Top 100 Masterpieces Worlds Most Famous Paintings PDF

Top 100 Masterpieces Worlds Most Famous Paintings PDF

most famous paintings in the world

We are surrounded by pieces of art all the time, yet not all of them achieve widespread renown. But what makes a famous artwork famous? Famous paintings have qualities that cannot be adequately described in writing; one must see them in person to truly appreciate them. In this lesson, you will learn about the most well-known paintings in art history.

Paintings That Have Made a Global Impact

Which masterpieces of Western art do you admire the most, and why? Do they appear on our list of the most well-known artworks in the world? There might be well-known pieces of art that you have never heard of before. Okay, let’s get started with our list of the most famous paintings in history.

The most famous paintings of all time Famous Artists and their Works

Primavera (1482) by Sandro Botticelli

ArtistSandro BotticelliDate Created1482MediumTempera on PanelCurrent LocationUffizi Gallery

People have gathered in an orange orchard, as seen in the photo. We don’t see the one-point linear point of view that was so effective for certain early Renaissance painters in the 15th century, which is one of the first things that jumps out at us because of the lack of viewpoint. The shrubs to the left and right do add some environmental context, however.
Also, take note of how the bulk of the figures’ extremities are long and slender, giving them a beautiful profile.
During a period of high demand for his art at the Florentine court, Botticelli was able to make a number of masterpieces. Although the significance of the picture is shrouded in mystery, we can put names to many of the faces seen in it. Venus, the Roman goddess, is shown prominently. Her look embodies the Renaissance period’s widespread interest in ancient antiquity as expressed by humanists in Florence. Despite her obvious attractiveness, she is shown substantially off-center, with her head tilted and her hand waving to the right. Above her, her son, Cupid, wears a blindfold, while behind him, an arch formed by tree branches gives Venus centre stage.

Mona Lisa (c. 1503) by Leonardo da Vinci

ArtistLeonardo da VinciDate Created1503MediumOil on PanelCurrent LocationLouvre, Paris

As a prime example of Leonardo’s sfumato technique of soft, richly shaded modelling, this portrait of a girl, dressed in the Florentine fashion and sitting in a dreamy, mountainous environment, is stunning. The Mona Lisa has become famous all over the globe because of her mysterious gaze, which is at once inviting and mysterious.
Leonardo da Vinci used aerial perspective, making his portrait one of the first to place its subject in front of a made-up scene.
The unidentified lady is sitting in what seems to be an open loggia supported by black pillar bases. The vast terrain behind her begins to thin down, revealing a range of snow-capped mountains. Only the winding roads and the distant bridge provide any indication that humans have ever been there. Da Vinci’s work is easily identified by its soft focus, fluid figures, dramatic use of light and dark, and serene atmosphere. Since Mona Lisa depicts an ideal rather than a real lady, it is unclear whether or not it should be classified as a traditional portrait despite the emotional harmony that da Vinci achieved between the figure and her setting.
The peace and serenity of the piece as a whole, and the sitter’s little smile in particular, communicates the idea of a connection between humans and the natural world.

The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein the Younger

ArtistHans Holbein the YoungerDate Created1533MediumOil PaintCurrent LocationThe National Gallery
The best portraitist of his period, Hans Holbein, spent a considerable deal of time in Henry VIII’s courts. Jean de Dinteville, the French envoy to England, and George de Selve, his colleague, are portrayed in the film The Ambassadors. Both men are seen in their late twenties.
There are several allegorical references in the artwork, including a lute with broken strings that may symbolise Henry VIII’s break with Rome to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry his mistress Anne Boleyn.
The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein the Younger; Hans Holbein the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia
Commons The vague black and white object at the painting’s base is a human skull, a sign of death. Only when seen at a very specific angle does the full effect of the anamorphic effect become apparent, and this forces the spectator to look at the image from a number of different perspectives.

Judith Slaying Holofernes (1610) by Artemisia Gentileschi

ArtistArtemisia GentileschiDate Created1610MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMuseo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte
Ripples of blood run down the white sheets as Judith, a devoted young lady from the Israelite city of Bethulia, beheads Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army that had encircled her city. Judith was affected by the plight of her people and empowered by her trust in God to take action.
She combed her hair, put on her best outfit, and went to the enemy camp, saying that she had information that would guarantee Holofernes’ victory. He had been impressed by her beauty and intended to seduce her after asking her out to supper.
Judith saw an opportunity and took it, sparing her people from oblivion with a solemn oath and a sharp sword.

Christ on the Sea of Galilee (1633) by Rembrandt van Rijn

ArtistRembrandtDate Created1633MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationStolen
Although it is Rembrandt’s lone seascape, his American masterpiece is a narrative painting that is very beautiful. The painting was completed in 1633, not long after Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam from Leiden and began establishing himself as the city’s foremost portraitist and historical subject painter.
Despite being his only seascape, Rembrandt’s masterpiece in America is a stunning narrative picture. Rembrandt finished the picture around 1633, not long after he relocated to Amsterdam from Leiden and started making a name for himself as the city’s preeminent portraitist and historical subject painter.
Arnold Houbraken and other critics of the 18th century often preferred Rembrandt’s narrower, more descriptive early style to his later, more expansive work. In the biblical picture, nature is opposed physically and spiritually against human frailty. Disciples fight for control of their fishing boat as a large wave smashes over the bow, tearing the sail and bringing the vessel dangerously close to the rocks in the left foreground.

Artwork by Rembrandt van Rijn titled “The Night Watch” (1642).

