Famous Paintings – 47 Most Famous Artworks in History [Ranked]

Mona Lisa, Girl with pearl earring and other famous paintings

How many famous paintings in the world are you aware of?

Well, art has always sculpted history in many ways than we know. 

So, knowing about famous paintings in the world is also tapping into our roots of history and art culture. 

Behind every famous painting you see, there is an artist and there is a story. 

These famous art pieces have traveled through different times, movements, people, and places. 

And yet, to this day, they are etched in the hearts of millions of people! 

Want to check how many of them you know?

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I have curated a listicle of the most famous artworks in the world and discussed briefly about them here. 

So, get your coffee ready and indulge in the world of some of the best historical artworks!

1. Mona Lisa

mona lisa painting by leonardo da vinci
Artist Leonardo da Vinci
Yearc. 1503–1506, perhaps continuing until c. 1517
TypeOil on poplar panel
PeriodHigh Renaissance  
Location Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

A portrait of a female (or is it?) clothed in a Florentine manner, seated in a dreamlike backdrop with an expression beyond one’s understanding.  

That’s the Mona Lisa for you – a name that can never be forgotten, a masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Mona Lisa is perhaps the most recognized painting in the world, making it rank 1st in the list of famous paintings.

In fact, very few people know that there is something called “The Mona Lisa illusion” in psychology.

It is the reason why photographers ask you to look at the camera while taking photographs.

The Mona Lisa portrait painting became a household name in 1911, especially after it was stolen by an ex-employee of the Louvre Museum.

The identity of the Mona Lisa has become a mythology and you can definitely uncover this long-sitting mystery in our in-depth analysis of the Mona Lisa.

This reminds me that Leonardo did not just paint on poplar panels. 

He could paint an entire church if he wanted to – taking me to the second most famous paintings of all time.

2. The Last Supper

the last supper famous painting
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Yearc. 1495–1498
TypeTempera on gesso
Period High Renaissance
LocationSanta Maria delle Grazie

A classical painting taken straight out of the Bible, The Last Supper, is an artistic rendition of the last time Jesus sat to eat with his disciples before his crucifixion.

The Last Supper is a classic example of pure surprise and tension.

The painting is a depiction of the next few seconds in the story when Christ discloses about a disciple betraying him.

It may come as a shock to the readers that this famous artwork is, in fact, a failed experiment.

Leonardo used tempera paint instead of the traditional wet plaster, which led the painting to flake out in a couple of decades.

Don’t you worry; we still have two copies of the original – one in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Belgium and the other in the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Switzerland.

If you still want more, our artists will paint your Last Supper replica, and you won’t be able to find the difference.

3. The Starry Night

ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
Location Museum of Modern Art

“For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

The third on the list of famous paintings is, without any qualms, The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

Widely hailed as his magnum opus, this painting’s beauty is timeless and universal.

The Starry Night, a world-famous painting, is visually arresting with its striking blues, yellows, and the swirling pattern that creates movement in art.

The painting has intrigued artists and students likewise. 

In fact, it is one of those paintings that has been adapted for commercialization.

Only a few know that this painting was a hope for Van Gogh in his time of distress.

Suffering from bouts of depression and paranoia, Van Gogh painted this work of art in the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole near Saint Remy de Provence.

Van Gogh posthumously became one of the most famous painters in the history of Western art.

4. The Girl with The Pearl Earring

the girl with pearl earring painting
ArtistJohannes Vermeer
Yearc. 1665
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodDutch Golden Age painting
Location Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands

Johannes Vermeer’s mysterious artwork and the Mona Lisa of the North – that is what the famous painting is known for.

This famous classical painting is an excellent example of Baroque-style painting.

Among all the famous paintings in the world, The Girl with The Pearl Earring is known for its excellent use of light.

The girl, on the threshold of womanhood, wearing a striking blue and yellow turban and a glistening pearl earring, gives an almost neutral expression.

The black backdrop guides the focus towards the woman, and suddenly, everything falls into place.

Housed in a splendid 17th-century palace in The Hague, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, Netherlands.

This artwork comes under the best paintings in the world, but it is not a portrait painting. 

It is, but in fact, a ‘tronie’ – a painting of an imaginary figure.

Over the years, there have been a lot of arguments over The Girl With The Pearl Earring, and it is famous for its many mysteries. If you wish to own a replica, you can have it now! 

5. The Scream

the scream painting
ArtistOil, tempera, pastel, and crayon on cardboard
TypeOil, tempera, pastel and crayon on cardboard
Period Proto-Expressionism
Location National Gallery and Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway

The Scream, originally titled ‘The Scream of Nature’, is not a single work of famous art.

Munch created 4 different versions of it – two in oil and two in pastel.

It is also considered a scary painting due to its intensity.

This famous art painting has come to symbolize the anxiety and anguish of the human mind.

The painting style is a classic Art-Nouveau.

Munch was clearly going through psychological distress when he experienced something like this.

The Scream derived its inspiration from a moment where he went out with his friend for a stroll in Oslo.

As the color of the sky changed to a dramatic red hue, Munch suddenly experienced what could most likely be a schizophrenic-panic attack.

He could hear a scream coming from nature, and all he could do was try to close his ears.

However, there are audiences who like to consume such stories and show interest in owning a reproduction art of The Scream.

