100 Most Famous Paintings in the World

By Susan Dorling | 2020 Guide

This ultimate guide lists the Top 100 Most Famous Paintings in the world.

Countless painters have delighted people with their paintings down the centuries.

Many have inspired new thoughts and pushed the boundaries of artistic expression.

Such painters are remembered even today for their legacy, and their works have become part of the current human civilization and heritage.

In almost every major city of the world, there are galleries and museums that celebrate the most accomplished artists of older and current times. Their paintings reflect the values and attitudes of the times and offer a window into the societal and cultural concerns of the age in which they were created. A small number of these paintings survive the test of time to become actual timeless works of art that are remembered beyond the lifetime of their creators.

100 Greatest Paintings (Video)

P.S Check out the two very interesting videos we’ve added at the very end.

100. Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez 

This one by Diego Velázquez is a painting of a painting within a painting. The masterpiece has rolled up three different themes. It is a portrait of the family of King Philip IV (Spain’s royal family) in the studio, the painter’s self-portrait, and an interior scene that shows a glimpse of Diego’s working life. Since everyone had a different perception of this puzzle-like painting, it remained a riddle for the viewers.


99. The Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

There are more than a hundred versions of this now-popular Peaceable Kingdom. The ornamental painter created all these versions featuring a theme of the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. The painting made its mark not only for its appealing imagery but also for its beautiful message of peace.


98. Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David

Completed in 1801, the painting signifies the beginning of a new century. It is a perfect portrayal of the emergence of France as a great power after a decade of uncertainty and terror following the Revolution. The painting features General Napoleon Bonaparte, who eventually became the emperor and the most powerful man in France.


97. Musicians by Caravaggio

Caravaggio’s paintings are famous for their chiaroscuro effects. One such fantastic painting is the ‘Musicians’ that show four boys wearing classical costumes in a musical arrangement. The independent sketches of four figures make it a fascinating piece of work. This painting is referred to as one of the most complex and ambitious compositions of Caravaggio to date.


96. The Card Players by Paul Cezanne

The post-impressionist French artist is famous for some of the most captivating still-life paintings. ‘The Card Players’ is not one but a series of oil paintings that historians believed the artist chose as a subject because people playing card games were essentially a very common form of still-life. All the versions vary in size, setting, and the number of players.


95. The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau   

Most of Rousseau’s contemporaries were captivated by wandering gypsies. The painting features a dark-skinned Romany sleeping calmly while a large lion sniffs her. The Sleeping Gypsy summons an aspiration for a preindustrial past, which represented it as a highly-fascinated modern art during the mid-nineteenth century. The dream-like atmosphere and simple geometric designs portray the painter’s remarkable illustrative imagination.


94. The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet

Picture Source

This Jean-Francois Millet artwork is a simple oil painting that depicts three peasant women gleaning a wheat field after the harvest. The painting is perceived as a pioneering work of modern art and represents the artist’s profound respect for peasants and their timeless dignity. The painting is the result of Millet’s ten years of research on the subject of the gleaners.


93. Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

This exceptional piece of artwork is labeled as one of the most popular paintings in western art by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli. While the history of the painting is unclear, the theme is based on a group of figures from ancient mythology. Historians believe the painting is based on the rich growth of springs.


92. Charles I in Three Positions by Anthony Van Dyck

The popular painting is a triple portrait of King Charles I in three different viewpoints, including left-full profile, right three-quarter profile, and front face on. The painter was presumably inspired by Lotto’s Portrait of a Man in three different positions. The painting was also used as a study piece for sculpturing the monarch later.  


91. The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel The Elder

This painting depicts the incredible construction of the Tower of Babel. The painting features numerous arches and portrays the real essence of Roman engineering. Bruegel visited Rome and studied the Roman ruins before attempting the painting to show its true layers and the ascending spiral design.


90. A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas

This seminal piece of artwork was designed by the impressionist artist after visiting the cotton office in New Orleans that belonged to his brother. The painting combined genre and portraiture art and is a realistic portrayal of capitalism in the 18th century. The aim was to capture the lively, friendly, and successful American business style.


89. Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian

This exotic piece of artwork is based on the mythological story of Bacchus and Princess Ariadne. After being abandoned by her lover Theseus, she married Bachhus, the god of wine, who fell in love with her. The painting gained popularity for the way Titian froze the moment in a very dynamic scene. The beautiful and bright colors in the painting give it a very life-like appeal.


