Tag Archives: meta-lists

See It To Believe It: The Updated Art Lists

I found a bunch of new lists of best works of visual art and decided to add them to the meta-list.  Now I have over 30 source lists gathered from books and various websites. This particular meta-list is in two versions – one version (in two parts) is organized by rank and contains every work of art on four or more of the original source lists.  To look at this list, click on the links below:
Best Works of Art of All Time – Ranked, Part 1 (works of art on 6 or more lists)
Best Works of Art of All Time – Ranked, Part 2 (works on 4 or 5 lists)

The second (and much larger) version of the meta-list is organized chronologically and includes every work of art on at least two of the original 30+ source lists.  This meta-list (which I call Art History 101) is in seven parts:
Part IA (Prehistoric Era – 399 CE)
Part IB (400-1399 CE)
Part IIA (1400-1499)
Part IIB (1500-1599)
Part III (1600-1799)
Part IV (1800-1899)
Part V (1900-Present)

Please note that the artworks on this particular meta-list are primarily paintings and sculptures, with a few pieces of decorative art.  For other forms of visual art – including architecture, photography, film, and television – I have compiled separate meta-lists.

To keep with the list theme, I’ve made some lists about the updated visual arts lists, which follow below. First, the updated meta-list has led to changes in the rankings throughout the list and the top 10 has been rearranged considerably:

The New Top 10: Artworks on the Most Lists
1. Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (1503-1505)
2. Michelangelo: Frescoes, Sistine Chapel Ceiling (1508-1512)
3. Diego VelázquezLas Meninas (1656)
4. Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907)
5. Pablo Picasso: Guernica (1937)
6. Michelangelo: David (1501-1504)
7. Vincent Van Gogh: The Starry Night (1889)
8. Sandro Botticelli: The Birth of Venus (1486)
9. Francisco Goya: The Third of May, 1808 (1814)
10. Edward Munch: The Scream (1893)

There are 25 new works of art on the meta-list as the result of this latest update, and six new artists:

The New Kids on the Block, Part 1: The Artworks

  1. Unknown Artists: Great Sphinx of Giza (Egypt, c. 2530 BCE)
  2. Unknown Artist: Lyre with Bull’s Head (Mesopotamia/Iraq, c. 2550-2450)
  3. Gislebertus: Relief Sculptures, Saint-Lazare Cathedral (France, 10th-11th Century)
  4. Lorenzo Ghiberti: The Baptism of Christ (Italy, c. 1423-1427)
  5. Albrecht Altdorfer: George and the Dragon (Germany, 1510)
  6. Giorgione and Titian: Sleeping Venus (Italy, 1510) 
  7. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Harvesters (The Netherlands, 1565)
  8. Nicolas Poussin: Et in Arcadia ego (France, c. 1638-1640)
  9. Ogata Korin: Flowering Irises (Japan, c. 1710)
  10. Joshua Reynolds: Self-Portrait (Great Britain, c. 1748)
  11. Jacques-Louis DavidThe Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (France, 1789)
  12. Antonio Canova: Perseus Triumphant (Italy, 1804-1806)
  13. John Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows (UK, 1831)
  14. Édouard ManetThe Execution of Emperor Maximilian (France, 1867)
  15. Vincent van Gogh: Vincent’s Chair (The Netherlands/France, 1888)
  16. Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night over the Rhône (The Netherlands/France, 1888) 
  17. Paul Gauguin: Te Arii Vahine (The King’s Wife) (France/French Polynesia, 1896)
  18. Paul Cézanne: Still Life with Apples and Oranges (France, c. 1895-1900)
  19. Henri Matisse: The Conversation (France, 1909)
  20. Umberto Boccioni: The City Rises (Italy, 1910)
  21. Rene Magritte: Le Faux Joan Miróir (The False Mirror) (Belgium, 1928)
  22. Diego Rivera: Man, Controller of the Universe (Mexico, 1934)
  23. Jackson Pollock: Number 5, 1948 (US, 1948)
  24. Damien HirstThe Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (UK, 1991)
  25. Louise Bourgeois: Maman (France/US, 1999)

