 1987, when Van Gogh’s Irises sold for $53.9 million.  Today, that $53.9 million is worth roughly $102.3 million.

Number Fifteen: Yo, Picasso by Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s 1901 self-portrait may not be his most instantly recognizable, but it certainly did capture a hefty price on the fine art market.  Long before Picasso began experimenting with cubism and surrealism, his early oil works were equally as stunning.  An interesting anecdote about Picasso– his full name is “Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso”.  No joke.

  • Artist: Pablo Picasso
  • Year: 1901
  • Year of Sale: 1989
  • Sale Price: $47.85 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $83.2 million

Number Fourteen: A Wheatfield with Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh

One of two Van Gogh landscapes in the top 15 is A Wheatfield by Cypresses, an idyllic nature scene with the artist’s signature swirling skies.  Wheatfield was owned by philanthropist/diplomat Walter Annenberg until his death in 2002, and is now a part of his estate.

  • Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Year: 1889
  • Year of Sale: 1993
  • Sale Price: $57 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $85.1 million

Number Thirteen: False Start by Jasper Johns

The lone contemporary piece in the top 15 was among a large collection of art sold by media mogul David Geffen in 2006.  If you’re like us, you might just be scratching your head about the pricetag on this one…

  • Artist: Jasper Johns
  • Year: 1959
  • Year of Sale: 2006
  • Sale Price: $80 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $85.6 million

Number Twelve: Les Noces de Pierrette by Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s Les Noces de Pierrette is among the artist’s blue period, including some of his most famous works.  At the time, Picasso was facing poverty and the loss of a close friend who had recently committed suicide.  It was works like this that would prove cathartic for the artist- and lead him to wealth later in life.

  • Artist: Pablo Picasso
  • Year: 1905
  • Year of Sale: 1989
  • Sale Price: $49.3 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $85.7 million

Number Eleven: Triptych by Francis Bacon

As one of the premier artists of the surrealist period, Irish painter Francis Bacon explored the tri-panel format of painting called the Triptych.  His work of the same name is the most recent sale on this list, going for $86.3 million.

  • Artist: Francis Bacon
  • Year: 1976
  • Year of Sale: 2008
  • Sale Price: $86.3 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $86.3 million

Number Ten: Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents is both the earliest work on this list as well as its only religious-inspired painting.  Painted in 1611, Massacre represents a scene from the Bible’s Gospel According to Matthew.

  • Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
  • Year: 1611
  • Year of Sale: 2002
  • Sale Price: $76.7 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $91.9 million

Number Nine: Portrait de l’artiste sans barbe by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s beardless self-portrait shows the artist hiding something– namely a nasty, Absinthe-fueled shaving accident.  In the year of this portrait, Van Gogh cut off part of his ear amidst a bout of severe depression that would later lead to his suicide.

  • Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Year: 1889
  • Year of Sale: 1998
  • Sale Price: $71.5 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $94.6 million

Number Eight: Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso

One of Picasso’s greatest works was a portrait of his then-mistress Dora Maar.  Miss Maar was 29-years-old at the time, 26 years younger than Picasso.  The subject was seated with a black cat perched on her shoulder.

  • Artist: Pablo Picasso
  • Year: 1941
  • Year of Sale: 2006
  • Sale Price: $95.2 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $101.8 million

Number Seven: Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s second landscape on this list is named simply Irises, showing at first glance a rather sunny world that was much in contrast to the artist’s disposition.

  • Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Year: 1889
  • Year of Sale: 1987
  • Sale Price: $53.9 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $102.3 million

Number Six: Garçon à la pipe by Pablo Picasso

The “boy at the pipe” is Picasso’s most highly priced painting on this list, having sold for $104.2 million in 2004 (currency adjusted to $118.9 million).  The boy in the painting was among the community of entertainers living in the Montmartre section of Paris, many of which were the subjects of Picasso’s red period.

  • Artist: Pablo Picasso
  • Year: 1905
  • Year of Sale: 2004
  • Sale Price: $104.2 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $118.9 million

Number Five: Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Renoir’s sole entry in the top 15 most expensive paintings is his work Bal au moulin de la Galette.  This painting was sold in 1990 to Ryoei Saito, the chairman of a Japanese paper company and a collector of fine art.

  • Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Year: 1876
  • Year of Sale: 1990
  • Sale Price: $78.1 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $128.8 million

Number Four: Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh

This and the last painting were at one point the two most expensive paintings in the world, sold together to Ryoei Saito in 1990.  This would become Van Gogh’s most expensive painting to date, selling for an impressive $82.5 million ($136.1 million today).

  • Artist: Vincent Van Gogh
  • Year: 1890
  • Year of Sale: 1990
  • Sale Price: $82.5 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $136.1 million

Number Three: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

Once the world’s most expensive painting, Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer took three years to create in oil and gold.  The painting was commissioned by a Swiss sugar magnate, a fan of Klimt and the husband of the painting’s subject.

  • Artist: Gustav Klimt
  • Year: 1907
  • Year of Sale: 2006
  • Sale Price: $135 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $144.4 million

Number Two: Woman III by Willem de Kooning

This, the second most-expensive painting in the world was among the collection sold by David Geffen in 2006.  Woman III by Willem de Kooning was among six painted by the artist between 1951 and 1953, with this version ending up at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art– where it would be later hid from the public due to its inadherence to the government’s rules of morality.

  • Artist: Willem de Kooning
  • Year: 1953
  • Year of Sale: 2006
  • Sale Price: $137.5 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $147 million

Number One: No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock’s 1948 painting entitled No. 5 1948 was arguably his greatest masterwork, the most vivid expression of the painter’s unique style.  When it was sold by David Geffen in 2006, it became the world’s most expensive painting in history at a price-adjusted $149.70 million dollars.

  • Artist: Jackson Pollock
  • Year: 1948
  • Year of Sale: 2006
  • Sale Price: $140 million
  • Currency Adjusted: $149.70 million

Of these top 15, you’ve seen Vincent Van Gogh mentioned quite a bit.  Van Gogh leads this list with $418.1 million worth of art, followed by Pablo Picasso with $389.6 million.  Note also that Gustav Klimt’s painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I should have placed twice on this list, as a second version painted by Klimt also sold for $94 million.  In the interest of completeness, we excluded the second version.

Thanks for reading, StyleCravers, Diggers, Stumblers and otherwise.  What do you think about this list?  Do you think these paintings merit these prices?  Let us know in the comments, and let us know which painting is your favorite from this list.

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