6. Salvator Mundi

Salvator Mundi famous painting by Da vinci
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci 
Yearc. 1499–1510
Medium Oil on walnut panel
Period  High Renaissance
OwnerCurrently owned by Mohammad bin Salman

Not just one of the most famous paintings, but Salvator Mundi is also one of the most expensive paintings in the world.

A famous portrait painting of a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World – that is what Salvator Mundi is.

This historical painting of Jesus shows him dressed in Renaissance-era robes, giving blessings with two of his right fingers extended.

But the most interesting part of it is the Glass Orb that he holds in his hand. It shows Christ not just as the savior of the world but also as the master of the cosmos.

As for the painting, it has gone through a lot of damage, theft, and discomfort – just like the Mona Lisa.

However, the discovery of the lost painting was announced in 2011.

Today, the painting is acquired by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

7. The Kiss

the kiss by gustav klimt
ArtistGustav Klimt
Medium Oil and gold leaf on canvas
PeriodVienna Succession
Location Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria

“All art is erotic.”

Gustav Klimt

This famous painting portrays a passionate couple in a loving embrace.

In fact, this is the only painting by Gustav Klimt that actually has a male presence.

Two lovers with their bodies tangled in complex decorative robes, the painting represented the apex of the artist’s “Golden Period”.

It is one of those famous pieces of art that was created by Byzantine artistic influences.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt is an icon of the Jugendstil – Viennese Art Nouveau – and is known as Klimt’s most popular painting.

The entire painting was an oil-on-canvas painting with added gold leaf, silver, and platinum.

Did you know that during the end of World War II, most of Klimt’s paintings were destroyed by the German Troops? But “The Kiss” still lives.

How about having this famous painting from the museum on your walls? Own your original The Kiss famous painting at an affordable price.

8. Guernica

guernica by picasso famous painting
ArtistPablo Picasso
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodCubism, Surrealism
LocationMuseo Reina Sofía

Pablo Picasso and his controversies are never-ending. But what makes it to the list of famous paintings is his Guernica.

Guernica is not only a famous painting but also a powerful political statement.

It is an unflinching portrayal of the tragedies of war, inspired by the Spanish war. 

It came out as an anti-war statement and embodied peace.

Picasso moved ‘Guernica’ to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York for safekeeping during World War II, and insisted that it stayed there until democracy returned to Spain.

Guernica is also one of the earliest politically inclined pieces.

There is more to this world-famous painting than just a political statement!

9. The Birth of Venus

the birth of venus botticelli
ArtistSandro Botticelli
Year1484 – 1486
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodEarly Renaissance
Location Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Sandro Botticelli’s painting masterpiece, The Birth of Venus, is the first of its kind to portray a nude woman so openly.

Bringing renewed interest in classical Greek culture with the Early Renaissance style, this historical painting is known for its unconventional and controversial style.

The Birth of Venus creates an unforgettable figure of the Goddess of Love emerging from a huge scallop shell.

The art-loving Medici Family possibly commissioned it.

Unsurprisingly, this famous piece of art attracted the ire of Savonarola, a Dominican monk.

His infamous campaigns, like the “Bonfire of the Vanities” of 1497, included the burning of “profane” and “obscene” objects – books, artworks, anything.

The Birth of Venus was, too, scheduled for the incineration, but it magically escaped destruction.

However, this did leave a scar on Botticelli, and he gave up painting for a while.

10. The Creation of Adam

creation of Adam popular painting
Yearc. 1512
Type Fresco
PeriodHigh Renaissance
LocationSistine Chapel

A painting directly taken from a Biblical narrative from the Book of Genesis, The Creation of Adam, is a historical painting.

A still from the time when God breathed life into Adam, the first man on Earth.

Outstretched arms of God and Adam against contrasting backdrops and bipolar energies, this famous painting is a Renaissance masterpiece.

It is, perhaps, one of the most replicated religious images in history.

Said to be Michelangelo’s greatest painting, The Creation of Adam is a fresco covering a section of the Sistine Chapel.

It is not easy to interpret historical paintings in a contemporary context, but Michelangelo’s paintings have proved otherwise.

His extensive grasp of human anatomy hints to art historians that everything in this painting has an explanation.

11. Las Meninas

las meninas famous painting
ArtistDiego Velázquez
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMuseo del Prado, Madrid

Las Meninas, for those who haven’t heard about this painting, is but a life depiction of King Philip IV of Spain.

The painting is nothing less than a complex and enigmatic composition.

Upon being looked at, the painting creates an uncomfortable relationship between the viewer and the subjects.

This is one of the most complex classical paintings and was voted the most famous painting in 1985.

If translated, Las Meninas means “Ladies-in-Waiting”.

It was a break from the stiff royalty portraits into a snapshot-like painting.

This old work of art raises questions about reality and illusion and is a painting with many hidden meanings to interpret! 

However, it isn’t something that we can uncover anytime soon.

Not only Las Meninas is the most famous painting of people, but also the largest one.

12. The Arnolfini Portrait

arnolfini portrait the most famous painting
ArtistJan van Eyck
TypeOil on oak panel of 3 vertical boards
PeriodNorthern Renaissance
Location National Gallery, London

The Arnolfini Portrait is a visually intriguing piece among the famous portrait paintings and is considered a masterpiece in the history of art.

The painting depicts the Italian businessperson Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, presumably, in their house in the Flemish town of Bruges.

girl with pearl earring replica

The iconography and symbolism of the painting are endless and highly complex.

