The Final Artworks of 8 Famous Artists, from Frida Kahlo to Mark Rothko
The last artwork of a prominent artist can assume a near-mythic status. Take
In their final artworks, the eight artists below continued their commitments to the issues that shaped their careers, took risks, and meditated on existential questions.
Salvador Dalí, The Swallow’s Tail, 1983
The perplexing works of
The theory appealed both to Dalí’s aesthetic sensibility and to his longtime fascination with time, as evidenced by his iconic melting clocks. The last work in a series related to the theory, The Swallow’s Tail references the shape of one of the graphs that Thom used to describe events in four dimensions. The symbolic cello at the painting’s top left is doleful, and Dalí—whose wife had passed away the previous year—combines anguish and allure in this last painting.
Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas, 1946–66
For two decades, the
In the foreground, a naked female figure is splayed on a bed of twigs and leaves, holding a lit gas lamp. She appears to be the victim of a crime. The figure was composed of casts made from the bodies of Duchamp’s former lover and his second wife, in an unsettling tribute. Like a more sexually suggestive version of Dubbed “the strangest work of art in any museum” by artist Philadelphia Museum of Art after his death in 1968.
Frida Kahlo, Viva La Vida, Watermelons, 1954
While she may have painted the bulk of the composition somewhat earlier,
Agnes Martin, Untitled, 2004
An ink-on-paper work measuring not quite 10 inches square, the last drawing that
Mark Rothko, Untitled 1970, 1970
Francis Bacon, Study of a Bull, 1991
Last year, an art historian compiling a catalogue raisonné of
The bull, a common symbol of male virility, is faded and smudged, caught between the dark unknown and searing, white oblivion. While the bull lacks the usual contorted fleshiness of Bacon’s other figures, it carries a similar pathos and color palette. Bolstering the work’s evocation of death, Bacon incorporated dust from his studio into the composition, recalling the biblical “dust to dust.”
Keith Haring, The Blueprint Drawings, 1990
From 1980 to 1981, before shooting to fame,
Jackson Pollock, Red, Black & Silver, 1956
Although the Pollock-Krasner Authentication Board still declines to vouch for the work (some have speculated this is due to allegiances to Pollock’s widow,