Destination masterpiece: 75 great artworks to see across the UK | Art

Judith With the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach

Judith With the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach
Judith With the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach. Photograph: Peter Cavanagh/Alamy


Lucas Cranach the Elder – Judith With the Head of Holofernes
The Burrell Collection, Glasgow
The culture clash that underpinned Cranach’s art – German courtly splendour and strait-laced religious reformation – powers a magnetic imagining of Jewish heroine Judith displaying the head of Assyrian general Holofernes. The bloody spoils seem like a trophy, and are more chilling for it. SS

2. Francis Bacon – Pope I
Aberdeen Art Gallery
It took a gambler and drinker to turn modern art on its head. Avant-garde art had always rejected traditional themes. Yet Bacon, a gay man before the reforms of the 1960s, always saw the mainstream with an outsider’s irony. In this 1951 masterpiece he reaches into the past to capture the anguish of the present. The enthroned figure is stuck in a limbo between palace and prison: there are traces of gothic vaulting that suggest the Sistine Chapel yet he is isolated inside a glass booth. Painted a decade before Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann sat in a glass box for his trial in Jerusalem. Bacon’s is a prophetic image that sees into the darkest corners of hell. JJ

3. Statue of the Nubian god Arensnuphis
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
This massive character strides towards you in the main hall of the National Museum, its presence as mysterious as an Easter Island head. It has a connection with ancient Egyptian art yet is much craggier, if more natural in its fleshy chest and arms. In the time this statue was made, in about 100BC to 50BC, cultures were mingling farther north as well as in Sudan as Greeks, Egyptians and Romans shared gods and art. This, then, is a global treasure. JJ

4. Helen Chadwick – Piss Flowers
Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh
Urine is not used enough as an artistic material. Chadwick created her flowers while on a residency in Canada in the 1990s, by making mounds of snow, shaping them into flowers, then urinating on them with her partner to wear down the snow into valleys around a central hole. She then made plaster casts and cast them in bronze, reversing the hole into the flower’s upright stigma. It’s suggestive of organic existence at its most sexual. JJ

5. Paolozzi Studio
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Eduardo Paolozzi had a roving imagination, from the burgeoning post-second world war consumerism that powered his pop collages to the sci-fi that influenced his industrial assemblage sculpture. This 1999 recreation of his studio, packed with casts and research, offers insights on his pioneering methods. SS

6. Christian Boltanski – Animitas
Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh
Boltanski, who died last year, made autobiographical art that probed history, memory and mortality. Here it finds expression in more than 200 Japanese bells, swaying and chiming in the wind on an island to produce what he called the “music of the souls”. The bells are rearranged in the positions of the stars on the night of Boltanski’s birth. NW

7. Ian Hamilton Finlay – Little Sparta
Dunsyre, South Lanarkshire
Ian Hamilton Finlay spent decades developing the seven acres of garden and moorland that surround Stonypath farm in the Pentland Hills with his wife, Sue. The result is a one-off fusion of human creativity and nature. Throughout nine themed landscapes, foliage, waterways and birdsong complete more than 270 works where his minimalist poetry is carved on sculptures created with craftspeople. These range from architectural in scale to tiny, such as the ceramic plaques in Julie’s Garden. SS

8. Joseph Crawhall – Girl on Bicycle
The Burrell Collection, Glasgow
Leading Glasgow Boy artist Crawhall here embraces a sense of late 19th-century modernism through a watercolour of his sister Beatrice, on a bicycle. As a painter renowned for his depiction of animals, the theme also gave him a chance to include the family dachshund, Fritz. NW

9. Alasdair Gray – The Auditorium Celestial Ceiling Mural
Òran Mór, Glasgow
Alasdair Gray’s work will be familiar to any Glasgow local. His first murals for the city can be found in the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant and Hillhead subway station. His mural for the auditorium of the Òran Mór arts venue is in another league, though. Its panels present figures from various belief systems against a blue cosmos. The ceiling features a dictum paraphrased from the Canadian poet Dennis Lee – “Work as if you were living in the early days of a better nation” – now engraved on the Scottish Parliament’s Canongate Wall. SS