Perhaps the most noted symbol is the mirror behind the couple on the wall.

The room that the couple is standing in can be perceived to be quite small.

But a simple addition of the mirror has magically created a real-world perspective to the painting.

It also adds an element of space to the otherwise congested painting.

This painting was not just revolutionary because it accurately depicted a 15th-century household. It is also the oldest and most famous surviving example of an oil medium.

13. Water Lilies’ Series

water lilies series by Claude Monet
ArtistClaude Monet
MediumOil on Canvas
Period Impressionism
LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art

Claude Monet, also known as The Father of Expressionism, spent three decades of his life painting more than 250 Water Lilies paintings.

He considered this as his greatest achievement in life and did not fail to capture the realism of the subject.

The ever-shifting effects of light, water, reflections, and the surroundings are the most important elements of this series.

But over time, his work became less about constituent elements and orientation and more about the obliquely structured compositions and focused on pure vivid color.

Water Lilies opened the path to abstract painting, and Claude Monet’s paintings became a precedent for later artists.

He had already produced a couple of famous artworks during his peak, but the Water Lilies series made Monet a posthumous artist-hero.

14. The Night Watch

the night watch painting
Artist Rembrandt
Medium Oil on canvas
PeriodDutch Golden Age Painting
Location Rijksmuseum

The Night Watch is arguably Rembrandt’s most popular Baroque art piece.

Rembrandt was a master of light manipulation, and this painting depicted it the best.

The Night Watch depicts the dramatic use of sunlight and shade to draw the eye to the central characters in the scene.

Through this Dutch Golden Age painting, Rembrandt was the first to show the figures in a group portrait in action.

Interestingly, although the painting suggests that it is a Night Scene, it is, in fact, Rembrandt’s classic manipulation.

The painting is, in fact, a morning scene and a depiction of a military group in motion.

You can own The Night Watch by commissioning a reproduction painting from her.

15. The Persistence of Memory

The persistence of memory salvaor dali painting with deep meanings
ArtistSalvador Dalí
MediumOil on canvas
Location Museum of Modern Art

Who else, if not the most celebrated Surrealist icon, Salvador Dali? The Persistence of Memory is one of the most recognized works of art.

As an artwork, it has come to represent an entire movement of surrealism.

Depicting a dismal shoreline draped with melting clocks, a creepy creature, and an uncanny landscape, this painting is a hallucination.

Instead of rendering a fantastical world in hasty brushstrokes and arbitrary colors, Dali painted familiar objects in unfamiliar ways.

Although, it is said that Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity inspires this eccentric piece.

The painting was an escape to a dreamscape to tell us that our subliminal unconscious mind had more power over us than man-made objects of the conscious world.

That’s it!

In fact, Dali was himself high on psychedelics when he created this painting.

But there still are a lot of secrets behind the Melting Clock Painting.

16. The Garden of Earthly Delights

The garden of earthly delights famous painting
ArtistHieronymus Bosch
Year1510 – 1515
MediumOil on Oak Panel
LocationMuseo del Prado

Of all Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings, The Garden of Earthly Delights was not one but a culmination of a variety of paintings.

The painting was about creation, human futility, and damnation—a depiction of the fleetingness of human life.

The work describes the union of Adam and Eve on the left panel, the romp on the central panel, and Hell on the right panel.

It reflects its viewers with relevance, showcasing the fiery fate of humanity consumed by passion and pleasure.  

The intricacies of its symbolism, particularly the central panel, have attracted the minds of many art scholars.

It starts with the union of Adam and Eve, moving towards a world indulging in a sexual sin to finally, a man being pushed into hell.

Moral compass point hell? That’s pretty much what it is about!

It could have been due to the heavy influence of a conservative religious group called the Brotherhood of Our Lady.

17. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

les demoiselles d'avignon popular piece of art
ArtistPablo Picasso
MediumOil on canvas
Period Proto-Cubism
LocationMuseum of Modern Art. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest

One of the most controversial artworks, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso, is a proto-cubist painting of 5 naked prostitutes.

A brothel-inspired subject matter along with its non-classical style of painting, this painting was a revolution.

It was a never-seen depiction of women standing in a disconcerting, confrontational manner, and none is conventionally feminine.

In fact, the figures seemed disjointed with angular faces, making the painting an amalgamation of Cubist and African painting styles.  

It is said that Picasso adapted ethnic primitivism for this particular painting because it moved him to “liberate an utterly original artistic style of compelling, even savage forces.”.

The owner of the painting, Jaques Doucet, promised to donate the painting to the Louvre Museum after his demise. 

But his will stated the painting to be sold to the Museum of Modern Art for $24,000!

18. American Gothic

american gothic famous art piece by grant wood
ArtistGrant Wood
MediumOil on beaverboard
LocationArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago

 “I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.”

Grant Wood

Painted with oil on BeaverBoard, American Gothic  is Grant Wood’s most impressive and famous painting.

It is a prime example of Regionalism, a movement that featured depictions of rural American subjects rendered in a realistic style.

The figures that are often misunderstood as husband and wife are, in fact, father and daughter.

Perhaps the models of the painting were Wood’s dentist and sister, and it became the most famous painting in the world instantaneously.

The name of this famous piece of art is a wordplay. It is named after an architectural style – Carpenter Gothic – a style that took over the entire America during the mid-19th century.

