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10 Surprising Masterpieces for the 10th Birthday of DailyArt App

Zuzanna Stańska 22 August 2022 min Read

So, it happened. 10 years ago we launched the DailyArt app – a small mobile app which started everything. Aiming to give joy, inspiration, and a small dose of art history every day, it unexpectedly grew so much that now it is available in 22 languages and reaches millions of users worldwide. So far we have published around 3600 masterpieces created by 1145 artists. Meanwhile we launched DailyArt Magazine, DailyArt Shop, and DailyArt Courses. Our mission is not only to spread art history everywhere we can, but also to focus on women artists and non-Western art. We promise we won’t stop, and these first 10 years are only the beginning! 🙂

We thought about what you might find interesting regarding the masterpieces featured in the app, and we figured it out – we would like to share with you the 10 most surprising, unexpected, and intriguing masterpieces published in DailyArt so far. After all these years, even we were surprised to discover them in our archive 😀

Two more things before we start:

First, you can download DailyArt app for free on iOS and Android.

Second, we started a crowdfunding campaign to develop a brand new DailyArt app. It will be much more intuitive, better performing, and will have some new features which all art lovers would love. Please consider helping us reach our goal and continue our mission here.

And now, let’s start with…

10 Surprising Masterpieces for the 10th Birthday of DailyArt App

1. Psychotic Killer Bunny With Axe

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: The Psychotic Killer Bunny with an Axe, 14th century, Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne, Paris, France.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Psychotic Killer Bunny with an Axe, 14th century, Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne, Paris, France. Published 3 Jun 2021.

This is one of my personal favorites. To be honest, I was enchanted by medieval killer rabbits at one point. Unfortunately, this amazing masterpiece has no title. Among scientists it is known from its official library address: “Paris, Bibl. de la Sorbonne, ms. 0121, f. 023,” which means nothing to any normal human being. But, as we can see it is a rabbit holding an axe. Why on earth was it painted on a very expensive, luxurious item such as a medieval manuscript? It is unknown but you must know one thing—medieval monks had a very interesting sense of humor. Also they were probably bored to death while all they did was pray and rewrite books. Maybe because of that, they quite often added little somethings from themselves in so-called marginalia. In these margins, they painted an upside-down world full of jokes, funny creatures, social caricatures, sex, and many other things. Killer rabbits were very popular as well. They had killer weapons, tortured human beings and dogs, rode on snails, and had battles.

This bunny is particularly vicious. Look at how he smiles! Doesn’t he remind you of Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicolson in Kubrick’s The Shining? But in reality, he is just a regular psychotic rabbit from a medieval manuscript.

P.S. Here are more of them. Beware!

2. Moritz von Schwind, Cats Symphony

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Moritz von Schwind, Cats Symphony, 1868, Staatlische Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Moritz von Schwind, Cats Symphony, 1868, Staatlische Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany. Published 27 Sep 2021.

As you may know, we love cats, and art, and music. This is a perfect combination! Moritz von Schwind was a 19th century Austrian painter and draftsman. Cats Symphony, one of his best-known hand drawings, is the humorous depiction of a melody for violins in which instead of notes, numerous cats move across the paper.

The composition can be interpreted as a caricature of Richard Wagner’s music, which the artist did not appreciate very much. Schwind gave the sheet away to one of his friends, violinist Joseph Joachim. The reason for the gift was Joachim’s appointment as director of the Berlin University of Music. On January 19, 1869, Schwind sent Eduard Mörike a letter and a photo of the drawing. It says:

“I became a musician, a future musician in the second higher degree. Get rid of the old, stiff, dry noting system! Obsolete, overcome, discarded stuff – I need a new, spiritual, lively means of expression for my new, unimagined thoughts – whether they are sounds, images or the devil knows what – I have achieved the incredible. This sonata dedicated to Joachim is clear proof. He admits he is unable to play it – that wizard on the violin! Incidentally, it can be noted that Joachim and I belong to the famous Order of the Black Cat and that it was this inconspicuous occasion – that brought about this giant leap in music.”

