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Step into a Masterpiece

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16th Century Flanders

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Magnum opus, life's crowning achievement, the pinnacle of artistic mastery—these phrases encapsulate the essence of a masterpiece. Originally, this term signified a craftsman's work that demonstrated sufficient skill for acceptance into a guild, recognizing them as a master. A masterpiece represents not just the apex of an artist's technical skill and education but also the culmination of their personal journey, creativity and life experience, all converging to secure their legacy among the greatest in their field.

In this virtual exhibition, we invite you to explore four of the most remarkable works ever featured in our gallery, diving into the hidden symbols they hold. Beyond visual appeal, these paintings unravel mysteries and offer insights that transcend what lies on the surface.

Marinus van Reymerswaele

Not to be confused with the cartoon ninja turtles of the same names, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello were the undeniable titans of Renaissance art. As revolutionary as the Renaissance artists were, they operated within the stringent parameters set by church leaders and other elite patrons. Anyone who has dealt with a “particular” client can empathize with the desire for artistic freedom. Yet, there was a group of artists who enjoyed such liberty.

Just north of Italy, Northern Renaissance artists such as Jan van Eyck, Albrecht Dürer, and Marinus van Reymerswaele, made remarkable strides in oil painting, printmaking and depicting the natural world with astonishing precision. For the first time, artists weren’t limited to religious subjects and they began to imbue secular objects and experiences with dignity and intrigue. This was a revolution within a revolution — these artists infused their works with rich cultural and social commentaries, often tinged with humor.

The Tax Collectors

by Marinus van Reymerswaele

c.1490 – 1546 | Dutch

Take for example this incredible Northern Renaissance painting by Marinus van Reymerswaele, entitled The Tax Collectors, an incredibly rare original painting by the master himself. Two men sit at a green table covered in coins, jewels and a ledger. While the man in the red headwrap calmly records transactions, his companion grimaces, clutching his empty coin purse. A meticulous artist, van Reymerswaele takes care to painstakingly render each detail with tremendous accuracy. His treatment of the men’s faces is caricatured yet still believable, displaying an excellent satire of the tax collectors.

Any 16th-century citizen of Antwerp would have understood the satirical image, poking fun at the two tax collectors wearing their over-the-top, outdated clothing and contorted faces. During this period, the Antwerp’s citizens would have paid their taxes directly to the Holy Roman Empire. Geographically far from Rome, van Reymerswaele likely felt emboldened to air the community’s grievances with taxation. Although few people have ever relished the act of paying taxes, the burden was particularly grievous when it meant contributing to a foreign power. Despite these political and economic complaints, viewers could share a laugh at these two characters serving in such a despised role.

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Harlem, 1920s

One of the most important movements in American art of the 20th century, the Harlem Renaissance was a rich period of Black artistic and cultural activity that began around 1917 and lasted into the 1930s. Centered in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, the movement celebrated Black life and the African American experience, resulting in flourishing artistic achievements by African Americans working in the visual, literary and performing arts.

 Jacob Lawrence stands as a towering figure in the annals of art history, widely recognized as the most influential African American artist of the 20th century. He was renowned for his bold sense of color and composition and his dynamic narrative style that told powerful stories about the African American experience. In the 1930s, Lawrence spent his formative years living in Harlem and quickly developed a love for art and a passion for art history. He studied under the mentorship of Augusta Savage at Harlem Community Art Center and also frequented the Schomburg Center, the Met and MoMA. Deeply inspired by Social Realism and Cubism, Lawrence was drawn to the avant-garde techniques of these Western movements and infused them with African art influences in his search for a distinctly African American style.

Jacob Lawrence


by Jacob Lawrence

1917-2000 | American

In works such as Makeup, Lawrence ingeniously weaves various motifs and references—from African masks to Cézanne’s The Card Players to Picasso’s geometric Cubism—creating an innovative and resonant composition that speaks volumes of his cultural heritage and artistic mastery.

