The Nail Gallery: Art on Your Fingertips

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You don’t have to go to your nearest art museum for a little culture. Take a seat—we’re travelling back in time for an art history lesson in nail design.

Jan Brueghel the Elder

Sixteenth-century Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder mastered the art of the still life. Gorgeous floral bouquets contrast brightly against a dark background and high-contrast lighting. To recreate the look, layer a black or dark-colored base on your nails, then paint on clusters of bright pink, blue, and green. Alternatively, you can also press gorgeous nail decals onto the nail like the image below.

nail image courtesy of weheartit.com

Claude Monet

One of the most popular Impressionist painters, Claude Monet is known for his paintings with hazy atmospheres and romantic color palettes. His abstract and hurried brushstrokes give the viewer an impression of the scene rather than a realistic portrayal. Here, Beauty Robin M., hand paints a Claude Monet manicure, inspired by one his most beloved works, Woman With a Parasol.

nail image courtesy of Robin M.

Piet Mondrian

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian was an important figure in the De Stijl and Neoplastic movements of art, which sought to reduce artistic form to its essential vertical and horizontal planes. You can instantly recognize his work from the strict geometric grid and use of saturated primary colors. Create your own grid with black polish and a thin art-store paintbrush.

nail image courtesy of zebber.tumblr.com

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko was a 20th-century Expressionist painter who was most famous for his massive color fields, which overlap and fade into one another without rigid borders. Nail visionaries CND played with a similar aesthetic with their navy airbrushed designs at designer Jen Kao’s latest spring runway collection.

nail image courtesy of CND

Jackson Pollock

Another 20th-century Expressionist, Jackson Pollock pioneered the “drip” technique of painting that his work is so well known for. He was the complete opposite of the archetypal artist, preferring the floor as his easel and house paints as his medium. To create a similar splatter effect on your nails, first apply a pale, opaque base coat. Choose brightly colored nail polishes with a runny consistency (the newer the polish, the runnier the texture) and drip the paint on your nails with the brush. The result may look messy, but you can clean up the edges after the drips dry and you’ve sealed your design with a topcoat.

nail image courtesy of jessicasnailart.blogspot.com

Roy Lichtenstein

The mid-century Pop Artist took inspiration from the industrial imagery of the ‘50s. Like Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein used familiar commercial items (most notably comic strips), and turned them into an art form. His use of saturated primary colors and onomatopoeic phrases (Boom! Pow! Thap!) cultivated a signature retro-American style. Paint your nails in shades of neon, add striped or dotted patterns, and draw or write your favorite comic-strip characters and phrases.

nail image courtesy of supanails.tumblr.com