3. Thomas Heine, Siegfried

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Thomas Heine, Siegfried, 1921, private collection.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Thomas Heine, Siegfried, 1921, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain). Published 29 May 2021.

OK, we love cats but we also like dogs, especially melancholic ones. Not much is known about this painting. As we can see, it offers a lonely pug sitting on a beautiful red armchair. Maybe he is waiting for his master or dreaming about going for a walk. His name is Siegfried, which sounds like the best possible name for him.

What is known though, is that the painting was created by Thomas Theodor Heine, a German painter and illustrator. In 1896, he became successful as an illustrator for the satirical Munich magazine Simplicissimus, for which he appropriated the stylistic idiom of Jugendstil and the graphic qualities of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley, and Japanese woodcuts. It seems that Heine was a dog person; there is a famous poster he made for Simplicissimus with a red French Bulldog, which is now in the collections of many museums (including MoMA).

4. Zdzislaw Beksinski, AA72

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Zdzislaw Beksinski, AA72, 1972, Historical Museum in Sanok, Sanok, Poland.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Zdzislaw Beksinski, AA72, 1972, Historical Museum in Sanok, Sanok, Poland. Published 5 Dec 2020.

Zdzislaw Beksinski is one of the revelations of DailyArt app. He was a Polish artist, not very well known in the international art history world. However, every time we present his works in DailyArt, the number of likes left by users is enormous! Zdzisław Beksiński’s spirituality is both a fascinating and complicated topic. It is commonly known that he wasn’t religious in any traditional way. Maybe for that reason, Christian eschatology offered no support to him, making his fear of death (understood as a metaphysical end of existence) so horrifying and, at the same time, a driving force of his art.

In that context it’s somewhat surprising that there are so many religious motifs in Beksiński’s art. For example, the crucifix motif is present even in his drawings and photos from the 1950s and, in his mature painting, becomes one of the major motifs. Even his last painting, finished a few hours before Beksiński’s tragic death, shows the cross on a background of worn fabric. Beksiński himself was never able to explain his tendency for placing the crucifix in his works.

One of the things that deeply affected Beksiński in his childhood was Psalm 23. Throughout his life he often recalled its words:

(…) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (…).

The painting AA72 seems to illustrate that fascination. It shows a mysterious, dark valley, which resembles the biblical valley from the Psalm. At the bottom of the valley there is a small human figure, overshadowed by two rows of ponderous, stony monks, with skulls instead of heads. Compared with them, the figure looks even more meager. Yet, they make their way through the valley, lighting the way with the torch kept in their left hand. We don’t know where they are coming from nor where they are heading.

5. Two Young Men in Erotic Embrace

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Two Young Men in an Erotic Embrace, c. 1866-c. 1899, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Two Young Men in an Erotic Embrace, c. 1866-c. 1899, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Published 2 Jun 2022.

To be honest, I don’t know much about Persian art. However, when I saw this masterpiece I was delighted! Persian poetry celebrated both spiritual and sexual love between men. Miniatures illustrate this as well. This one from the 19th century shows two young men in a playful, sensual embrace. A youth in gray is hugging a youth in blue and gold. The background has stylized shrubs and stones which are drawn with a brush in black. The scene is framed by an ornamental border painted in solid colors and with thin, colored framing lines.

6. Wisława Szymborska, The Cat

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Wislawa Szymborska, The Cat, 20th century, Collection of Michal Rusinek, Krakow, Poland.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Wisława Szymborska, The Cat, 20th century, Collection of Michal Rusinek, Krakow, Poland. Published 21 Mar 2020.

This collage was made by art fan and a poetess, Wisława Szymborska. In 1996, she received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.”

Szymborska’s secretary, Michał Rusinek in his essay On Understanding the Cut-and-Paste Cards wrote about her collages:

“Szymborska through most of her life created postcard-size collages, which had been sent to her friends over many years. The first collages were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Szymborska claimed that she had taken up the technique because she was unable to find nice postcards and decided to make some of her own. ‘Please don’t visit me for a few days because I’m going to be an artist,’ she would tell her friends once a year, in early November. This was not an expression of a sudden withdrawal of hospitality or onset of inspiration that required isolation from the world. The reasons were quite practical: all over her flat, the floor was scattered with cut-outs from newspapers and magazines, which she used to make collages that she called wyklejanki (cut-and-paste cards). She made such pictorial compositions every year, for over 40 years.”

