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  • Russ Ramsey

Artists' Last Paintings and Last Days

For this Art Wednesday we look at the last paintings and days of some of the world’s most famous artists. We begin with Monet, whose vision faded in later years. He had to label his paints because he couldn’t tell colors apart.

Monet, Water Lillies Mural, 1926


Paul Cezanne, one of the fathers of Impressionism, died on October 22, 1906, lonely and sick with pneumonia. In his room were crates of unsold paintings and unpaid bills. The Gardner Vallier is thought to be his last, if not one of his final paintings.

Cezanne, The Gardner Vallier, 1906


Legend often names van Gogh’s last painting as his Crows in a Wheatfield, because it has such an ominous finality to it. But his last painting was more likely Daubigny’s Garden, from July 1890.

Van Gogh, Daubigny’s Garden, 1890


Rembrandt painted a version of this scene when he was young—an elaborate painting of a busy temple, showing off what he could do. Late in life, his version was intimate and small.

Rembrandt, Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple, 1669


The Last Judgment is Michelangelo’s depiction of the second coming of Jesus. This mural took four years, and he didn’t begin until 25 years after finishing the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Michelangelo, The Last Judgement, 1536-41


Picasso painted every day until he died at 91. His friend said of his last finished work, “[Picasso] held the drawing beside his face to show that the expression of fear was a contrivance.”

Picasso, Self-Portrait Facing Death, 1972


Among Andy Warhol’s last works were reproductions of DaVinci’s Last Supper. Warhol was a deeply religious person. His pop art explored the relationship between celebrity culture, artistic expression, and advertising.

Andy Warhol, Last Supper, 1986


Jackson Pollock died in a car crash in 1956. The story goes, he painted “Red, Black and Silver” that year for his mistress. His wife refused to let the painting to be authenticated after he died. It was finally authenticated as a Pollock in 2013.

Jackson Pollock, Red, Black and Silver, 1956


Caravaggio’s last work was unusually minimalist for the artist. “The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula” (1610) was painted rather quickly, commissioned just months before his death. It was created alongside a similar piece, The Denial of Saint Peter.

Caravaggio, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, 1610


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