10. Rembrandt – A Man in Armour
Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow
It is thought that this painting portrays the young conqueror Alexander the Great, although idealised heroism is hardly Rembrandt’s line. The ultimate feet-on-the-ground artist undercuts the champion’s gleam with human insight. He has dressed his warrior in a composite of antique armour that seems to swamp him, just as thoughts of imminent future bloodshed surely must. SS

John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea
A detail from John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, 2015. Photograph: Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Wales and Northern Ireland

John Akomfrah – Vertigo Sea
National Museum Cardiff
Akomfrah’s video work prompts connections across time and geography. Set to classical music and thundering ocean sounds, footage culled from nature documentaries presents ocean life at its most awesome. With lightning-filled skies and surging waves, it’s a rush of beauty and terror. Yet this is no exaltation of nature’s wonders. Snatches of interviews and narration mix accounts of migrants shipwrecked during lethal crossings. There’s a pile-up of bodies thrown into the sea: African slaves, Chilean mothers, Algerian FLN fighters. Akomfrah takes a non-linear route through history’s depths, raising ghosts whose experiences resound ominously. SS

12. Vincent van Gogh – Rain: Auvers
National Museum Cardiff
One of Van Gogh’s last paintings before he killed himself is a landscape scarred by his inner anguish. The despair he felt overcomes the beauty of nature in savage slashes that cannot simply be seen as falling rain. The world is blurred, the village a smear of rooftops huddled behind melancholy twisted cypresses. A crow flies towards him through the sky’s tears. Even the yellow of the cornfields doesn’t suggest hope, as in his earlier paintings of sun-kissed landscapes, but has a glaring, uncomfortable brilliance. JJ

13. Mainie Jellett – Head of a Woman
Ulster Museum
Jellett was a pioneer of modernism in Ireland. After study in Dublin, London and Paris, she became influential as a writer and arts administrator as well as a practitioner. Best known for cubist-inspired paintings she was also renowned for her figurative work. NW

14. The Abergavenny Jesse
St Mary’s Priory, Abergavenny
Only the base survives of this late 15th-century carving, made from a single oak, depicting Christ’s ancestral line back to Jesse of Bethlehem. Even so, it represents the most significant wooden figure to have survived the Reformation. NW

15. Troubles murals
The street art of 1970s and 1980s Northern Ireland depict a contentious heritage. These striking murals come from a tragic age. They are an important part of the art map of Britain precisely because they remind us of that cruel time. JJ

16. Thomas Jones – Ruined Buildings, Naples
Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea
Artists flocked to Naples in the 18th century to paint Vesuvius erupting. But this Welsh genius preferred to contemplate neglected corners of the city itself – a wall, a window, some washing hung out. Here he daydreams about the melancholy of ruins. JJ

17. William Jones Chapman – Francis Crawshay’s Workers
National Museum Cardiff
This set of 16 portraits of Welsh workers from the first half of the 19th century is remarkable not for the quality of the art – they are thought to have been painted by jobbing artist William Jones Chapman – but for the fact that they exist at all. They were commissioned by Francis Crawshay, a man with his own artistic ambitions who had been put in charge of his father’s ironworks. He learned Welsh to speak to his workers and treated them as equals. A record of industrial life of that time. NW

18. Tai-Shan Schierenberg – Seamus Heaney
Naughton Gallery at Queen’s University Belfast
One of the achievements of the Irish poet Seamus Heaney was to speak so profoundly to a global audience while never losing the connection to his roots. This portrait hangs in a gallery at Queen’s University in Belfast, where there is a centre for poetry that also bears his name. NW

Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion (Pasmore Pavilion) in Peterlee, County Durham
Architect Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion (Pasmore Pavilion) in Peterlee, County Durham. Photograph: Robert Smith/Alamy