88. The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins

The portraitist artist Eakins depicts overseeing a lecture to a class of medical students and live surgery. Similar to Rembrandt’s version, the painting portrays the sanitary medical procedures during that time. The artist’s work of visual record is a calculated approach for presenting living figures in the medical amphitheater.


87. The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo

The double self-portrait of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is one of her most notable paintings and her first large-scale work. The painting depicts two different versions of Frida sitting side-by-side. Frida claimed the theme of the painting to be more politically engaged as she used her image as a metaphor to explore the varying lines of emotions. Painted in 1939 at the time of her divorce from Diego, the painting is also believed to be an expression of feelings.


86. The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky

This painting is the perfect example of a storm both in terms of the weather depiction and emotions. It is believed that the ninth shaft is the strongest of the waves, and nothing can withstand its power. The painting gained popularity for its creative use of warm tones while depicting the sea that’s hit by a storm. The warm colors tones down the apparent menace and gives a light of hope for survival.


85. St. George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello

The famous painting is a clear visual depiction of Gothicizing tendencies. It represents a scene from a popular story of Saint George and the dragon. Saint George can be seen spearing the plague-bearing dragon while the princess is holding the dragon’s leash.  The sky shows the emergence of the storm which suggests that the divine intervention helped him to victory.


84. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough shows possessions, money, and power with the painting Mr. and Mrs. Andrews. The artist lays bare the English class society on the canvas. The painting shows a young couple who got married to join their families’ fortune and chose Thomas Gainsborough – a relatively unknown painter – to paint their portraits. Little did they know that a few decades later, their painting will make the painter more famous than them.


83. Pollice Verso by Jean Leon Gerome

Pollice Verso or the Turned Thumb became a painting that was reputedly used as the primary inspiration for the movie Gladiator. The painting portrays the drama of the gladiatorial spectacle. The Colosseum spectators show the ‘thumb-down’ sign to the victorious gladiator as he stands with his foot on the defeated gladiator’s throat, who is pleading for mercy with his two fingers raised in the air. The painting covers the detail of the Roman Imperial age and also shows several defeated gladiators, a mass of spectators, Vestals in white, and the king in the imperial box.  


82. The Embarkation to Cythera by Antoine Watteau

The work of Watteau continued to influence various French painters throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This particular painting has its charm as it displays a ‘fête Galante,’ a party or romantic celebration enjoyed by the aristocracy of France during the Regence. This period after the death of Louis XIV is seen as a time of pleasure, peace, and dissipation. It is the historical significance of this painting that makes it so famous.


81. Boulevard Montmartre in Paris by Camille Pissarro

The Boulevard Montmartre is an incredible representation of the Impressionist movement. The painting is one of the pieces from a series the Boulevard Montmartre and features rich atmospheric effects, a complex blend of colors, and an outstanding depiction of gloomy feelings. The artist’s creative brushwork convincingly captures the image of dynamic, fast-paced urban life.


80. The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer

The Astronomer has several pictorial elements of compositions that are carefully fused together by the creative painter, Johannes Vermeer. The painting is a very interesting portrayal an astronomer’s profession, which is shown through a celestial globe, as well as the book on the table. The popularity of the painting is based on the pure depiction of scientific investigations in the 16th century.


79. The Grand Canal, Venice by J.M.W Turner

J.M.W. Turner painted The Grand Canal, Venice, on his second visit to the city. This painting was a part of the series the painter made showing the city in different views, capturing stunning scenes through his dynamic lens of romance and sensibility. The artist was known for his incredible knowledge of using colors and dramatic light to portray nature beautifully.


78. A Bar at the Folies Bergere by Edouard Manet

This is one of the best paintings of Manet and also one of his last major works. Putting his creativity to best use, the artist represents the bustling ambiance of significant cabarets and music halls of Paris in this painting. Manet used a real barmaid as a model to complete his artwork. What may appear as another barmaid on the back is actually the reflection of the barmaid on the front. This also sparked debates on the inaccuracy of the reflection that’s way too far to the right. This was another reason for the fame of this painting.


77. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

This is one of Rembrandt’s most dynamic and dramatic work of art. The large-scale image has overwhelming effects that portray survival through a violent storm. High waves are lashing the boat with Jesus and his disciples, and dark clouds are glowering above. The painting also depicts faith, showing Jesus in a very calm position and least bit worried. The painting is popular for its incredible theme and the vivid brushstrokes that bring the canvas to life.   


76. The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals

Frans Hals is one of the best portrait artists of the seventeenth century and boasts a spontaneous and lively style of portraiture, which can also be seen in this painting. The Laughing Cavalier is regarded as one of his masterpieces with extensive attention to the detail. What makes the painting even more interesting is that the person in the portrait painting is not a cavalier and not even laughing.