New Kids on the Block, Part 2: New Artists
1. Gislebertus (France, 12th Century)
2. Ogata Korin (Japan, 1658-1716)
3. Joshua Reynolds (Great Britain, 1723-1792)
4. Diego Rivera (Mexico, 1886-1957)
5. Louise Bourgeois (France, 1911-2010)
6. Damien Hirst (UK: England, 1965- )

And, finally, here is a list of the artists with the largest number of artworks on the entire meta-list:

12 Works of Art on the Meta-List
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (The Netherlands, c. 1525/1530-1569)
Rembrandt (The Netherlands, 1606-1669)

11 Works
Titian (Italy, 1488-1576)

10 Works 
Francisco Goya (Spain, 1746-1828)

9 Works      
Vincent Van Gogh (The Netherlands, 1853-1890)

8 Works
Leonardo da Vinci (Italy, 1452-1519)
Michelangelo (Italy, 1475-1564)

7 Works
Piero della Francesca (Italy, 1416-1492)
Albrecht Dürer (Germany, 1471-1528)
Raphael (Italy, 1483-1520)
El Greco (Greece, 1541-1614)
Caravaggio (Italy, 1571-1610)
Peter Paul Rubens (Flanders/Belgium, 1577-1640)
Claude Monet (France, 1840-1926)

6 Works 
Andrea Mantegna (Italy, 1431-1506)
Diego Velázquez (Spain, 1599-1660)
J.M.W. Turner (UK, 1775-1851)
Édouard Manet (France, 1832-1883)
Pablo Picasso (Spain, 1881-1973)
Henri Matisse (France, 1869-1954)
Jackson Pollock (US, 1912-1956)

Hooked on Classics: The New and Improved Classical Music Lists

I’ve updated my meta-lists of best classical music by adding several more lists to the mix and expanding the main page to include all works on three or more of the original source lists.  I’ve also added a new page with the list organized by the type of composition. Click on the links below to go directly to the classical music meta-lists:

The Best Classical Music of All Time: Ranked
The Best Classical Music of All Time: Chronological
The Best Classical Music of All Time: By Composer
The Best Classical Music of All Time: By Type of Composition

I was originally going to introduce the new and updated lists with a serious post about the definition of classical music, going into how it really should be referred to as Western art music, because “classical” technically only refers to music (much of it in sonata form) produced during the period of 1750-1828 or so (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, et al.).  But I decided against that.  Instead I decided to look at my listening history (which since 2008 or so has been tracked by the Last.fm website – they keep track of every time I listen to a song on the computer, iPod or iPhone) and find the 25 pieces of classical music I have listened to most frequently (either the entire piece or portions of it).  These don’t necessarily represent my preferences (although I like all the music here), since I usually have my playlist on “shuffle” mode, so the selection is somewhat random.  I am intrigued by the number of contemporary composers and the absence of big names like Mozart and Beethoven (even though I’ve got lots of their work in my collection).  Here’s the list of the 25 pieces of classical music I’ve listened to most frequently since 2008, arranged in chronological order by date of composition:

  1. Anonymous: Chevalier, mult estes guariz (12th Century)
  2. Anonymous: La quinte estampie real (13th Century)
  3. Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto for 2 Cellos in G minor (c. 1720)
  4. George Frideric Handel: Concerti Grossi, Op. 3 (1734)
  5. George Frideric Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749)
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach: Mass in B minor (1749)
  7. Christoph Willibald Gluck (arr. by Hector Berlioz): Orphée et Eurydice (1762, Berlioz version, 1859)
  8. Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (1859)
  9. Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77 (1878)
  10. Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90 (1883)
  11. Claude Debussy: Mazurka (1890)
  12. Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a (1892)
  13. Claude Debussy: Children’s Corner (1908)
  14. Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19 (1917)
  15. Dmitri Shostakovich: Adagio (Elegy) for String Quartet (1931)
  16. Charles Ives: They Are There! (1942)
  17. John Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948)
  18. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 4 in D major (1949)
  19. Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story (1957)
  20. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in F# minor, Op. 108 (1960)
  21. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 15 in Eb major, Op. 144 (1974)
  22. Iannis Xenaxis: Tetras for String Quartet (1983)
  23. Christopher Rouse: Kabir Padavali (1998)
  24. Arvo Pärt: Lamentate (2002)
  25. Hans Abrahamsen: Let me tell you (2013)