North-west and north-east

19. Victor Pasmore – The Apollo Pavilion
Peterlee, County Durham
At the time of its completion in 1969, Pasmore’s brutalist sculpture was the largest public art work in Britain, created for the new town Peterlee’s housing project, Sunny Blunts, which Pasmore also designed. Its series of intersecting abstract concrete planes, forming walls and walkways, frame the landscape and give the estate a focal point. If not quite the platform for psychic uplift its maker envisioned, the pavilion is embraced as a site of shared recollections for those who’ve grown old with it. SS

20. David Hockney – Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Hockney won the John Moores prize for this work in 1967, just as homosexuality started to be legalised in Britain. But the artist was in Los Angeles when he painted it the year before. The hedonistic setting is completed by the geometrical buttocks of his boyfriend Peter Schlesinger. These are the musings of a perfect afternoon: Hockney sees his lover as a natural form among stylised patterns of delight. What’s revolutionary about paintings such as this in the 1960s is that Hockney is utterly glad to be gay. JJ

21. Kurt Schwitters – Merz Barn Wall
Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne
A drystone wall, partly coated in rough plaster, coaxed here and there into painted abstract forms, encases objects scavenged from its original Lake District setting. The work of one of Britain’s most radical artist refugees, it was excavated in 1965 from Schwitters’s Merz Barn in Cumbria. This pioneering fusion of art and architecture embraces the stuff of everyday life: bus tickets, sweet wrappers, whatever interesting flotsam came his way. SS

22. John Everett Millais – Isabella
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Millais was just 19 when he painted Isabella. Drawing on a story by Boccaccio, via a poem by Keats, it features the stylistic aspects of early Italian art and was one of the first works to be described as pre-Raphaelite. NW

23. Waqas Khan – Khushamdeed II
The Whitworth, Manchester
This Lahore artist creates cosmic drawings and paintings that generate waves of mystery. He toils for months to make a single piece with painstaking marks that suggest almost trancelike experiences. There’s a warm, optimistic vision in all his work – here stated simply in a neon that says “welcome” in Urdu. JJ

24. John Martin – The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne
At the heart of this Victorian painting is a gold and red blaze of lusciously oily abstract art. Martin depicts the desert scenery with typical 19th-century realism yet, as the cursed biblical cities are destroyed, all hell breaks loose in a supernova of pure colour. A raw British genius. JJ

25. Edwin Landseer – The Otter Speared
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne
Landseer’s bloodthirsty depiction of the Earl of Aberdeen’s hounds is an attempt to glorify its subject as worthy of a history painting: a battle’s dramatic conclusion. Yet the results are compellingly bizarre: the young hunter’s thrusting spear and animal energy suggest an eroticism underlying the violence. SS

Anthea Hamilton, Leg Chair
Anthea Hamilton, Leg Chair (Sushi Nori), 2012. Photograph: Doug Atfield/Courtesy the artist/ Wakefield Permanent Art Collection


29. Anthea Hamilton – Leg Chair (Sushi Nori)
The Hepworth, Wakefield
Anthea Hamilton’s sculptures replicating her own legs in Perspex recall the famed photo of Christine Keeler. Keeler’s seat is now a design classic itself, and Hamilton, too, uses her legs to display contemporary fetishes. Here it’s aspirational food: sushi’s brown seaweed skins assert the artist’s identity as a Black woman. SS

27. Paula Rego – The Artist in Her Studio
Leeds Art Gallery
Created after a residency at the National Gallery, this is a subversion of what Rego, who died earlier this month, found in its art historical masterpieces: the lack of women as central players on and off the canvas. In an affirmative gender flip, her artist enjoys the thoughtless everyday freedoms of men: she sits with her legs open, smoking a pipe, surrounded by art within the art, sculptures and paintings and their shadows underlining her prowess. SS

28. Roger Hiorns – Seizure
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield
This blue crystal cave was once a south London flat. While a council block near Elephant and Castle was waiting to be demolished, Hiorns filled one of the flats with liquid copper sulphate that turned into a magical coating of deeply coloured, light-catching symmetrical shards. JJ