The window of the house is the main element of the painting. He believed that a French window of this sort was a little “pretentious” for such a humble house architecture.

American Gothic screams of American values during a time of uncertainty.  The painting remains an ambiguous mixture of praise and satire.

19. Whistler’s Mother

Whistlers mother by james mcneil whsitler, famous painting.
ArtistJames McNeill Whistler
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMusée d’Orsay, Paris

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 or Whistler’s Mother, better known as the painting that Mr. Bean almost destroyed (lol).

Jokes aside, this painting is a popular painting in the pursuit of art for art’s sake.

James McNeil Whistler painted his mother, Anna McNeil Whistler, with a formalist approach.

Her rigid expressions fell flawlessly with the various elements that were locked into an arrangement of right angles.

Whistler was successful in depicting his style in tonal compositions and harmony.

But despite his formalist attempts, the painting became famous as a symbol of motherhood.

This popular painting got very political during World War 1.

It was co-opted by the Irish Canadian Rangers 199th Overseas Battalion to encourage volunteers to enlist.

20. The Storm on The Sea of Galilee

Storm on the sea of galilee missing painting by Rembrandt
ArtistRembrandt van Rijn
MediumOil canvas
PeriodDutch Golden Age painting
LocationWhereabouts unknown since 1990

Another Rembrandt art, another story – but this time, a painting that isn’t.

You read that right!

Storm on the Sea of Galilee is a stolen painting that has not been recovered in the last 30 years.

Known to be one of Rembrandt’s most dynamic and dramatic works of art, this is a seascape painting.

The Biblical scene represents Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee. 

It puts nature against human vulnerability; however, it also shows faith in a seemingly calm and unbothered Christ who will save them.

The large-scale image has overwhelming effects to seize our attention and immerse us in an unfolding pictorial drama.

The famous painting in history is recognized not only for depicting a sacred story but also for the vivid brushstrokes that almost make the canvas look lifelike.

Unfortunately, this painting was stolen in the World’s biggest art heist – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist on March 18, 1990, never to be discovered again.

21. Liberty Leading the People

ArtistEugène Delacroix
MediumOil on canvas
LocationLouvre, Paris

Liberty Leading the People is another Louvre painting and Eugene Delacroix’s famous political artwork.  

Contrary to what most people believe, this painting was not even about the French Revolution.

This painting was just supposed to be a depiction of what he saw during the July Revolution of 1830.

Liberty Leading the People was a commemoration of the victory over King Charles X of France.

An allegorical painting in which a woman carrying the Tricolor French flag is represented as the Revolution.

Behind the lady, there is an agglomeration of the different strata of French society that indicate “Liberty and Freedom for all.”

This painting is one of the well-known paintings of France and has inspired a number of books, movies, drama and even The Statue of Liberty! 

22. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

a sunday on the island of la grande jatte famous painting
ArtistGeorges Seurat
MediumOil on canvas
Location Art Institute of Chicago

George Seurat, a famous Post-Impressionist artist, suddenly decided to introduce Pointillism style art to the masses.

According to him, if dots were properly placed with colors, one could easily make sense of the image.

A Sunday Afternoon is the very first example of Pointillism.

This painting is the second most famous French painting after Liberty Leading the People.

It features a scene along the Seine River where Parisians are seen doused in the sunshine, taking shade beneath trees and umbrellas, enjoying the weather.

Proving his theory, he used tiny juxtaposed dots of multi-colored paint to allow the viewer’s eye to blend colors optically.

It is a synonym for revolution and has paved the way for important modern art movements.

23. The Flower Carrier

The flower career famous art piece
ArtistDiego Rivera
MediumOil, Mesonite, Tempera
Location San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The Flower Carrier is one of the various Mexican paintings that challenge Capitalism – what else would you expect from the Communist Diego Rivera?

This popular art displays a Mexican peasant painfully struggling while carrying a basket of flowers on his back and a woman trying to help him with the weight.

The boldness of colors, the asymmetrical balance, and the oversized bucket leave no doubt: the man is carrying an unbearable burden, not a flower – the unbearable lightness of Capitalism.

Diego Rivera or most of you would know him better as the husband of Frida Kahlo, is widely considered to be the greatest Mexican painter of the 20th century.

Illustrated to reflect individualism, some believe that the painting is a representation of the struggles of the workers, especially peasants, in a modern, capitalistic world.

24. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog

wandered on the sea of fog painting
ArtistCaspar David Friedrich
Yearc. 1818
MediumOil on canvas
LocationHamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is considered one of the masterpieces of the Romantic movement.

This painting by Casper David Friedrich is a representation of self-reflection and contemplation.

An old man standing on the rock is unhinged by the storm of fog around him.

Almost in a meditative state, this man is mostly contemplating his life path.

Friedrich used the landscape as a way of expressing profound experience.

The painting is regarded as one of the best landscape paintings of all time.

Although Wanderer above the Sea of Fog is not a real view, it was pieced together from different places visited by Friedrich.

His art has also helped shape the romantic movement, with this painting displaying individualism, subjectivity, spirituality, and the love of nature.

25. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

the lady in gold famous painting
ArtistGustav Klimt
TypeOil and gold leaf on canvas
PeriodVienna Secession
LocationNeue Galerie, New York

Gustav Klimt’s The Lady in Gold, much like his previously mentioned work, falls under his Golden Period.

The painting was made of oil with gold leaves across the painting.

