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Top 10 Famous Red Paintings

Red is one of the most potent colors in art history and has been used extensively by artists for millennia.

It has been used to emphasize power and passion and as the symbol of war. After all, the Roman god of war was Mars, the name of the red planet.

Red is the color of blood and has therefore been used extensively to signify the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in Christian art.

The same applies to Christian martyrs who have been depicted as saints since the Middle Ages. Yes, it’s definitely the color to stress religious fervor as well.

In secular paintings, red has been used to convey a warm atmosphere. Using this color as the main element of the composition certainly gets the trick done.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous red paintings. These are artworks in which red is the dominating color.

1. Lucca Madonna – Jan van Eyck

The Lucca Madonna is the title of a painting by Jan van Eyck (1390-1441), the leading figure of the Flemish Primitives in the early 15th century. It depicts the Virgin Mary with her baby Jesus Christ on a large wooden throne in what appears to be a small chapel.

Mary wears an immense red dress, a garment that van Eyck often used as a symbol for the future crucifixion of Jesus. The mother is breastfeeding her infant in a style referred to as the “Nursing Madonna.” It’s likely that this small painting was once the inner panel of a triptych.

Lucca Madonna Jan van Eyck
Lucca Madonna Jan van Eyck

2. The Disrobing of Christ – El Greco

  • Date created: 1577-1579
  • Dimensions: 285 × 173 centimeters (112 × 68 inches)
  • Location: Sacristy of Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

The Disrobing of Christ is one of the many distinctive paintings by El Greco (1541-1614), the famous Mannerist artist who served as a source of inspiration for countless future artists. The entire composition revolves around the figure of Christ who is wearing a blood-red robe.

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The scene depicts Jesus Christ who is about to be crucified while being surrounded by a large number of grim figures. He appears calm as his executioners are preparing the cross on which he is about to be nailed. The so-called “Three Marys” are depicted in the bottom left corner of the work.

The Disrobing of Christ El Greco
The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco / Wiki Commons

3. Oath of the Horatii – Jacques-Louis David

  • Date created: 1784
  • Dimensions: 329.8 × 424.8 centimeters (129.8 × 167.2 inches)
  • Location: Louvre, Paris, France

Oath of the Horatii is the title of one of the most famous paintings by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), the leading Neoclassical artist of his generation. It’s also one of the most emblematic Neoclassical paintings ever produced and the red color emphasizes the ongoing war.

The painting depicts a father who is greeting his three sons who are about to go to battle. It was derived from the story of the feud between Rome and a nearby city called Alba Longa which took place in the 7th century B.C. Only one of the Roman brothers would make it out alive.

Oath of the Horatii Jacques Louis David
Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David / Wiki Commons

4. The Death of Sardanapalus – Eugène Delacroix

  • Date created: 1827
  • Dimensions: 392 × 496 centimeters (154 × 195 inches)
  • Location: Louvre, Paris, France

The Death of Sardanapalus is the title of a monumental painting by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), the leading Romanic artist in France in the 19th century. He certainly loved this painting because he produced a second, smaller version in 1994 which is part of the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The painting depicts the final moments of Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria who was renowned for his lavish and hedonistic lifestyle. Delacroix painted the fallen king as he awaits his fate seemingly uninterested as chaos erupts near his bed. The red color scheme enhances the dramatic effect.

The Death of Sardanapalus by eugene delacroix
The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix / Wiki Commons

5. A Dinner Table at Night – John Singer Sargent

  • Date created: 1884
  • Dimensions: 51.4 × 68.6 centimeters (20.25 x 27 inches)
  • Location: de Young Museum, San Francisco, United States

A Dinner Table at Night is a painting by American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), a man who spent most of his career abroad. The painting is also known as “Le Verre de Porto,” a reference to the glass of wine that the woman is holding.

It depicts a scene in a country house in England as we can see some friends of the artist named Edith and Albert at their dinner table. It’s one of the red paintings that really highlights the atmosphere that the color red can create in art.

A Dinner Table at Night by John Singer Sargent
A Dinner Table at Night by John Singer Sargent / Wiki Commons

6. Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889 – James Ensor

  • Date created: 1888
  • Dimensions: 252.7 × 430.5 centimeters (99.5 × 169.5 inches)
  • Location: The Getty, Los Angeles, United States

Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889 is the best-known painting by James Ensor (1860-1949), one of the most famous Belgian artists in history. It depicts a large parade of masked figures and other peculiarities. The painting is dominated by a red banner on top which reads “Vive la Sociale.”

The painting is an allegory of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Ensor purposely made the figure of Jesus very small as he is led through the streets of Brussels by dozens of weird figures. The painting has been part of the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles since 1987.

Christs Entry into Brussels in 1889 by James Ensor
Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 by James Ensor / Wiki Commons

7. The Red Vineyard – Vincent van Gogh

  • Date created: 1888
  • Dimensions: 75 × 93 centimeters (29.5 × 36.6 inches)
  • Location: Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia

The Red Vineyard is the title of a stunning painting by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), the Dutch artist who was living in Arles at the time he completed it. The painting was displayed at the annual exhibition of Les XX, 1890, in Brussels, an event that was co-founded by James Ensor.

During this exhibition, the painting sold for 400 francs. This makes it the only verified sale of a painting by Vincent van Gigh while he was still alive. The buyer was Anna Boch (1848-1936), a Belgian painter who was a member of Les XX

The Red Vineyard by Vincent van Gogh
The Red Vineyard by Vincent van Gogh / Wiki Commons

8. The Red Studio – Henri Matisse

  • Date created: 1911
  • Dimensions: 181 x 219.1 centimeters (71.25 x 86.25 inches)
  • Location: MoMA, New York City, United States

The Red Studio is a painting by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), a French artist who was one of the leading figures of Fauvism, an art movement that only lasted a couple of years. The use of colors by the Fauvism artists was revolutionary and influenced many artists of future generations.

As the title of the red painting suggests, it depicts the view of the artist’s studio. What’s remarkable is that he first laid a layer of blue, pink, green, and ochre, but later changed his mind and overpainted most parts with red. The red was applied several weeks after he had finished the initial version.

The Red Studio Henri Matisse
The Red Studio by Henri Matisse / Wiki Commons

9. Red Balloon – Paul Klee

  • Date created: 1922
  • Dimensions: 31.8 x 31.1 centimeters (12.5 x 12.25 inches)
  • Location: The Guggenheim, New York City, United States

Red Balloon is the title of a small painting by Paul Klee (1879-1940), one of the most famous Swiss artists in history. It’s one of the many distinctive paintings that Klee completed during the early 1920s, a time when he was experimenting with abstract forms.

The painting was finished the year after he started teaching at the Bauhaus School, an influential art academy that was closed when the Nazis came to power in Germany. There, he was considered to be a “Master of Form,” something that reflects in this remarkable work of art.

Red Balloon by Paul Klee
Red Balloon by Paul Klee / Wiki Commons

10. Red Lenin – Andy Warhol

  • Date created: 1987
  • Dimensions: 100 x 74.7 centimeters (39.37 x 29.43 inches)
  • Location: MoMA, New York City, United States

Red Lenin is the title of a series of paintings by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), the leading Pop Art artist of the 20th century. It depicts the important political figure, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). Warhol painted the Russian revolutionary politician while being drenched in red.

This particular painting was completed just months before Warhol passed away from complications of gallbladder surgery. It’s one of the most celebrated mature works by the artist and while this painting is predominantly red, there are also versions with a black background.

Red Lenin by Andy Warhol
Red Lenin by Andy Warhol / Wiki Commons