29. Julia Margaret Cameron – Iago: Study from an Italian
National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
A masterpiece of early photography that plays up to images of Italy as a land of passion, as a model poses as the villain from Shakespeare’s Othello. His brooding intensity conveys dark thoughts. But this portrait by a Victorian woman is above all an unabashed celebration of saturnine male beauty. JJ

30. Thomas Jacques Somerscales – The Pier, Kingston upon Hull
Ferens Art Gallery, Hull
Somerscales was born in Hull in 1842 where his father was a shipmaster and he duly went to sea himself, as a teacher in the Royal Navy. After being discharged he spent some time in Chile – he is still claimed as a Chilean artist – and made a career as one of the most significant maritime artists of his generation. NW

31. Sarah Lucas – Nud 4
York Art Gallery
The curves and colours of the human body are reduced in this wicked work to a grey-pink mass of sausage meat on a pedestal. Lucas mocks the way art glorifies and dresses up the human body. She sees us as unadorned meat. The nude has been stripped, leaving it “nud”. JJ

32.Lucie Rie – Jar
York Art Gallery
Among an outstanding collection of British studio ceramics in York there is a work by the acclaimed Austrian-born British ceramicist Lucie Rie. These stoneware jars reveal the influence of ancient archaeological pots on a body of work best known to be in a modernist, 20th-century style. NW

33. David Nash – Three Stones for Three Trees
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield
A simple idea made endlessly intriguing. Three sandstone slabs hewn from quarries local to Yorkshire Sculpture Park were placed by Nash in 1981 alongside newly planted sycamore, oak and beech trees in what he called a “coming” work that develops over time. NW

34. Angelica Kauffman – Self-Portrait of the Artist Hesitating Between the Arts of Music and Painting
Nostell Priory, near Wakefield
What’s a girl to do? Should she sit politely with retiring feminine music, or head for the unknown with that dynamic gesticulating upstart, painting? Eighteenth-century maverick Angelica Kauffman knew the answer when she looked back on the struggles of her younger self to create this painting. This self-portrait was a way to publicise her success. SS

Alison Wilding and Adam Kershaw’s memorial to victims of terrorism at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
Detail from Alison Wilding and Adam Kershaw’s memorial to victims of terrorism at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. Photograph: Angus Mill Photography

West and east Midlands

35. Alison Wilding and Adam Kershaw – Still Water, National Memorial to British Victims of Overseas Terrorism
National Memorial Arboretum, near Burton upon Trent
Wilding’s signature diamond lozenge forms quietly invert the thrusting tendency of memorial cenotaphs. Like mountains emerging from a pool of concrete, its surface mimics water’s movement. Between solidity and liquid, it suggests a transformative cycle. SS

36. John Singer Sargent – Portrait of the Acheson Sisters
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Sargent was a leading portraitist of his day and this vast 1902 triple portrait hangs in the grandest of society houses. The painting is of three granddaughters of the then Duchess of Devonshire from a previous marriage. Sargent was known for combining an appreciation of old masters with new trends in painting. Here he brilliantly incorporates a nod to classical depictions of the Three Graces with a touch of turn-of-the-century fashionable behaviour: the poses his subjects hold in the finished work were captured by Sargent while the women were playing golf. NW

37. Elizabeth Siddal – The Haunted Wood
Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton
As the flame-haired model who nearly froze to death in a bathtub posing as Millais’s Ophelia, Elizabeth Siddal is a pre-Raphaelite legend. Wightwick’s collection of the lesser appreciated pre-Raphaelite sisterhood’s output includes this disquieting reminder that Siddal became an artist in her own right. In it, the muse turned maker confronts her sinister double in a dark wood. SS

38. Elisabeth Frink – Lectern Eagle
Coventry Cathedral
The post-second world war rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral prompted the commissioning of many contemporary artists. This was the then 28-year-old Frink’s first major commission. The work and her discussions with architect Basil Spence were influential on many other aspects of the cathedral’s design. NW

39. Käthe Kollwitz – Woman With Dead Child
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Grief has reduced Kollwitz’s mother to an animal state. As emotion fills her, she fills the frame. It recalls Michelangelo’s muscular Pieta, though this is no adult Christ. The model was the artist’s son, who died a decade later. SS