75. Paris Street in Rainy Weather by Gustave Caillebotte

The life-like painting by the French artist is considered one of his best works to date. It is a large oil-based painting that shows various individuals walking on a rainy day through the Place de Dublin and epitomized the modern paradigm. And even though this one is regarded as an Impressionist work of art, the masterpiece by Gustave Caillebotte is different for its apparent linearity and realism as compared to regular brush strokes.


74. The Foxes by Franz Marc

Franz Marc, known for his unusual expressionist work, had a series of abstract animal theme paintings one of which is this that portrays foxes. The bizarre combination of colors including blue, dark green, and bright red makes the painting stand out. What makes it unique is the brokenness of the lines, which does not compromise the clarity of the painting and the real fox faces can be clearly seen.


73. Lady With an Ermine by Leonardo Da Vinci

This masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci has stirred various speculations about the completion of the painting. It was believed that the painting always had white ermine, but a three-year investigation revealed that the painting was not completed in one but three different stages. The first version did not include any animal. The painter added a small grey ermine to the image in the second attempt. In the final stage, the small ermine was changed into a large white ermine.


72. Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley

The painting by John Singleton Copley generated a sensation mainly because it covers a very gruesome subject. It depicts a real-life incident in which a 14-year old boy Brook Watson was attacked by a shark in Havana Harbor. The images portray the traumatic incident where nine seamen are trying to help save the boy. It also shows bloody water proving that the boy lost his foot. To give the painting a touch of reality, the painter consulted prints and maps of Cuba and never visited the Caribbean himself.


71. Et in Arcadia Ego by Nicolas Poussin

Painted by one of the most famous artists of the classical French Baroque style paintings, the popular piece of art depicts a pastoral scene. The image shows idealized shepherds belonging to the classical antiquity surrounding an austere tomb. This painting has two versions where he carefully composes mythological painting, finished in rich and vibrant hues. According to art critics, the letters engraved into the stone means ‘even in Arcadia, I am there’, and these words were left on the stone by Death. The shepherds are realizing that even in a paradise-like place like Arcadia, one cannot evade death. The message is about a limited life so one can make the most out of it.


70. The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds

The three figures in The Ladies Waldegrave are Lady Charlotte Maria, Lady Anna Horatina, the daughters of James Waldegrave, and wife Maria Walpole. The portrait of the beautiful ladies was a calculated approach, with its primary intent being to attract attractive men for their daughters. The painting is the perfect depiction of socialites. Critics reveal how the art is arranged in a way that depicts different fates of three different women.


69. Breezing Up by Winslow Homer

This artist is popular for developing an inclination towards realism right from the start of his career. The Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) was completed during the centennial year of the country and became the most beloved and well-known artistic work in America. The painting portrays what a breezy day on coastal waters looks like. He achieved it with unique light-handed brushing techniques to complete the image in vibrant colors, detail, and shadowing. It gained popularity for its spirit, look, and hope it brings to American life in the centennial year.


68. The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte

What could be more interesting than a painting of a pipe with words that mean “This is not a pipe”. The painter tried to prove his point that paintings are a symbol of what they are representing. This is a very creative way to prove the semiotic gap between verbal and visual. This makes the viewer think in-depth about the picture and the relationship our mind creates with the image. This has been regarded as one of the most interesting paintings of all time.


67. The Night Café by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh painted The Night Café while he was in Arles. He stayed in the room at the Café de la Gare, and that’s exactly what he has put on this painting. The painting perfectly depicts the regular scene of the café, with lined walls, tables, and chairs, and areas occupied by figures engaged in different activities. Despite everything going on in this room, the painting gained popularity for how it reflects bitterness, sadness, and loneliness in the atmosphere.


66. The Avenue in the Rain by Childe Hassam

The Avenue in the rain is a highly popular painting in the world and came into being at the height of Hassam’s power. Childe Hassam enjoyed constant prominence as one of the ‘Ten American Painters’ who were influenced by famous French. The painting is a stunning depiction of the Fifth Avenue, which was frequently decorated with the American flag as the national sentiment moved inexorably towards intervention from isolation.


65. Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci

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The painting shows a beautiful and flourishing garden in the Renaissance Palace. The theme revolves around the purity of Mary. The painting shows how Archangel Gabriel kneels before the Virgin Mary, offering a lily. Mary responds from behind a lectern in a dignified way. The combination of the religious and traditional theme has been beautifully adjusted in an earthly setting by Leonardo, setting this painting apart.