Building Sites: The New, Improved Architecture Lists

Update: I recently discovered several new lists of Best Architecture, Best Buildings, etc., and added them to the existing lists.  I also went through the Best Architecture and Best Architecture – Chronological lists and added more pictures: I mean, LOTS MORE PICTURES.  I tried to show aerial views in many cases, and also street level views of tall buildings. For ruins, I tried to find artist’s conceptions of what the building looked like in its heyday.  I think you will like the improvements.  Click on the links below to see the new, improved sites:

Best Architecture of All Time – The Critics’ Picks
— lists every work of architecture on 4 or more of the 24+ original source lists
— organized by rank (that is, with the items on the most lists at the top)
— items on the same number of lists are organized in chronological order

Best Architecture of all Time – Chronological
— considerably longer list than the above list
— lists all the buildings/architectural works on 3 or more of the original source lists
— organized in chronological order by date that construction began (if available)

As a result of the new Best Architecture lists I found, I was able to add 7 new buildings to the lists.  They are:

  • St. Pancras Railway Station. London, England, UK.
  • Natural History Museum. London, England, UK.
  • Imperial Hotel. Tokyo, Japan (destroyed in 1968)
  • Washington National Cathedral. Washington, D.C.
  • Getty Center, J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, California, US.
  • Reichstag (restoration and renovation). Berlin, Germany.
  • The Shard (London Bridge Tower). London, England, UK.

Other pages that contain information about architecture and building:

Best Architects of All Time – The Critics’ Picks
(organized chronologically by date of birth and listing each architect’s most important works)

Best Works of Civil Engineering

Best Works of Civil Engineering – Chronological

A warm welcome to my LinkedIn connections, who will now be getting posts from Make Lists, Not War: The Meta-Lists Website.

 

The Sound of Silents: The Best Films from the Years Before Talkies

Silent films were never silent.  At the first official movie screening by the Lumiere brothers in Paris in December 1895, a guitarist accompanied the presentation of 10 short films, including the first documentary, Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, and the first comedy, The Sprinkler Sprinkled.  In the U.S. it was more common for a pianist or – in the case of major films in big cities – a small orchestra, to accompany early films, which due to lack of the requisite technology had no synchronized soundtrack.  The musicians began by improvising or linking together popular melodies to illustrate what they saw on the screen, often adding sound effects for galloping horses, thunderclaps, ringing bells and other actions. In 1908, the first fully-composed film scores appeared in France (by Camille Saint-Saens) and Russia.  The first major U.S. film to have a score was D.W. Griffith’s racist blockbuster The Birth of the Nation, with music composed by Joseph Breil, in 1915.  The giant movie theaters built in the 1910s and 1920s often incorporated immense theater organs that allowed for musical accompaniment, which usually involved a combination of following the score as well as improvisation and elaborate sound effects.  The switch to synchronized sound after the success of The Jazz Singer in 1927, a change that permitted the actors to speak their dialogue and allowed moviemakers to incorporate music into the film itself, put thousands of movie theater musicians out of work.

Modern audiences often have difficulty watching movies from the “silent” era.  The acting style necessary to communicate without spoken dialogue – essentially a form of mime – seems histrionic and over-the-top to many now.  (Even some contemporaries agreed. When Charles Chaplin made A Woman of Paris in 1923 – one of the few Chaplin films that did not star The Little Tramp – he specifically instructed his actors to adopt a more subdued acting style than was the norm. As a result the film seems more modern than many other silent films.)  The stilted, corny or moralistic tone of some of the intertitles can also be offputting to modern audiences.  On top of these substantive concerns, there are also physical problems with many silent films – many were badly preserved.  In fact, we are lucky to have any silent films left at all – it is estimated that 70% of all feature films from the pre-talkie era have deteriorated beyond repair or were deliberately destroyed after the switch to the new sound technology.