40. Frank Bowling – Traingone (Mahaicony Abary, Guyana)
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry
Bowling was part of the pop art generation but found himself as an abstract artist with a powerful sense of history. He evokes the pain of empire and slavery in glimpses of images seen through rich matted colour. JJ

41. Joseph Wright – Self-Portrait at the Age of About Forty
Derby Museum and Art Gallery
Wright is best known for his 1768 painting An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, which, illuminated by candlelight, symbolised the Enlightenment search for knowledge. Derby Museum has now acquired two works in one: on the reverse of Wright’s self-portrait is an early study for the Air Pump painting. NW

Still Life With Apples, by Paul Cézanne
Still Life With Apples, by Paul Cézanne. Photograph: Andrew Norman/The Fitzwilliam Museum, Image Library

East of England

42. Paul Cézanne – Still Life With Apples
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
A dazzling display of Cézanne’s search for geometrical forms in nature. Like all his masterpieces it is about his looking, again and again, trying to grasp the roundness of apples, never resolving into the dullness of certainty. JJ

43. The Lady Chapel
Ely cathedral
The agony and ecstasy of this mutilated wonder fill you with troubling thoughts. Its walls are sculpted into one of the most exquisite artistic masterpieces of medieval Britain, all delicate gothic tracing, yet every statue was carefully beheaded in the Reformation. A collision of beauty and violence. JJ

44. Linder – Hiding But Still Not Knowing
The Women’s Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge
Linder’s collage on the Buzzcocks’ 1977 single Orgasm Addict, a nude with a clothes iron head and lipstick mouths in place of nipples, took a knife to housewife/pinup stereotypes. With its suggestion of BDSM, this self-portrait continues that subversion of porn and consumer culture’s tropes. SS

45. Leonora Carrington – The Old Maids
Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich
One of surrealism’s great rule-breakers, Carrington’s fantasias glow with mystery. The symbolism is ripe to burst in this work, created during her first pregnancy in her new home country of Mexico, including that swollen teapot and breast-like puddings. SS

46. Adriaen Coorte – A Bundle of Asparagus
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Little is known about this Dutch painter, who isolated his still lifes against dark backgrounds so that they seem more like sacred objects. He plainly had a thing for asparagus. He painted it many times, as in this jewel-like painting giving the knobbly spears reverential treatment. SS

Bridget Riley, Red Movement
Bridget Riley, Red Movement. Photograph: Paul Carter/Southampton City Art Gallery, Hampshire.


47. Bridget Riley – Red Movement
Southampton City Art Gallery
Riley is that rare thing, a great British abstract painter. Since the early 60s, her carefully calculated yet emotionally turbulent optical art has led eyes a merry dance. This later work creates a swaying, waltz-like movement that is beguiling in its radiant authority. JJ

48. Stanley Spencer – Sandham Memorial Chapel
Sandham, Hampshire
During the first world war, Spencer served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. When asked to decorate a chapel in honour of “the forgotten dead”, he adopted Giotto’s frescoes in Padua as his model. It took six years to finish the cycle of murals, which pay attention to the minutiae of everyday lives. NW

49. Marc Chagall – Stained glass window
Chichester Cathedral
Chagall’s 1978 stained-glass window was inspired by Psalm 150, the Musicians’ Psalm, and depicts the singing, dancing and the playing of instruments itemised in its verses.