64. The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein The Younger

The painting portrays two educated, powerful, and wealthy young men. The left one is a French ambassador Jean de Dinteville and on the right is his friend Georges de Selve, the bishop of Lavaur. The painting, however, is much more than a simple portrait. It is more of a traditional setting showcasing learned men with instruments and books. Some details in the painting can be perceived as a reference to the contemporary division of religions.


63. Flaming June by Frederic Leighton

The genius academic painter believed in an art for art’s sake based on the ideas of Aestheticism. This painting reflects moral connotations, extensive narrative, and realistic detail. It shows a sleeping girl curled up in orange clothes. The theme of the artwork is a figurative representation of an unconscious mind.


62. Las Damas Romanas by Juan Luna

Also known as The Roman Maidens, this is one of the most popular paintings by a Filipino painter Juan Luna. The artist created this painting during his six years of stay in Rome during the Spanish period. The painting shows a domestic scene of ancient Roman life, portraying two ladies lying on the stairs. The women in the painting seem to be in harmony with nature, representing the richness of life.


61. Composition VIII by Wassily Kandinsky

The abstract-style painting is a fantastic contrast of calm and chaos by strategically drawing lines and shapes. It consists of various vibrant colors, geometric shapes, curved and straight lines against a dull cream background that melts into pale blue in certain areas. The way the artist has used mathematical forms of creativity to complete this piece; it displays more than just shapes and colors. It is the emotional impact that makes this unique abstract art so popular.


60. The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba by Claude Lorrain

This painting was made in the year 1648 and features Queen Sheba making a visit to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon. This is a common Biblical scene. The painting is made memorable due to the significance of the event as well as the beautiful classical buildings in the surroundings.


59. Starry Night by Van Gogh

Starry Night is one of the best-remembered paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, by far the most well-known Dutch painter. It is particularly well known for depicting the modern art tradition and is recognizable by its deep blue swirls representing the night sky. The painting represents a break from the traditional techniques that were focused on capturing realism. Currently housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, this painting is also one of the most commonly reproduced works of art in popular culture for its color scheme.


58. Girl with Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

If the Mona Lisa is considered to be the best work of da Vinci, then this painting which is also called the Dutch Mona Lisa should be the best painting by Johannes Vermeer. This painting features a portrait of a girl wearing a very distinguishable earring that reflects the light beautifully. Made a few decades after the Mona Lisa, it features a high degree of realism and can be seen at the Mauritshuis Gallery in the Netherlands.


57. Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Picasso was one of the denizens of modern art and Guernica represents the culmination of his artistic output. Made in 1937, this painting was inspired by the Spanish Civil War. Painted in shades of black and white, it is a vocal protest against genocide and other heinous crimes committed during times of war. It became one of the most impactful paintings with a political message and was instrumental in ending the Civil War.  


56. Madame Recamier by Jacques-Louis David

This painting features a portrait of Juliette Recamier who was a popular Parisian socialite in the early seventeenth century. The portrait features her reclining on a settee dressed in white, with mostly antique furniture around her. It is a unique painting that David was unable to complete it. Nonetheless, it offers an excellent example of the artistic prowess of the painter, especially his ability to produce translucent colors as seen in the attire of Madame Recamier.


55. Royal Red and Blue by Mark Rothko

In 1954, Rothko painted his creation titled Royal Red and Blue which at first glance resembles a wash of three different colors. This is an oil painting on canvas and is an abstract expression that is also known as No. 1. Estimated to be worth $50 million, this is one of the most visited paintings at Sotheby’s and has been exhibited at famous galleries of the world such as the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.


54. The Lock by John Constable

John Constable was a famous English painter who is regarded as one of the best the nation has produced. The Lock is part of his River Stour series of paintings which shows a villager trying to get a small barge to cross the river by opening a gate. A giant tree can be seen in the background, completed with a heavily overcast sky.


53. Whistler’s Mother by James Whistler

Whistler’s Mother painted in 1871 became famous when it was featured in the Bean movie released in 1997. It features the painter’s mother seated on a chair and posing for her son. It is rumored that she was a last-minute replacement for the model whom Whistler intended to paint on that day. Anyhow, the painting is regularly exhibited at museums around the world but is the property of Musee d’Orsay.


52. The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

This is an interesting painting from the early twentieth century and is known for its detailed patterns. The Kiss features a couple embracing each other and is a symbolic representation of love. The painting has been made in the art nouveau style which also features a luxurious mix of colors and textures. Gold leaf has been used heavily in the painting which was an inspiration from the mosaic work.


51. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso

If it’s Picasso, then it has to be one of the best examples of modern art. This 1907 painting features African inspired art probably for the very first time in European painting. Picasso was probably inspired to feature these in his painting after visiting the African exhibit at Palais du Trocadero in Paris. As Picasso was a native of Barcelona, the women in this painting are supposed to be prostitutes from Picasso’s native city.


50. Composition with Red Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian

This painting is much smaller than the other paintings included in this list, and perhaps this is what makes it famous and unique. Measuring only 18 inches as a square, it is rich in art history. All the three essential aspects of art, namely composition, color, and form are at work here. Primary colors are used to create this painting along with white and black. It is also said that this painting was a harbinger of the Minimalist tradition in painting.


49. Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 Made in the year 1814, the Grande Odalisque is famous because it was ordered by Queen Caroline who was also the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is made in the Mannerist style which was the style that later evolved into Romanticism and was a shift away from the Neo-classicist style. The woman featured in the painting is most likely a concubine seated on her couch. It was a rather amusing painting at the time because the proportions of the body are quite unrealistic.


48. Wanderer in Fog by Caspar Friedrich

This painting, made in 1819, is a good example of the Romantic style which revered nature as the primary source of inspiration and truth. This painting features a man with his back towards the viewer standing on the top of a rock and observing his surroundings. Because of the vantage point offered by the perspective, it is possible for the viewer to also enjoy the view and partake in the enjoyment of the stranger.


47. Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp

Nude Descending a Staircase is an experimental painting made by Duchamp who was widely known for his cubic style and appreciation of futuristic styles in painting. Since this style was particularly new for American viewers, the painting received a lot of criticism when it was showcased in 1912. Over time, people have learned to appreciate its unique representation of form, time and movement, whereas its title drew considerable attention from the viewing public.

46. Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

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Rome’s Sistine Chapel features this classic masterpiece by Michelangelo and is the best reflection of the Renaissance values as it focuses on the relation between man and God. Michelangelo is supposed to have created this painting in the first decade of the 16th century and is one of the best representations of the Biblical scene of the creation of man. In addition to this painting, the Sistine Chapel features 8 other paintings representing different scenes of the Book of Genesis.

45. The Night Watch by Rembrandt

No list of the most famous paintings in the world can be complete without a mention of Rembrandt, possibly one of the best and most famous painters of the seventeenth century. Housed in Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, this painting features Captain Cocq and some guards on the move. Rembrandt was regarded as one of the leading lights in representing light and shadow in his paintings, and The Night Watch is no exception. 

44. Dogs Playing Poker by Cassius Coolidge

This is actually a collection of paintings rather than a single painting, with all the paintings featuring a number of dogs of different breeds playing poker. The painting was made by Cassius Coolidge, a popular American painter in the early years of the 20th century. The painting invokes humor for showing dogs engaging in typically masculine behaviors such as smoking and playing cards sitting around a table. In 2015, the painting was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York for $658,000.

43. Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Rubens

Massacre of the Innocents is one of the famous Biblical paintings of the world as it features the incident as narrated in the Gospel of Matthew. This painting is estimated to have been painted in 1636 and Rubens was inspired to create this painting after a visit to Italy during the early years of the 17th century. It also seems to have been inspired by the Italian painter Caravaggio and his great contemporaries.

42. The Flower Carrier by Diego Rivera

The Flower Carrier is a famous painting by the American painter Diego Rivera. It was painted in 1935 and is currently housed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A sharp cry against capitalism, it shows the pain that human beings suffer in this exploitative system. Noticeable for the excessive burden that the man seems to be carrying, and the helpless woman who seems to be helping him carry it.

41. Arnolfini by Jan van Eyck

Arnolfini is one of the best representatives of art that was created in Northern Europe during the Renaissance. According to most estimates, this painting was made in the year 1434 which makes it one of the earliest paintings of modern times. In fact, it is even believed to be one of the earliest oil portraits. The painting shows an Italian couple which has been surmised to be an engagement of the couple. It uses the orthogonal perspective to paint an interior space for the first time.

40. Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Édouard Manet

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This particular painting raised quite a stir when it was first exhibited because of the way in which it featured a party of young Parisians enjoying a picnic in the outdoors. It was rejected for being exhibited at the Academie des Beaux-Arts exhibition mainly because the painting featured a nude woman while the men in the painting are fully clothed. This painting made in the nineteenth century seems to be inspired by the Renaissance style and is one of the later reminders of the classical tradition in painting.

39. Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix

Contrary to what most people believe, this painting is not about the French Revolution. In fact, it represents the 1830 Revolution in France that resulted in the ouster of King Charles X. It is largely an allegorical painting in which the revolution is represented as a woman carrying the French flag. Behind her is an assortment of the different strata of French society walking towards their freedom.

38. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

This painting was made in the year 1942 and features four modern characters at a diner engaged in different activities. It is one of the best depictions of the isolation that people experience in a modern urban setting. Even though each person in the painting appears to be lonely, they choose to avoid conversation or any kind of interaction with each other. Another interesting feature of this painting is that it has been compared with Van Gogh’s famous painting Café Terrace at Night.

37. The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream is Edvard Munch’s most famous painting that was made towards the end of the nineteenth century. The unique thing about this painting is that it is made with a combination of oil paints and pastel. Instead of using a canvas, Munch painted this on cardboard. It is quite a popular painting because it represents the state of anxiety and loneliness marked by the modern world.  

36. Rain’s Rustle by Leonid Afremov

Rain’s Rustle is a popular and famous painting by Israeli painter Leonid Afremov and features a burst of color in oil paint on canvas. In fact, Afremov was famous for cityscapes that featured rain and lighting. The unique thing about this painting is that it was created entirely by using a palette knife, which few painters did at the time. This creates the effect of the unique strokes that add a certain depth to the panting.

35. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

This is one of the most famous French paintings of all time, created by Seurat using the pointillist method and is a sizable painting for its time. It features a scene along the Seine River where a number of Parisian citizens are seen to be enjoying the weather. The painting was made intermittently for several years and was eventually completed in 1886 and was exhibited soon after.

34. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

According to the legend, Venus was a goddess who was born in the sea. This painting depicts the landmark event in Roman mythology and features the goddess standing on a shell that floats on the sea. The painting is currently housed at the Uffizi Gallery in the Italian city of Florence. This is one of the oldest paintings on this list since it is believed that the painting was created in the latter decades of the fifteenth century. 

33. King Philip’s Family by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez

This painting offers a richness in themes that is comparable to none. The family shown in this portrait is that of Spain’s King Philip IV posing inside an artist’s studio. Velazquez has truly outdone himself with this painting which simultaneously features a composition, a self-portrait and detailed brushwork. The impact of all this activity on the viewer is pure delight. There is also a mirror that shows the faces of King Philip IV and his Queen.

32. Medusa’s Raft by Theodore Gericault

This is an extremely dramatic painting that was inspired by the tragic deaths of more than 100 sailors in 1818 when a French navy ship sank near the African coast. The scene shown in the painting represents the 15 sailors who were rescued after 13 days of being adrift at sea and having gone through terrible experiences. The painting correctly shows the horror and desperation of the men and is one of the best instances of art taking inspiration from real-life incidents.

31. Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The melting watches of this painting and known to all as Salvador Dali made these timepieces unforgettable in his painting The Persistence of Memory. Perhaps the best known visual representation of time through watches, this painting inspires people to think about their life and how they have spent their time. Many people have also interpreted this poem in scientific terms which is a testament to its timelessness and ability to inspire generations of artists and art lovers.

30. The Son of Man by Rene Magritte

Rene Magritte’s painting The Son of Man is the signature work of the artist and the biggest reason for his fame. It is originally meant to be a self-portrait and shows a man wearing a hat and coat, which his face hidden behind a green apple. It is a particularly important painting because it reflects the theme of hidden and revealed objects, suggesting that people are more interested in the things they cannot see than the things that are visible to them.

29. Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

This painting features an extremely busy scene showing the earthly delights, perhaps one of the first manifestations of the surrealist style of painting. The painting can be divided into three scenes, one of which features Christ handing over Eve to Adam. Creatures from Hell are also featured in this painting. Overall, there is heavy use of symbolism in this painting, which makes it one of the busiest paintings to be created since the Renaissance.

28. Sunrise by Claude Monet

This is one of the most famous paintings of Monet, the chief proponent of the Impressionistic style in painting. This particular painting titled Sunrise was painted in 1874 and features a sunrise scene in Le Havre, which is Monet’s native town and also a port city. Basically, this painting offers a perfect example of Monet’s skill over showing light and shadow in his paintings, a feat that he could easily accomplish by the deft strokes of his brush.