Starry Nights Reproduction AD

It was said to have been commissioned by a rich industrialist for his wife, Adele Bloch-Bauer.

However, Klimt’s Casanova reputation made a lot of them believe that she, in fact, had an affair with Klimt.

The painting was later stolen by Nazis in 1941, who renamed it The Woman in Gold to remove any Jewish connotation to the title.

The family of Bloch-Bauer fought for 60 years to get it back into their possession.

The entire story was filled with mystery, corruption, and double dealings, which finally ended in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Despite the gold and glitter on the painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I represents the tragic story of Jewish dispossession at the hands of the Nazis.

26.  Starry Night over the Rhône

ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMusée d’Orsay, Paris

“Often, it seems to me, the night is even more richly colored than a day.”

That is pretty much Van Gogh’s inspiration for creating so many Starry Night paintings.

Starry Night over the Rhône was also such artwork that captured the reflections of the gaslighting in Arles across the glimmering blue water of the Rhone.

Along with two lovers in the foreground, he shows his stars’ glow with a luminescence, shining from the dark, blue, and velvety night sky.

The spot was only a minute or two’s walk from The Yellow House, which Van Gogh was renting during his stay.

He was immensely moved by the night sky and the experience of the endless darkness on the bank of the river.

Starry Night over the Rhône was, in fact, painted before his famous, The Starry Night.

Unlike Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night, Starry Night over the Rhône was an inaccurate placement of the Big Bear constellation in the heavens. 

27. Luncheon of The Boating Party

luncheon of the boating party by pierre auguste renoir
ArtistAuguste Renoir
MediumOil on canvas
Location Phillips Collection

Known as the most versatile Impressionist Painter, the Luncheon of the Boating Party is Auguste Renoir’s most renowned work.

Set on the sunny balcony of the Maison Fournaise, a café, rowboat rental, and hotel on the banks of the Îsle de Chatou, Paris, overlooking the Seine.

The painting captures a joyous moment among friends and is Renoir’s largest painting.

The location was an adored destination for diners across class lines. He had a fascination for such places and often brought models and pretty patrons to paint there.

The Luncheon of the Boating Party is a celebration of refined brushwork, full of rich colors that reflect Renoir’s signature subjects – Portraiture, Still-Life Depictions, and en Plein air setting.

Out of all the famous portraits, this portrait can be viewed in the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.

For most of you who don’t know, the restaurant can still be visited today.

28. The Son of Man

son of a man popular art
ArtistRené Magritte
MediumOil on canvas
LocationPrivate collection

To sum up René Magritte’s The Son of Man, it is “Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”

The painting depicts a man in an overcoat and a bowler hat standing with a floating apple covering his face.

The only visible feature is one of his eyes peeling over the edge of the apple.

The backdrop is that of the sea and a cloudy sky.

At the start of 1946, Magritte was painting in both his realist style and his impressionist style.

A few critics believe that it is a religious painting, while others feel that it is, instead, a self-portrait.

What’s interesting is that the actual painting is rare to see.

Although Son of Man replicas are common across the world, you can get one here.

But the original painting was last spotted in 2011 in Montreal!

29. Café Terrace at Night

van gogh's cafe terrace at night
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
LocationKröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Of all the classic paintings, The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum is one of its kind.

Painted at Night in Arles, France, the painting was subject to some criticism during its time.

The painting portrays the café in a brightly lit, yellow light in contrast to dark streets and the starry night sky.

His subjects are dining in the café with harsh lights.

Café Terrace at Night was the cue to Van Gogh’s greatest painting, The Starry Night.

For the painting, he heavily relied on different arrays of blues and yellows to paint the night scene.

With the increasing popularity of the artwork, the café had to be refurbished in 1991 to replicate Van Gogh’s painting.

30. The School of Athens

school of athens painting
MovementEarly Renaissance
LocationApostolic Palace

The School of Athens is one of the most famous Raphael paintings of the Renaissance period.

 Raphael’s masterpiece is an absolute personification of the classical spirit of the Renaissance.

The painting features legendary figures from different times, including Aristotle and Plato, gathered together under the same roof.

This was also Raphael’s second painting depicting philosophy as a branch of knowledge and was painted in his early 20s.

The School of Athens was such a complicated painting that even a maestro like Raphael faced a challenge in trying to distinguish the philosophers.

He also included a self-portrait of himself, standing next to Ptolemy, looking right out at its viewers.

He painted this as a part of his commission to paint the rooms, which are known as Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace.

31. No. 5, 1948

jackson pollocks famous painting no. 5

ArtistJackson Pollock
TypeOil on fiberboard
MovementAbstract Expressionism
LocationPrivate collection, New York

No. 5 is a famous painting by Jackson Pollock, the master of Abstract Expressionism.

This painting is a combination of colors and abstract forms.

It creates a balance in the composition of art through several splatters, lines, and shapes.

Due to its abstract formation, it is unique to each viewer, which makes it one of the most recognizable paintings of the 20th century.

In this painting, Pollock uses new techniques to express his emotions with colors and lines.

A unique method of drips and splashes replaced the forsaken brushstrokes.

Rather than working from an easel, Pollock would place his canvas on the ground and pace around it. 

He then applied paint by dripping it from hardened brushes, sticks, and basting syringes.

No.5 is so famous that it is often regarded as the marker of the birth of ‘Action Painting’.

Guided by emotion and intuition, he dropped and flung the paint on the demands of his muse.

