10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time

Every year millions of dollars are spent by art collectors eager to own the world’s most sought after paintings. However, the most expensive paintings are not necessarily the most famous paintings. The most famous ones are generally owned by museums, which very rarely sell them, and as such, they are quite literally priceless. An overview of the most famous paintings of all time, found in museums around the world.

Birth of Venusflickr/Shaw

The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli created around 1485–87. It depicts the goddess Venus (or Aphrodite as she is known in Greek mythology) emerging from the sea upon a shell in accordance with the myth that explains her birth. The original location of the painting and its commissioner remain uncertain. Some experts attribute its commission to Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Villa of Castello as the site to which the work was originally destined. Today, the painting is held in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. A Birth of Venus high resolution image can be found here.

Italy Guide

9Water Lilies
Water Liliesflickr/griannan

Water Lilies (or Nympheas) is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet. The paintings depict Monet’s own flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. The paintings are on display at museums all over the world. The one show above is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

United States Guide

8Night Watch
Night Watchflickr/TimDan2

Completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age, The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. It depicts a city guard moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch. For much of its existence, the painting was coated with a dark varnish which gave the incorrect impression that it depicted a night scene, leading to the name Night Watch. This varnish was removed only in the 1940s. The painting is on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. A high resolution image of the Night Watch can be found here.

Netherlands Guide

7The Scream

The Scream is a series of expressionist paintings and prints by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, showing an agonized figure against a blood red sky. The landscape in the background is Oslofjord, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg, in Oslo. Edvard Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The one shown above was painted in 1893 and is on display in The National Gallery of Norway. It was stolen in 1994 in a high-profile art theft and recovered several months later. In 2004 another version of The Scream was stolen from the Munch Museum, only to be recovered in 2006.

Norway Guide

6Girl with a Pearl Earring
Mauritshuisflickr/rogiro

Sometimes referred to as “the Dutch Mona Lisa”, the Girl with a Pearl Earring was painted by Johannes Vermeer. Very little is known about Vermeer and his works and this painting is no exception. It isn’t dated and it is unclear whether this work was commissioned, and if so, by whom. In any case, it is probably not meant as a conventional portrait. Tracy Chevalier wrote a historical novel fictionalizing the circumstances of the painting’s creation. The novel inspired a 2003 film with Scarlett Johansson as Johannes Vermeer’s assistant wearing the pearl earring.

Netherlands Guide

5Guernica
Museo Reina Sofiaflickr/rogiro

Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso most famous paintings, showing the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. Picasso’s purpose in painting it was to bring the world’s attention to the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German bombers, who were supporting the Nationalist forces of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso completed the painting by mid-June 1937. The painting can be seen in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

Spain Guide

4The Creation of Adam
Vatican Museumsflickr/tripleman

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, at the commission of Pope Julius II, is one of the most renowned artworks of the High Renaissance. The ceiling is that of the large Chapel built within the Vatican in Rome. Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. Among the last to be completed was the Creation of Adam in which God the Father breathes life into Adam, the first man. The Creation of Adam is one of the famous paintings of all time and has been the subject of countless of references and parodies.

Italy Guide

3The Last Supper
Santa Maria delle Grazie

The Last Supper is a 15th century mural painting in Milan created by Leonardo da Vinci and covers the back wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It represents the scene of The Last Supper when Jesus announces that one of his Twelve Apostles would betray him. Leonardo began work on The Last Supper in 1495 and completed it in 1498 though he did not work on the painting continuously. Some writers propose that the person in the painting seated to the left of Jesus is Mary Magdalene rather than John the Apostle, as most art historians identify that person. This popular theory was the topic of the book The Templar Revelation (1997), and plays a central role in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003).

Italy Guide

2Starry Night

The Starry Night was painted by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the aftermath of his work is enormous. Starry Night is one of his most famous paintings and has become one of the most well known images in modern culture. The painting shows the village of Saint-Rémy under a swirling sky, in a view from the asylum towards north. The cypress tree to the left was added into the composition. Since 1941 it has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A Starry Night high resolution image can be found here.

United States Guide

1Mona Lisa

The most famous painting of all time, the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance in Florence. He began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 and finished it shortly before he died in 1519. The painting is named for Lisa del Giocondo, a member of a wealthy family of Florence. In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian patriot who believed the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy. After having kept the painting in his apartment for two years, Peruggia was finally caught when he attempted to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Today, the Mona Lisa hangs again in the Louvre in Paris where 6 million people see the painting each year.

France Guide

Map of Most Famous Paintings

24 comments

  1. Richa Sharma

    i love paintings a lot,on this page i love the painting titled Tha Creation of Adam.This is realy very beautiful panting.Thankyou……….

  2. The sistine Madonna of Raffael has to be in the Top 10. I dont know anybody who does not know the two little angels at the buttom of the painting. Next to the praying hands of Duerer the most reproduced imagine in history.

  3. This is a great list. I actually admire Guernica the most. I actually had never seen this before today. I also like your choice of images for the Mona Lisa painting. The view above the heads of a large crowd establishes its great popularity over most of the others on this list.

  4. Kajal Choudhury

    I am very much happy to see the most famous painting for all time. I love painting so that I am learning the painting. This is a very beautiful journey for me in the painting world through internet. Thank you so much

  5. a fan

    i love the way the paintings are so neat in every way. my class is doing a biography report on a few famous artist. its so fun!!! you all really encouraged me so much!!!

  6. My favorite famous painting is: “PASEO A ORILLAS DEL MAR” from JOAQUÍN SOROLLA – Impressionist -(Valencia 1863, Spain). -Because of the light.

  7. Starry night has always been my favorite painting of these 10. Van Gogh shot himself in the chest about 10 months after creating it…amazing.

  8. bankole abe

    Starry night is my favorite painting,a soul-inspiring work of art and i love the originality

  9. Ntombizodwa Lephuma

    My favorite Famous painting is the “Water Lillies” by Cluade Monet, it’s beautiful, but also it’s dream of mine to see the Original Mona Lisa painting. This is an Incredible List.

  10. Lea-Leonarda

    The mona lisa the most beautiful art in the world i hope it will be always and forever be #1

  11. Randy

    Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings should be in a class by themselves especially “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa” they seem to be more than just paintings

  12. Adrian Andrade Barron

    Many people won’t appreciate the magnificent of art even though I don’t know much it is beautiful and inspiring thank you ..favorite birth of venus leaves you to wonder.

  13. Matt Jacks

    I got a few of these but obviously it’s all a matter of taste : how you were brought up, what country you live in and – if your an artist what your own influences were.

    here is my list and not in any order. I picked some because they are obvious and some because they are my personal favorites.

    1) Mona Lisa (obvious)
    2) Rembrant’s Selfie
    3) Starry Night (obvious)
    4) Christina’s World
    5) Klimpt’s “the Kiss”
    6) “George Washington Crossing the Delaware”
    7) Jackson Pollock’s “Number 5″
    8) Egon Sheile 1912 Selfie
    9) Vermer’s “Girl with the Pearl Ear Ring”
    10) and of course “the Scream”

    oddly I didn’t pick any Piccassos! – just never got into cubism.

  14. Amanya balam

    Leonardo da vinch has always been my icon according to the ”mona lisa” painting! As an upcoming artist i wud be greatful if any of you could give some tips on great productions and uniqueness in art!

  15. rajat jangir

    The pic of adam is set of different colours painted wonderfully ………..awesome …heads off to person who have made it

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>