Nice, isn’t it? I love that cat! : )

7. Venus of Willendorf

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Venus of Willendorf, 30,000 BCE, Natural History Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Venus of Willendorf, 30,000 BCE, Natural History Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Published 2 May 2020.

Yes, Venus of Willendorf is often called the Mona Lisa of the Paleolithic Age. We were so happy to feature her in DailyArt!

The perfection of the representation and harmonious style make this 29,500-year-old figure one of the most expressive works of art from the Paleolithic Age. It was found in 1908 during a NHM Vienna archeological dig. At the time, the statuette was the oldest complete human figure and is still a frequently cited example of the female principle.

The figure of a mature woman was carved out of fine limestone with flint tools and was originally coated with red chalk. In the Paleolithic Age, red was a symbol of life, death, and rebirth. Despite the small size, many details are reproduced with remarkable realism. Thin arms decorated with serrated arm rings rest on the heavy breasts. The slightly inclined head has an elaborate hairstyle or basket weave cap.

Its curious lack of any facial features elevates it above the individual, meanwhile giving it a multitude of faces. Rather than depicting a specific individual, it is the bearer of a universal message that was understood throughout Europe in its time, but will remain hidden from us forever.

8. Fernando Botero, Ex-voto

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Fernando Botero, Ex-voto, 1970, Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Fernando Botero, Ex-voto, 1970, Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. Published 13 Jun 2020.

I love Fernando Botero. He is amazing. This oil painting is a true example of the sense of humor that characterizes his works. It contains a series of symbolic elements that represent the difficult financial situation that he was going through at that time. It shows the themes and features of the artist’s work: religion, politics, self-reference, humor, and iconography of art history. These consistently appear throughout his oeuvre and are fundamental in understanding his work.

At the bottom left of the canvas, on the representation of a frame easel, is written: “EX-VOTO, IN APPRECIATION FOR RECEIVING THE FIRST PRIZE OF THE COLTEJER ART BIENNIAL, THE LEADER IN TEXTILES. SIGNED BOTERO AND FAMILY. MAY, 1970.”

I love how that huge Maria is giving the money to the poor artist, and that tiny little angel is carrying a huge Colombian flag. Well, Botero is a well-known patriot, this scene couldn’t be shown any other way. : )

9. Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman with Fish-Hat

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman with Fish-Hat, 1942, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman with Fish-Hat, 1942, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Published 11 Jan 2020.

We rarely present modern art in DailyArt app because of copyrights issues. Here, thanks to Stedelijk Museum, we were able to feature Pablo Picasso‘s work. And what work! A woman with a FISH on her head! But what is it about? Was it a joke about some acquaintance? The painting was painted midway through the World War II. Picasso stayed in Paris during the entire Nazi occupation. He did not bother to exhibit his work during this time, but he never stopped creating. Was he making fun of women’s frivolous fashions during wartime?

You must be a genius to paint a woman with fish-hat, that’s my opinion. It’s also one of my favorite Picasso paintings.

10. Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV, 1907, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

10 Masterpieces in DailyArt App: Hilma af Klint, The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV, 1907, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. Published 8 Mar 2017.

10 years is a long time, even for art history. We remember the time when Hilma af Klint, the inventor of abstract art, was totally forgotten! In 2017, when we featured this work created by Af Klint, her name was still relatively unknown and the great exhibition at the Guggenheim, which revealed her greatness to wide audience, was still in preparation.

Af Klint was a pioneer of abstract art. She painted her works before Kandinsky, which for decades were considered the first. She was influenced by contemporary spiritual movements, such as spiritism, theosophy, and later, anthroposophy. When she painted she believed that a higher consciousness was speaking through her. In her astonishing works she combines geometric shapes and symbols with ornamentation. Af Klint’s multifaceted imagery strives to give insights into the different dimensions of existence, where microcosm and macrocosm reflect one another.

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