This took the art world on fire with his impromptu masterworks.

32. The Third of May

The third of may world's most famous painting
ArtistFrancisco Goya
MediumOil on canvas
Location Museo del Prado, Madrid

Francisco Goya, who created one of the most scary paintings, Saturn Devouring His Son, is more famous for his The Third of May.

This painting took inspiration from Napoleon’s defeat by the Spanish forces and speaks about liberation, particularly in the context of Spain’s turbulent history.

There is more than one name for the painting, and it goes by variant titles, including – The Shootings of May 3, The Third of May 1808 in Madrid, or The Executions.

The daring artistic choices in the piece earned critics’ attention.

The use of blood, an unpopular artistic device, to depict Spanish civilians looking like a bramble of humanity brought a lot of negative reviews.

Francisco Goya swore as the Court’s painter and mentioned The Third of May to be his apology to the Spanish people.

The probationary government of the European nation commissioned the piece of art at Goya’s suggestion.

33. Van Gogh Self-Portrait (Without Beard)

van gogh self portrait without beard, famous work of art
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
Movement Post-Impressionism
LocationMuseum d’Orsay, Paris, France

Van Gogh once wrote to his brother Theo, “People say – and I’m quite willing to believe it – that it’s difficult to know oneself – but it’s not easy to paint oneself either.”

He painted his Self Portrait without Beard after his relationship with Gauguin boiled over.

The melancholy resonated with him, and it was pretty evident in the painting.

Art historians assume that masters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh used a mirror to paint their own self-images. 

However, Vincent did not strictly stick with this practice.

Mostly, Van Gogh painted his own figure from memory.

While he has painted many portraits before, this is perhaps his most famous portrait.

It’s one of the few portraits of himself without a beard!

34. Olympia

Olympia by Manet famous nude painting
ArtistÉdouard Manet
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMusée d’Orsay, Paris

Manet’s most famous painting, Olympia, was not available to the public’s eye until 2 years after its completion.

It is regarded as a highly scandalous painting at the time for featuring an unclad female.

This created a much bigger furor since the conformists and conservatives of the period were shocked by the nudity.

It was labeled outright vulgar and obscene.

A nude painting of a woman lying on an oriental stole on a couch with a maid standing next to her with a big bouquet of flowers.

The look on the maid’s face normalizes the nudity.

But what was so interesting about Manet’s Olympia?

It mocked art history!

Manet and his fellow Realists wanted art to reflect the truth about modern life rather than some old-world fantasy. 

Olympia received various threats due to its unconventional nature. 

In fact, the Salon had to take additional precautions for the threats!

35. Lady with an Ermine

lady with ermine painting by da vinci
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
MediumOil on walnut panel
Location Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, Poland

Painted on a wooden panel in oil, this widely attributed and famous artwork portrays a half-length figure of a woman.

Cecilia Gallerani can be identified as the subject, and the artist remains the world-famous Leonardo da Vinci.

Lady with an Ermine is a portrait painting of Cecilia holding an ermine in her arms.

Despite having a three-quarter position, both their faces are slightly to their left as if turned to see someone.

This gave viewers room for psychological introspection.

The enigmatic smile on Cecilia’s face suddenly takes us to a Mona Lisa-istic realm.

As expected, the painting stirred various speculations about the completion of the painting.

36. The Great Wave off Kanagawa

the great wave off kanagawa famous japanese painting
ArtistKatsushika Hokusai
Medium Ukiyo-e 
PeriodEdo Period
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a famous painting by a Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai.

Though the painting is majorly themed around waves, it is also hiding Mount Fuji in the background.

In fact, the print is a part of his famous series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.

This Japanese Art, or rather the print, depicts the area around Mount Fuji under particular storm-like weather.

While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is likely to be a large rogue wave.

The painting is famous for its rich hues, particularly the blue tones – which helped create subtle gradations in this dramatic composition.

It is estimated that 5000 to 8000 prints were made of The Great Wave off Kanagawa. 

But with time, the quality has deteriorated; the earlier the print, the more highly valued it is.

Even after almost 200 years, Hokusai’s Great Waves has inspired countless works of contemporary art, including a monumental mural in Moscow and many more.

37. Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe

Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe famous painting
ArtistÉdouard Manet
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMusée d’Orsay, Paris

Another masterpiece by Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe, or The Luncheon on the Grass, originally titled Le Bain, is a large oil on canvas painting.

Controversial, like his Olympia, this painting depicts a female nude and a scantily dressed female bather on a picnic with two fully dressed men in a rural setting.

The clothed man was Manet’s relative, and the nude woman was Manet’s favorite model.

The 16th-century work of art, The Pastoral Concert and The Judgement of Paris was Manet’s inspiration for this artwork.

The artist displayed this painting at the Salon des Refusés because the Paris Salon jury rejected this controversial painting.

It inspired Impressionists like Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir to follow suit with Water Lilies and The Luncheon of the Boating Party, respectively.

In fact, this painting helped Manet emerge as the Father of Impressionism.

38. The Sleeping Gypsy

henri rousseau famous painting the sleeping gypsy
ArtistHenri Rousseau
Mediumoil on canvas
Location Museum of Modern Art

“There are two ways of expressing things; one is to show them crudely, the other is to evoke them artistically.”

Henri Rousseau depicts a dark-skinned Romani sleeping peacefully while a large lion sniffs her, almost transfixed.

