With his characteristic hairstyle and a painting style that fused the elements of primitivism and neo-expressionism, Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the most famous American painters.
Success was sweet to her, making him achieve so many things at a young age. But Basquiat did not live long enough to see his works at the peak of their fame.
Basquiat died in 1988, six years after making his most famous and influential paintings. And those influential paintings are the topic of this article. Let’s take a look at the paintings that made Jean-Michel Basquiat so famous.
Untitled (1982) is a painting that made the headlines recently. Also known as the “Basquiat Skull Painting,” you can see all the elements in the painting that make it *Basquiat-esque*.
The rough splatter of paint, and hard-etched dark lines outline the structure of the skull and a dozen different elements that do not fit in the canvas; just like most of Basquiat’s other paintings.
Yet in all this clamor of colors and lines that would give a painter of realism a heart attack, there seems to be an order. An art that buds from random clutter.
The reason why this painting made headlines recently was because it was bought by a Japanese billionaire for a whopping $110.5 million in 2017!
La Hara (1981)
Most of the paintings by Basquiat had a theme of social commentary which dealt with the racism, discrimination, and other forms of segregation faced by the Black community in 80s America.
Unfortunately, some of those biases and racist elements are still surviving. Police brutality against black people is the most dangerous one, and the painting “La Hara ” was a social commentary on that.
The term “La Hara” is a slang term for police, probably coming from the surname “O’Hara”, a common surname for people in the police force in the 80s.
The painting depicts a police officer who looks more like a vengeful skeleton with red eyes, almost like something a child would draw to depict a monster. The painting was made to show the racist attitude of these police officers towards black communities in the 80s.
“La Hara” was the painting that made Basquiat a prominent name in the art world, getting the attention of other giants in the field.
What do you think the self-portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat would look like if he were to make one in his style? Well, you do not have to guess. “Warrior,” painted in 1982 is a self-portrait and there is a lot to visually unpack in the painting.
The painting shows Basquiat as the figure standing with a sword and perhaps a shield. The painting serves as a metaphor to explain the struggles he faced as a colored man making his name in the art world.
The painting was sold for $41.8 million in Hong Kong, making it the most expensive Western painting sold at an auction in Asia, ever.
In This Case (1983)
“In This Case” is perhaps Basquiat’s most interesting painting. This painting is part of a series of three paintings that depicts the human skull in the style of Basquiat.
The other two paintings, Untitled (Skull) and Untitled (featured in this article) have been the most famous artworks by Basquiat.
In This Case adds more details and colors to the depiction of the skull with green teeth, yellow eyes, and a ruby-red background. This painting sold for $93.1 million in 2021, making it the second most expensive painting by the artist.
Another great piece of art by Basquiat, Untitled Boxer is perhaps Basquiat’s most accurate representation of the human form where he shows the figure of a muscular black boxer in a victory stance.
It is difficult to find what the painting was meant to be; a social commentary, a depiction of self, or perhaps a self-portrait showing that Basquiat has achieved success. No one can tell.
But we believe that the painting shows Basquiat at the top of his career, experiencing victory. Yet, at the same time, he is still surrounded by chaos. A bitter victory.
These were the six most influential paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat that made him not just a famous painter, but an icon. Basquiat died at the young age of 27. One could only imagine what other paintings he could have made had he lived longer.
Also read: The Son of Man by Rene Magritte