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René Magritte

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Belgium After World War II

It is no surprise that recent Parisian scholars have argued that René Magritte is the greatest artist-philosopher of the 20th century. Not only was Magritte the most important surrealist artist of his time, but he continuously challenged both genre and form in ways that revolutionized modern art. This rare oil on canvas, Le Carnaval du Sage, was created at a critical point in Magritte’s career and stands as an artifact of his deeply personal quest for hope.

When Magritte, a native Belgian, remained in his home country amidst German occupation during World War II, he experienced the horrors and heartbreak of a war-torn state. Perhaps surprisingly, these years, 1943-1947, are known as Magritte’s “Renoir'' phase, during which he departed from his previous pessimism and began infusing his work with bright color and employing light, airy brushstrokes reminiscent of the Impressionist master.
Not alone in his desperation for optimism and beauty, Magritte joined several other Belgian artists in signing the manifesto Surrealism in Full Sunlight. The suggestion of drastic change to the genre offended Parisian Surrealists, and neither the manifesto nor its related exhibit ever received commercial success. Shortly after this failure, Magritte returned to his pre-war themes of dark and disquieting imagery. As such, the paintings during Magritte’s brief “Renoir” or “sunlit” phase are now rare relics of genre innovation. 

Le Carnaval du Sage

by René Magritte

1898-1967 | Belgian

The most iconic painting of this era, Le Carnaval du Sage, is nothing short of magnificent. This oil on canvas features a striking nude woman with long blonde hair, her face obscured by a white mask. Next to the woman lies a glass of water, a baguette and a ghost who watches from behind. The strong gaze and statuesque stance of the woman, her ghostly visitor and the bright city behind them depict a scene of radiant energy and defiance.

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Marc Chagall

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Turn of the 19th Century Russian Empire

Marc Chagall, originally named Moishe Shagal, was born in 1887 into a Jewish family in Liozna, near Vitebsk, Belarus, at that time a part of the Russian Empire. Vitebsk was known for its scenic blend of churches and synagogues.

By 1910, both antisemitism and Chagall's quest for artistic growth led him to Paris, where Cubism was shaping the avant-garde. The 23-year-old artist initially struggled with loneliness and a language barrier, contemplating a return to Russia. However, he chose to remain in Paris, channeling his nostalgia and cultural heritage into his work.

Chagall returned to Russia in 1914, where he began to exhibit his work and gain recognition. Despite the many challenges the Russian Revolution presented to the visionary, it was the outbreak of World War II that forced Chagall to flee to the United States.  While in America from 1941 to 1948, Chagall experienced great loss, including the death of his wife, Bella, and the destruction of his beloved Vitebsk.

Chagall spent his final years in France, continuously producing art that reflected the world from which he came—a world forever altered by historical events. Though his beloved home was gone, Chagall's work remained a vibrant testament to the culture, traditions and landscapes that shaped him.

Mère et enfant sur l'âne marron

by March Chagall

1887-1985 | Russian

This exquisite painting by modern master Marc Chagall embodies the fantastical wonder and dreamlike aura of his celebrated oeuvre. Throughout his long career, Chagall infused his works with powerful imagery and symbolism, exploring themes of love, camaraderie and happiness in his celebrated vibrant palette. No other 20th-century artist possessed Chagall’s gift for compositional harmony, and his canvases capture intimate, otherworldly visions of his singular artistic perspective.

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 "Art seems to me to be a state of soul more than anything else."

—Marc Chagall

“If one looks at a thing with the intention of trying to discover what it means, one ends up no longer seeing the thing itself, but of thinking of the question that is raised.”
― René Magritte

 "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."


 "For me, a painting should have three things: universality, clarity and strength. Clarity and strength so that it may be aesthetically good. Universality so that it may be understood by all men."

—Jacob Lawrence

 "It is not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

—Henry David Thoreau