Featuring a black woman was quintessential for the painting as it represented the outcasts of society who were referred to in France as Bohémiens.

Although these Indo-Aryan ethnic people were originally from Eastern Europe and Anatolia, they were often misidentified as being from either Bohemia or Egypt.

Simple geometric designs bring attention to Rousseau’s remarkable illustrative imagination.

The Sleeping Gypsy takes its aspiration from the preindustrial past, reflecting modernism.

However, the painting was heavily ridiculed by art critics. His peculiar style of art could not make a space in the hearts of his audience.

Emerging from critiques, he gradually found success with the emerging Avant-Garde artists.

39. Christina’s World

Christina's world famous painting
ArtistAndrew Wyeth
MediumEgg Tempera
Location Museum of Modern Art

Andrew Wyeth, the painter of Christina’s World, was recognized for depicting the realistic rural American landscape.

This melancholic painting  features a young woman with her back to the viewer,  wearing a pastel dress and lying on a grassy field.

Although she appears to be strangely alert and tense, her gaze is fixated on the distant farmhouse.

Wyeth personally knew Olson, the physically impaired model of his painting. 

She was unable to walk properly due to a nervous disorder.

But the artist’s only motive was “to make the viewer sense that her world may be limited physically but by no means spiritually.”

In fact, Olson was a recurring muse for Wyeth.

Christina’s World is undoubtedly an iconic famous painting, but its place in the art pantheon is still a matter of debate for many.

40. Nighthawks

The nighthawks painting by Hopper
ArtistEdward Hopper 
MediumOil on canvas
PeriodAmerican realism 
Location Art Institute of Chicago

“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint,” – When Edward Hopper said this, he decided to paint his most famous masterpiece, Nighthawks.

This is one of the best realism paintings depicting four modern subjects at a dinner table.

And it is bigger than you might expect. Nighthawks may seem like a small painting like the Mona Lisa’s, but it roughly measures 2.75 feet by 5 feet.

Most people don’t know, but Hemingway’s short story, The Killer, inspired Hopper to create the painting.

Just like the short story that has the sense of something about to happen, the painting, too, gives out similar vibes.

To some extent, it is also inspired by Van Gogh’s Café Terrace.

Overall, this famous painting primarily focuses on “wartime isolation, ” which gave birth to Post-Modernism after WWII.

If looked closely, the painting appears to feel lonely regardless of who each person is.

The diner is said to be based in the long-demolished Hopper’s Greenwich Village neighborhood.

41. Bal du Moulin de la Galette

bal du moulin de la galette renoir famous piece of art.
ArtistAuguste Renoir
MediumOil on canvas
LocationMusée d’Orsay

Bal du Moulin de la Galette is considered to be one of the most celebrated masterpieces by the famous Impressionist Artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 

The scene portrays a regular Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette, located in the district of Montmartre in Paris.

The painting represents the 19th-century working-class Parisians who would dress up and spend time dancing, drinking, and eating galettes into the night.

What catches the eyes of the viewer is the couple standing in the center of the painting.

Amidst all the dancing, this particular couple takes a moment to admire the painter and thus the viewer.

The woman was no other than Margot, Auguste Renoir’s lover, and with her was the Cuban painter Pedra Vidal of Solares.

This painting celebrates the triumphs of the youth; every woman is radiantly beautiful, and every male looks spectacular.

The details are incredibly animated – the poses, the activities, and even the expressions!

42. The Swing

The swing painting by fragonard
ArtistJean-Honoré Fragonard
YearAbout 1767–8
MediumOil on canvas
Location The Wallace Collection, London, United Kingdom

Known as the Happy Accidents of the Swing, is an 18th-century oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.

Considered a gem of the Rococo era, this masterpiece is one of the most-known works of this artist.

To an innocent eye, the painting is about a girl on a swing.

But the painter layered visuals with provocative symbolism, providing a new perspective on the decadent world.

While most artists were shielded from this commission, Fragonard happily took it.

This flirtatious and light-hearted painting gave rise to Fragonard’s prolific career, which was characterized by outstanding success in this genre of paintings.

The painting became controversial at the end of the 18th century, and Rococo soon fell.

Nevertheless, The Swing remains one of the most popular pieces of art in history!

43. Sunflowers

sunflowers by Van gogh famous painting
ArtistVincent van Gogh
MediumOil on canvas
LocationNational Gallery, London

Sunflowers by Van Gogh is a series of still-life paintings that is closely connected to his beloved Paul Gauguin.

Van Gogh painted five large canvases of Sunflowers in a vase with three shades of yellow and nothing else.

Paul Gauguin came to live with Van Gogh and was impressed by the Sunflower painting, which he thought was ‘completely Vincent’.

He also painted Vincent at work on a canvas entitled The Painter of Sunflowers.

The suspected couple also exchanged sunflower paintings as a token of love.

Ever since the painting has become a famous symbol of Van Gogh’s love for Gauguin.

A love that drove him into madness.

The vibrant yellow oil paints in Van Gogh’s famous Sunflower were not available until the early 19th century. He was among the first artists to fully embrace them.

44. Nude Descending a Staircase

nude descending the staircase famous art piece
ArtistMarcel Duchamp
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

The artwork by Marcel Duchamp and Rrose Sélavyis is a Modernist classic and has become a famous artwork of its time.

It was infamous for the depiction of a naked body in motion walking down a narrow stairway.