But these difficulties should not dissuade movie buffs from checking out some of the classic silent films, particularly those made in the 1920s.  It was during the silent era that filmmakers developed the basic visual vocabulary of moviemaking. By the mid-1920s, studios around the world were turning out high-quality films, some of them with dazzling visual technique and inventiveness.  In fact, the first years of sound movies, which required the noisy film cameras to be placed in soundproof (and immobile) boxes and anchored the actors to the location of the nearest microphone, saw a decrease in the cinematic inventiveness and overall quality of films. Look at many sound films from the late 1920s and early 1930s and you will see film returning to the days when everything looked like a filmed play – no moving cameras, few or no tracking shots – everything static.  The transition period is lovingly parodied by Betty Comden and Adolph Green in their screenplay for Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 musical directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Because there was no dialogue, and intertitles could easily be translated into any language, silent film was a more international art than film after the introduction of sound. Germany during the Weimar Republic was a particularly strong producer of high-quality films in various genres: horror (Nosferatu), science fiction (Metropolis), crime thriller (Dr. Mabuse – The Gambler), and drama/social commentary (The Last Laugh; Pandora’s Box).  Several of the best German directors – Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Ernst Lubitsch, Erich von Stroheim, Josef von Sternberg – brought their expertise to Hollywood in time to produce silent film masterpieces on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps the most accessible of the silent films to modern audiences are the comedies. Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and other comic geniuses created personae that appeared in film after film in one outrageous fix after another.  The relative critical reputations of Chaplin and Keaton have see-sawed over the years.  At times, the sublime mix of comedy and pathos that characterizes Chaplin’s best work receives top billing; then the pendulum swings to the unsentimental acrobatics of the stone-faced Keaton, who never asks the audience for its sympathy.

I urge you to take another look at silent films, many of which are available online either free on YouTube or through a streaming service.  Or take the DVDs out of your local library.

To give you a selection of the best silent films that have been preserved, I collected 10 lists of “Best Silent Films” and made two meta-lists.  One organizes the movies by rank, that is, with the movies on the most lists at the top.  The other list is chronological.  Enjoy.

Best Silent Films of All Time – The Critics’ Picks
Best Silent Films of All Time – Chronological

I Was Told There Would Be No Math

The time has come to address a concern/comment that comes up regularly in the meta-list universe.  As those who read this site regularly know, I create meta-lists in a very simple way: First, I collect as many “Best of ___” lists as I can find. I favor critics’ lists over amateur lists, but I don’t discriminate based on the length of the list – a Top 1000 list is just as good as a Top 10 or Top 5 list.  Second, I take each item on each list and give it one point.  Then I add up all the points to see which items are on the most lists, and I arrange them accordingly.

There are some in the list-verse who disagree with my methods.  The issue arises in two contexts.  First, some commenters (and meta-listers) believe in weighting the ratings of each list.  For example, they give the number 1 item on a Top Ten list 10 points, with 9 points to the number 2 item, etc.  As I explain below, this is an example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and usually skews the meta-lists in horribly wrong directions.  Second, some commenters believe that I shouldn’t combine lists of different lengths or shouldn’t include the lower-rated items from longer lists.  For example, it’s OK to give points to all 10 movies from a top 10 list but not to all 1000 movies from a top 1000 list.  Once again, this is based on a misunderstanding of a mathematical truth.

