Every 100 years there is an event that defines a generation, for every event there is a defining piece of art that captures the moment in time. These frozen moments allow us to go back in time for inspiration, history or to simply appreciate what life was like back then. This defining art form for 70’s was the techno and disco, the 80’s brought us iconic figures of Madonna and the 90’s the grunge movement gave us a mix of contemporary art with traditional.

Today we are going to look at the 5 most iconic paintings that have dramatically influenced society.

The persistence of memory

The persistence of memory is famous for Dali’s use of symbolism and Einstein’s theory, showing that time is relative and not fixed.

It’s simple to see through this work of art that Salvador Dali was creative, imaginative and drew attention to himself through his grandiose behaviour. The persistence of memory features the iconic hallmark “soft watches”.



Pablo Picasso is by far one of the most recognised figures in art. Co-founding cubism, embedding and creating an iconic style makes him simply unforgettable.

Guernica represents the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War; the painting reflects the pain and tragedies of the war. Guernica has been displayed around the world, the widely acclaimed painting has gained monumental status and today is a reminder of the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.


The last supper

The last supper is Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece. The late 15th century painting represents Christ dining with 12 apostles on the night he was arrested. The painting is iconic for many reasons; firstly by the way each apostle is displaying an identifiable emotion, when Jesus announced one of them would betray him.

The second is the composition of the painting; Christ’s head is the midpoint. The technical elements of the painting allowed it to be one of the greatest examples of perspective.

No matter what you believe or believe in it is clear that this is a truly iconic work of art, people cannot stop studying it.


The Scream

Created by Evward Munch, this iconic painting reflected his feeling of anxiety. Here he explains the inspiration for the images:

"I was walking along a path with two friends ‘the sun was setting, suddenly the sky turned blood red.’ I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence ‘there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city’. My friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."


Yes we can

This iconic image of President Barack Obama is the most recognisable and influential images of the 21st century. This image featured as the centre campaign poster for the United States. It has been the most downloaded image of all time within the last 50 years.

Designed by Shepard Fairey, he successfully portrays President Obama looking towards the future, conveying virtue and an incentive and contemporary way. With its use of iconic colours and strong presence, Fairey has been given the status of a visionary and pioneer.


Written by Neeru Pallen. She works in design and marketing but has always had a passion for art and art history. She is currently working on developing her personal website. Follow her on Twitter.