This quickly drew outrage from the public, especially for being unfamiliar with then-European art trends.

In fact, the painting became famous because of a scandal that helped Duchamp make space into the American spotlight.

Duchamp’s brother tried to censor the piece, which sparked a family rift during its exhibition in Salon d’Or.

Nude Descending a Staircase was a painting inspired by Time Lapse photography.

This painting was known to steal the thunder of the works of Cèzanne and Gauguin, attracting 87,000 visitors.

This uproar thrilled Duchamp because it placed him in the American painting landscape.

45. Hope II

hope II by gustav klimt famous painting.
ArtistGustav Klimt
Year1907 – 1908
TypeOil, gold, and platinum on canvas
PeriodVienna Succession
Location Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA

Hope II is a painting by Gustav Klimt depicting a female with a cranium sheltered into her dressing gown.

Her head is towards her round belly, just like a pregnant woman looking at her bloated stomach.

Underneath her are three females lowering their heads, too.

It appears like they foresaw the child’s fate and mourned with prayers.

In this painting, the pregnant woman’s gold-patterned robe – drawn flat has an extraordinary decorative beauty.

Klimt, however, called this work Vision due to the perfect balance of birth, death, and the sensuality of the living.

But why hope?

By featuring this expectant mother on the center stage, Klimt parades the splendor of hope about to emerge.

The woman seems to be caught between the commencement of life and the tragic, premature demise of the child.

But there is hope; there always shall be!

46. The Large Bathers

The large bathers famous paintings
ArtistPaul Cézanne
MediumOil on canvas
Location Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Large Bathers may be Cezanne’s last and largest piece of work, but it seemed to be unfinished work. 

Cezanne’s pure and serene painting featured a group of naked women in an abstract setting.  

Its atmosphere  is strange and beautiful!

The landscape is largely bluish, a soft haze in which sky, water, and vegetation merge and by which the masterfully drawn figures are delicately overcast.

Despite the unpolished state, ‘The Large Bathers’ remains a masterpiece of modern art.

The Large Bathers take their inspiration from the works of Titian and Peter Paul Rubens, but unlike them, it does not have any direct mythological references.

Of all the famous paintings, The Les Demoiselles D’Avignon of Picasso and other famous groups of nude women can be an evident inspiration for this famous painting!

47. Primavera

ArtistSandro Botticelli
Yearlate 1470s or early 1480s
MediumTempera on panel
PeriodItalian Renaissance
Location Uffizi Gallery

Botticelli painted many facets of Venus.

One of those famous paintings, Primavera, is the largest panel painting in tempera paint by Botticelli of Venus.

It is described as “one of the most written about and most controversial paintings in the world.”

In fact, its meaning is still unclear, and never had an official title.

It was first called La Primavera by the art historian Giorgio Vasari, who saw it at Villa Castello.

Even the characters of the painting were only identified in the late 19th Century.

This exceptional piece of artwork is one of the most famous historical paintings in Western art.

While the history of the painting is unclear, the theme is based on a group of figures from mythology.

To the far left of the painting stands Mercury, dissipating the clouds of winter with his staff for spring to come!


The most amusing part of it all is that this list is never going to complete. 

Here, we have gone through important aspects of these 47 famous paintings. 

Every time we go back to this painting we are in fact revisiting historical events that created a lasting impression in the art world. 

As artists and art lovers let us make sure we keep revisiting and adding to the list of most famous paintings of the world! 

From The Author!

Let us know which one of these is your favorite painting and if we missed any.

If you have any concerns or questions, you can always reach out to us in the comment section below.

If you liked this article, do share it further.

And if you have reached here, thank you!


1. What are Van Gogh’s famous paintings?

Van Gogh’s famous paintings include The Starry Night, Starry Night Over the Rhône, Café Terrace at Night, Irises, and The Painter of Sunflowers.

2. What famous paintings are in the Louvre?

Some famous paintings in the louver museum are The Raft of the Medusa, The Mona Lisa, The Wedding at Cana, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, The Coronation of Napoleon, Liberty Leading the People, The Lacemaker, and The Turkish Bath.

3. Which famous paintings are missing?

A few of the famous paintings that are missing are Poppy Flowers by Vincent Van Gogh, Le The Concert by Johannes Vermeer, Pigeon aux Petits Pois by Pablo Picasso, and The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn.

4. Which famous paintings are in the Vatican Museum?

Some of the famous paintings in the Vatican Museum are The Sistine Chapel, Stefaneschi Triptych Raphael Rooms, and The Entombment of Christ.

19 thoughts on “Famous Paintings – 47 Most Famous Artworks in History [Ranked]

  1. Kavery says:

    Hi Nice Blog. Very happy to see those paintings. and those are very beautiful. thank you for posting this blog. aalankritha art gallery is a famous art gallery in hyderabad. it has more no. of collections of paintings from different indian artists.
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  2. Kamal Nayan Jaimini says:

    I am protrait Artist kindly let me future assist with you Thanks
    Best regards

  3. Pingback: Top Most Famous Paintings Of All Time In History, The Starry Night,

  4. Tom says:

    It is good and more interesting. I got huge unknown information about the world-famous paintings. Thank you for a wonderful blog

  5. Elisabeth Eku says:

    The picture shown in #7 is The Adoration of the Magi is by Gentile da Fabriano not Leonardo Da Vinci.

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  8. newsblare says:

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