27. Self-Portrait by Van Gogh

This is probably one of the finest self-portraits made by any artist. Even though Van Gogh made several self-portraits in his lifetime, this one has particularly endured the test of time and is unique in that it features him without his characteristic beard. He had famously presented it to his mother on her birthday. Interestingly, this painting is also among the most valuable paintings, famously bought by a private collector for more than $71 million two decades ago.

26. The Portrait of Dora Maar by Picasso

Dora Maar was a good friend of Picasso’s and also a well-known photographer of her time. She features in this abstract portrait by the famous artist and can be seen seated and pleasantly smiling. The most notable feature is her hand on which she rests her head and the different directions of her gaze. This is an interesting painting as it shows a variety of shapes and colors that was characteristic in the truest celebration of Picasso’s art.

25. Three Musicians by Picasso

An interesting bit of history about this painting is that Picasso made two paintings with the same title, i.e. Three Musicians. The painting was made in 1921 in a town near Paris. The painting features a trio of musicians towards the left side, one of whom is a comic figure which was a common staple used in paintings of the time. Particularly notable is the bright musician in the center who serves as the focal point of this painting.

24. American Gothic by Grant Wood

American Gothic is a 20th century painting by Grant Wood after he was inspired by the sight of a nondescript dwelling called the Dibble House on one of his trips across the US. Even though the house featured in the painting is real, the two people seen in it are not its real inhabitants. The man is modeled on a dentist Wood knew while the woman is modeled on Wood’s own sister. The painting was featured at a competition in Chicago and received third prize.

23. The Bridge at Narni by Corot

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This is a famous painting by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot who was a famous French painter of the nineteenth century. He was a widely traveled painter which gave him lots of inspiration for making landscape paintings. The Bridge at Narni depicts a scene in the Narni region of Italy and has been made using oil paints.

22. The Naked Maja by Lucientes

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This is a female nude posing for the artist and as can be expected became quite a controversial painting at the time of its creation. In fact, Lucientes got into a lot of trouble because this was right in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition. In fact, the painting was made on the commission of the then Prime Minister of Spain. Even though much conjecture has taken place about who the woman featured in the painting, her identity still remains a mystery.

21. No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

This is one of the best known abstract paintings made in the expressionist style by Jackson Pollock in the 1948. On first look, the painting features a drizzle of different colours against a dark background. Even though it did not generate a lot of excitement at the time, it is today one of the most talked about abstract paintings. In 2006, it fetched $140 million at an auction. It can be seen at a private collection in New York nowadays.

20. The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai

Hokusai may not be as well known as many western painters but he has been an inspiration for many of the most famous painters we know today. He produced a series of prints of Mount Fuji which made him famous the world over. This painting is part of that collection and shows a giant wave endangering boats along the coast of Kanagawa.

19. The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel

Pieter Brugel was known for representing common people in his paintings, which makes his paintings a convenient window into the lives of ordinary people in the sixteenth century. His paintings feature seasonal activities and this one in particular shows some farmers working on a wheat farm while some other workers are shown to be resting. It is a highly detailed painting and is testament to Brugels keen observation.

18. Olympia by Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet made this famous painting of Olympia in 1863, but it was not showcased until two years later. It was a highly scandalous painting at the time because it features a nude female who is being served flowers by her servant. There were threats to its safety which is why the administration of the Salon where it was exhibited had to take additional precautions to handle any threats.

17. The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel

This painting by the famous Dutch painter Bruegel has been made in the traditional Renaissance style and features the myth of Icarus who was killed because he flew too close to the sun. The painting is currently exhibited at the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and is one of the most visited exhibits. The painting has been made in a landscape style and measures 112 cm x 73.5 cm in its dimensions.

16. The Beheading of John the Baptist

This famous painting is known by several names, including the Decollation of Saint John. The event shown in the painting is a holy event for Catholic Christians all over the world which gives added importance to this painting. It is an excellent example of representing liturgical practices through art and history. To date, this painting is widely reproduced and its reproductions are housed in various churches and galleries of the world in the 21st century.

15. The Third of May by Francisco Goya

Francis Goya was a famous nineteenth century painter from Spain and was influenced by Napoleon’s defeat by the Spanish forces. As it is clear from the painting, the theme of the painting is liberation particularly in the context of Spain’s turbulent history. It celebrates the defiance of the Spanish rebels when being stared in the face by death at the hands of Napoleon’s soldiers. There is considerable detail in the painting as it shows a good play of light and darkness.

14. Nympheas by Claude Monet

Claude Monet, known for his impressionistic style of painting, created this masterpiece in the later years of his career. This is a culmination of almost 250 paintings by Monet and is also known as Water Lilies. These paintings are also famous because of the fact that at the time of making these paintings, Monet was suffering from eye cataracts, due to which some of the paintings were completed by other painters.

13. Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is a famous 1876 painting made by Renoir and is regarded as one of his best paintings. The painting shows a typical scene of a Sunday afternoon. It is believed that the scene takes place in the Moulin de la Galette in Paris. For many years, the painting was on display at the Museum of Arts of Paris and enjoys great admiration from people the world over.

12. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Another masterpiece by Renoir, this is a painting that was made a few years after Bal du Moulin and was featured for public viewing in 1882. It is one of the most highly prized paintings as it fetched $125,000 at an auction in the year 1923. Today, the painting can be found on display at the Phillips Collection.

11. Happy Accident on the Swing by Fragonard

This is an 18th century painting by Fragonard even though the identity of the painter is still not known with certainty. Despite this little weakness, it remains one of the best masterpieces. Made in the Rococo style, this painting features a woman enjoying a ride on a swing with her dress billowing due to the air. A man in hiding in the nearby shrubbery and is able to peek up her dress.

10. Café Terrace at Night by Van Gogh

This is a classic Van Gogh oil painting made in 1888 which features a night time café in the city of Arles in France. The café is brightly lit up in yellow light which is contrasted with the dark street and the starry night sky. Patrons are shown dining in the café under what some critics have described as lighting that is too harsh on the eyes. The painting is housed at the Kroller Muller Museum in Otterio.

9. View of Toledo by El Greco

View of Toledo is dated between 1596 and 1600 which is the peak of Renaissance painting. El Greco was one of the most popular painters in Spain and led the Renaissance culture. He may be called one of the pioneers of landscape painting in this era as the main subject of his painting. The painting shows Toledo city but the topography is not entirely realistic. However, the painting is known for its depiction of dark and light contrast, especially the sky.

8. The Hay Wain by John Constable

The Hay Wain is an iconic English painting in the Romantic style and features a typical rural landscape. The region is believed to be along the Stour River since Constable was known to frequent this area regularly as a child. The hay wain or cart is the focal point of this painting and a house can also be seen nearby. The painting is regarded as one of the most remarkable paintings made by an English painter.

7. Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

This painting is dated around 1948 and is made by Wyeth who was among the most famous 20th century painters in the US. His depictions of the American rural landscape are widely appreciated for their realistic value. This particular painting features a young woman looking at a house while lying in a grassy field. This woman was a real person whom Wyeth knew who could not walk properly due to a muscular and nervous disorder.

6. Irises by Van Gogh

After Sunflowers, this is probably the most famous paintings by Van Gogh. Made in 1889, Irises is also one of several paintings that Van Gogh made at the time featuring these flowers. In fact, he even made several prints featuring irises. This was one of Van Gogh’s last paintings which he made before shooting himself with a revolver. In 1987, this painting became the most expensive one to be sold in history, fetching almost $54 million at an auction.

5. The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner

This painting was made in 1839 and features a warship from the Royal Navy which had been used in the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805. In this painting, the ship is shown to be drawn by a small boat to a harbor where it is going to be retired. The setting sun in the background suggests that the ship has seen its best days.

4. School of Athens by Raphael

Raphael who is one of the famous four leading lights of the Renaissance, made this famous painting in the year 1511. The painting is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the painter and is the epitome of Renaissance painting and famously features the ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Plato. Originally, Raphael made this painting in the form of a fresco for the owner of the Apostolic Palace which is one of the famous buildings of the Vatican.

3. The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper was also painted by Leonardo da Vinci and is among his most famous paintings. It is currently situated in the Santa Maria monastery of Milan. It is believed to have been one of Vinci’s early paintings and is one of the best paintings in the world to depict Jesus having the last supper with his disciples. The Last Supper is perhaps one of the most popular tourist attractions of Milan.

2. Sunflowers by Van Gogh

Few still life paintings are as famous across the world as this painting by Van Gogh. Distinguished easily by the cheerful gold hues, this painting features a bunch of sunflowers inside a vase. So popular was this painting that Van Gogh produced an entire series of his Sunflower paintings. The most popular version is the fourth version and is housed at London’s National Gallery. 

1. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Made in the early sixteenth century, the Mona Lisa is today the most widely recognized painting worldwide and is in fact a part of popular as well as classical culture. There are many theories about the real identity of the woman featured in the painting and her unique smile. The Mona Lisa is currently housed in the Louvre Museum in France and an estimated 6 million people come to see it every year.


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