50. Tracey Emin – Baby Things
Folkestone, Kent
Commissioned for the 2008 Folkestone Triennial in response to high teen pregnancy rates in the area, Emin’s actual-sized bronze versions of baby clothes and toys are placed around the town. There’s a mitten on railings as if picked up by a passerby, a teddy bear is on the station platform, a sandal at the top of steps to the beach. NW

51. Laura Knight – Hop-Picking: Granny Knowles
Canterbury Museums and Galleries, Canterbury
Laura Knight broke boundaries in terms of what women could do – painting everything from soldiers’ camps to the Nuremberg trials – and who might be represented. Her subjects include Gypsies, circus performers and fieldworkers. This hop-picker chewing her pipe is typical of the nonconformist women who caught the painter’s eye. SS

52. The Praying Parson
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex
Ditchling celebrates artists such as typographer and sculptor Eric Gill and printer Hilary Peplar, who made their homes in the South Downs in the early 20th century. But the museum also contains folk art by local people, such as this painted animal vertebrae, possibly a representation of Methodist preacher John Wesley. NW

53. Richard Hamilton – Swingeing London ’67
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
This is history painting for the swinging 1960s: a screenprint from a pap shot of Jagger and his art dealer “Groovy Bob” Fraser in the police van after that drug bust at Keith Richards’ home. Hamilton’s choice of subject speaks of societal crossroads. SS

54. Hew Locke – The Jurors
Runnymede, near Windsor
With their reliefs of historical and present-day struggles for justice, Locke’s 12 bronze jury chairs placed in a ring on Runnymede Island actively invite debate. References to hunger strikes, children’s rights, oil tankers, refugee boats, Wilde’s jail door, Mandela’s prison cell key and a prison tree for Indigenous Australians can be found among their layered imagery. SS

55. JMW Turner – Paintings in the Carved Room
Petworth House, West Sussex
The Romantic painter loved staying at Petworth House with its commanding landscaped estate. His installation of golden, light-filled paintings set among ornate carvings by Grinling Gibbons play off the elements. JJ

56. Prunella Clough – Disused Land
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester
Clough, a young cartographer during the second world war, went on to become one of the most significant postwar British painters. Her work, no matter how apparently abstract, always locates the humanity, politics and aesthetics in overlooked environments. NW

57. Meissen Nanny Goat with Suckling Kid
Waddesdon Manor, Aylesbury
One of the glories of 18th-century Meissen porcelain, this figurine was made for Augustus the Strong of Saxony at a time when porcelain was regarded as “white gold”. It was to be part of a never-completed vast menagerie. NW

58. Paolo Uccello – The Hunt in the Forest
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
As the hunters race after their prey, the forest opens to receive them. But will it let them out? Uccello has fun with Renaissance perspective with its central vanishing point, creating a deep woodland space. JJ

Banksy’s Well-hung Lover
Banksy’s Well-hung Lover in Bristol. Photograph: iWebbtravel/Alamy


59. Banksy – Well-Hung Lover
Frogmore Street, Bristol
Banksy at his most Hogarthian, painting a Carry On-style scene rather than making a political point. At least I don’t think there’s a satirical message in the naked man dangling from the window ledge to hide from a suspicious husband. JJ

60. Alfred Wallis – The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach
Tate St Ives
Wallis worked as a fisherman, scrap dealer and ice-cream seller in St Ives until he took up painting at the age of 70 in 1925. Visiting artists soon “discovered” him and were impressed by the untutored directness of his seascapes and repeated depictions of St Ives. NW

61. Lubaina Himid – Between the Two My Heart Is Balanced
Tate St Ives
To createFor this painting of self-determining Black women, Himid overturned Victorian artist James Tissot’s vision of power abused in his works depicting a soldier appraising two lovers. She borrowed Tissot’s title, but excised his man, making “the two” suggestive of the dilemmas migrants face. Her women rip up the maps white men control. SS

62. Aubrey Williams – Shostakovich Symphony No 13, Opus 113 (Babi Yar) for Bass, Bass Choir and Orchestra to the Poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Caribbean Artists Movement co-founder Williams fused diverse influences in his paintings, from pre-Colombian cultures to abstract expressionism. A kindred spirit in cultural cross-currents, Dmitri Shostakovich’s music was a lifelong passion and this work is inspired by the Russian composer’s symphony remembering Ukrainian Jews killed during the second world war. SS

63. Barbara Hepworth – Two Forms (Divided Circle)
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives
This huge bronze sculpture with its twinned crescents was made in the year of the moon landing. Hepworth talked of looking at the moon and sun through the holes that pierced her sculptures; explorations of inner and outer space. It conjures thoughts of modern and ancient worlds. SS