Both complaints are based on a simple mathematical fallacy.  The commenters believe that they are dealing with a universe that consists of the list and the items on it.  If the universe of movies consisted of the 10 movies in a top 10 list, then it would make sense to say that those 10 movies make up 100%.  Since the movies are ranked 1 through 10, it would make sense in that universe to take that 100% and divide it up according to the rankings.  So, the first movie on the list would get the highest number of points and the rest of the movies should receive percentages based on their rank in the list.  In such a case, the difference between the number 1 item on the list and the number 10 item on the list would be HUGE.   Also, if you believed that a Top 1000 list was the entire universe of that list, then the difference between item 1 and item 1000 would be even HUGER.  In that case, I could see why people wouldn’t want me to give equal points to the items on a Top 10 list (where 100% is divvied up between 10 items) and a Top 1000 list (where 100% is divided up among 1000 items).  Those items near the bottom of the Top 1000 list would seem hardly fit to share space on a list with the big numbers of the Top 10 lists.  BUT THIS IS ALL WRONG!!!!!

[NOTE: You’ll notice that I didn’t give exact percentages, even for the misguided theory that a list is a universe to itself.  That’s because the math is beyond my meager capabilities.  That practice of listers who give 10 points to the highest, 9 points to the next, etc., has no basis in math as far as I can tell – it’s the mathematical equivalent of winging it.  To get the correct percentage score out of 100% for each ranked item in a top 10 list, you would need to do something like the following:
EQUATION 1:  a + b + c + d + e + f +g + h + i + j = 100
“EQUATION” 2:  a > b > c > d > e > f > g > h > i > j AND
EQUATION 3:  a/100 – b/100 = b/100 – c/100 = c/100 – d/100 = d/100 – e/100 = e/100 – f/100 = f/100 – g/100 = g/100 – h/100 = h/100 – i/100 = i/100 – j/100
Forgive me if I don’t solve for the 10 variables.]

You may be asking now, what is wrong with weighting the ranked items on a list (besides the impossible math)?  And how can you possibly give equal points to items on lists of different lengths?  Physicists will understand when I say, for the same reason that Newtonian physics works in almost every situation you and I will ever encounter.  Because in certain universes, you don’t have to be exactly accurate.  The fundamental flaws in Newtonian physics only reveal themselves in rarely-encountered situations, such as near the speed of light.

The problem (really, the solution) is that a list is not a universe.  Think of it more as the cream that rises to the top of the milk bottle.  You wouldn’t define milk based only on the cream, right?  Well, you shouldn’t measure the “best” of something by comparing it to itself, but instead to the entire universe of items that exist.  So, taking movies as an example, it is estimated that there are more than 500,000 movies that exist in the world.  So when I see a list of the best 10 movies of all time, I am comparing it to those 500,000 movies.

[Some readers may object that the people making these lists haven’t seen every movie, read every book, seen every work of art, etc.  If we reject the objective standard, then (using movies as an example) I’d have to know how many movies each lister has seen, so I know the universe we’re dealing with.  For example, I have rated 2,355 movies on IMDB.com.  If I made a top 100 list, could I only compare it to lists by people who’ve seen 2,355 movies, or could I expand it to people who’ve seen at least 2,355.  Or, worst case scenario, would I only be able to compare myself with other listers who have seen exact same 2,355 movies as I have?   What would I do about lists made by groups of authors or editors?  Would I need to know their specific, unique universe of movies?  I believe this approach would make meta-listing obsolete and would rather not go there.]

If there are 500,000 movies, then a Top 10 list contains 0.002% of all movies.  The movies on a top 1000 list constitute 0.2% of all movies.  While .002% and .2% are very different numbers when compared to each other, they are both well under 1%  of all movies ever made and so they are essentially equivalent.  Maybe it would be better if I said that I only included lists when the items listed constitute less than the top 1% of the total population of items being rated.  In the real universe, then the number 1 movie on a Top Ten list and the 999th movie on a Top 1000 list are equal for all relevant purposes because (assuming 500,000 total movies, which may be low) they are both talking about movies in the top 0.2% of all movies ever made.  Sure, there may be slight percentage differences between the ratings on each list, or between lists, but none of the differences even comes close to overcoming the fact that all the items on all the lists are within the top two-tenths of one percent of all movies ever made.  I could repeat the experiment using works of art, photographs, musical recordings, works of literature, athletes, famous individuals, inventions, scientific discoveries and other lists, but I won’t.