64. Gorgon’s Head
Roman Baths, Bath
A face that seems to come from a primordial past, reflecting ancient Celtic beliefs. It is part of the Temple of Sulis Minerva in Bath, where the Romans took over a sacred hot spring, using the water for a bathing complex. Although it was thought to have been carved in Gaul, it is hard not to see the Green Man of folklore in this face from the depths of time. JJ

The Cholmondeley Ladies
Unknown artist, The Cholmondeley Ladies, 17th century. Photograph: Alamy


65. Unknown artist – The Cholmondeley Ladies
Tate Britain
Little is known about the painter or the subjects of this arresting early 17th-century double portrait aside from the biographical note that they are “Two Ladies of the Cholmondeley Family, Who were born the same day, Married the same day, And brought to Bed [gave birth] the same day”. NW

66. Mark Rothko – The Seagram Murals
Tate Modern
These deep red and purple canvases depict nothing, and do it sublimely. Rothko was torn between a sensual feel for colour and a bleakly pessimistic view. Those forces balance here. JJ

67. Leonardo da Vinci – The Virgin of the Rocks
The National Gallery
It is the most unforgettable work in the gallery, even though Leonardo finished it with the help of assistants. You only have to compare the exquisite features of the angel, by Leonardo, with the faces of the other figures to see the difference. Yet his vision is so strange it doesn’t matter. The Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, the infant Jesus and angel Uriel take refuge in a remote cave. But the eerie setting – with alpine flowers sprouting from the rocks amid stalagmites and stalactites – reveals that Leonardo cares more about the mystery of nature than theology. JJ

68. Henry Moore – Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge
Greenwich Park
A quintessential Moore abstracted form, the shape of the torso originally developed from fragments of a bird’s breast bone. It was an idea he returned to many times, and in varying sizes. NW

69. Rembrandt – Self-Portrait With Two Circles
Kenwood House
He fixes his eyes on you unnervingly, from a face pummelled into dough by age and hardship, yet wearing grand robes, and proudly holding his brushes. This is arguably the greatest of Rembrandt’s harrowing, but uplifting self-portraits. JJ

70. Frank Auerbach – Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II
Ben Uri Museum
In 1939, Auerbach was sent from Berlin to England by his parents to escape nazism. Much of his family later perished in the concentration camps. Auerbach became one of the definitive chroniclers of postwar London, firstly of the bomb sites that were becoming building sites, and then of the streets around his Camden studio he has occupied since the 1950s. A profound sense of place emerges from his engagement with the urban landscape. NW

71. Édouard Manet– A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
The Courtauld Gallery
Hanging in pride of place in the Courtauld galleries – home to one of the most significant collections of impressionist art in the world – Manet’s painting thrillingly breaks free of any sense of overfamiliarity to project the vibrancy and the complexity of a new world. NW

72. Yinka Shonibare – Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle
National Maritime Museum
Shonibare’s scale model of Nelson’s HMS Victory is strikingly contained within a bottle. The sails, in patterns more commonly associated with African dress, cleverly contextualise the notions of trade, industry and empire that Nelson’s campaigns helped to enable. NW

73. Mummy Portrait of Artemidorus
The British Museum
Ancient Egypt had been mummifying the dead for thousands of years when this youth was given the traditional treatment in the early second century AD. His lifelike portrait is born of cultural crossovers with Greece. Artemidorus himself was Greek. His face looks out in touching reality from the undisturbed mummy. JJ

74. Gianlorenzo Bernini – Thomas Baker
Victoria & Albert Museum
This man seems half human, half spaniel. Bernini captures his flowing locks with such movement it’s hard to believe this is marble. Baker visited the baroque master in Rome to arrange a bust of Charles I but Bernini did him, too, in a charming example of his rollicking flair. JJ

75. Unknown Balinese artist – Carving of Kneeling Figure
The Freud Museum
Alongside Freud’s collection of antiquities were more contemporary works such as this carving by a Balinese master in the 1930s