ArtistRembrandtDate Created1642MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationRijksmuseum
However, the majority of Rembrandt’s commissions came from Amsterdam, making The Night Watch an example of a uniquely Northern Dutch style. It’s a group shot of a platoon of municipal guardsmen. These guardsmen were tasked with keeping their city safe.
As such, they were responsible for guarding the city’s gates, policing the streets, putting out fires, and so on.

The Night Watch (1642) by Rembrandt van Rijn; Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They were also featured during ceremonies for visiting royals and other celebrations. When compared to other depictions of city guards, Rembrandt’s masterpiece stands out as something really original.
Instead of just copying the conventional layout of static rows of people, Rembrandt injects life into his composition. As members of the militia, sitters perform duties that identify them as such.
Portrait of a Young Woman Wearing a Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer ArtistJohannes VermeerDate Created1665MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMauritshuis, The Hague
Since it was first created, this piece of art has been able to draw record crowds to the museum housing it in The Hague. The unusual position of the girl, her intriguing gaze, the vibrant colours, and the excellent quality of the light all contributed to the picture’s legendary status.
While superficially resembling a portrait, this work is really a “tronie,” a made-up character study.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer; Johannes Vermeer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It depicts a young beautiful lady dressed in an exotic gown and sporting an oriental headpiece with an extraordinarily large pearl in her ear. There are no visible warts, scars, or flaws in this painting, making it difficult to determine if a man or woman sat for it. The young lady stands out against the black background because to her brightly coloured turban and pearl. Vermeer’s mastery of light and tone is evident in her radiant skin, and the tiny white highlights on her parted red lips give the impression that they are moist.
We don’t recognise the girl, but her piercing gaze suggests that we may have met her before.

Artwork by Jacques-Louis David depicting the tragic end of Marat (1793).

ArtistJacques-Louis DavidDate Created1793MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMusée Oldmasters Museum
A particular Dr. Joseph Guillotine was inspired to improve the effectiveness of the axe and so make deaths more compassionate during the Revolutionary War when beheadings became commonplace in Paris’ Place de la Concorde in 1793. David was smack dab in the thick of the action.
At an early stage in the Revolution, he had joined the Jacobins, a political group that would grow to become the most fanatical of the several rebel factions.
Death of Marat (1793) by Jacques-Louis David; Jacques-Louis David, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
When publisher Jean Marat was killed in 1793 at the height of the Campaign of Terror, David paid homage to him. In works like “The Death of Socrates,” David replaces religious art imagery with more modern themes. In Death of Marat, 1793, we witness an idealised depiction of David’s murdered colleague Marat with the introductory letter written by his killer.

Artwork by Sir John Everett Millais of Ophelia from 1852.

Ophelia (1852) by Sir John Everett Millais
ArtistSir John Everett MillaisDate Created1852MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationTate Britain

Ophelia is widely considered to be a masterpiece of the Pre-Raphaelite era. As a result of fusing his passion for Shakespearean themes with his observant eye for natural detail, Millais was able to produce a beautiful and enduring picture. His decision of Ophelia’s suicide in Hamlet after Hamlet murders her father was groundbreaking at the time.
However, Millais was able to show off his skill as a technical artist as well as his eye for aesthetics.
Ophelia (1851–1852) by John Everett Millais; John Everett Millais, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ophelia’s body floats effortlessly in the water, her middle slowly sinking. The ancient garment the artist bought especially for the photo adds to the sense of heaviness of the material as it moves, further bringing the subject down. She seemed to have accepted her destiny, as shown by the position of her hands. Shakespeare’s text specifies some of the June wildflowers and other flora that surround her, while others are created for symbolic effect.
For instance, Ophelia’s violet choker may symbolise faithfulness, virginity, or even death.

James McNeill Whistler’s “Whistler’s Mother” (1871)

Whistler’s Mother (1871) by James McNeill Whistler
ArtistJames McNeill WhistlerDate Created1871MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMusée d’Orsay
According to legend, Whistler’s model was unwilling to pose for the now-iconic painting, so James instead painted a portrait of his mom at the time. There was a lot of trial and error before the final version of this masterpiece was made. James Whistler asked his mom to pose for him while she was standing, but she declined because she found it difficult.
In this painting, Whistler was able to demonstrate his method of tonal organisation and harmony.
Arrangement in Grey and Black №1 (1871), popularly known as Whistler’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler; James McNeill Whistler, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
At first glance, the artwork seems simple. The artwork first seems chaotic; nevertheless, closer inspection reveals a harmonious coexistence of the many shapes and patterns. Whistler managed to strike a good balance between elements in this design. Critics of visual art at the time had mixed reactions to this piece. Some have speculated that Whistler’s mother’s colours and posture convey “a strong sorrow of grief.” The artist’s use of dark colours might be seen as contributing to this critique.

Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic (1875)

The Gross Clinic (1875) by Thomas Eakins
ArtistThomas EakinsDate Created1875MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationPhiladelphia Museum of Art
Thomas Eakins’ lifelong fascination in his hometown grew out of his deep love for it. His most famous and ambitious work for Philadelphia is The Gross Clinic (1875), a painting depicting local doctor Samuel David Gross. Gross is seen in this scenario monitoring a surgical operation while instructing a class of medical students; this plot point alludes to Rembrandt’s art historical antecedent The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (1632).
The Gross Clinic (1875) by Thomas Eakins; Thomas Eakins, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Although the medical hygiene practises of the day are shown in The Gross Clinic, like Rembrandt’s rendition, the emphasis is on real people. Since Eakins’s forte was portraiture, he intended for the work to provide as a comprehensive record of the medical amphitheater’s attendees.
However, Dr. Gross is the focus of the photograph, since the lighting and arrangement serve to highlight the eminent academic.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Bal du moulin de la Galette” (1876)

ArtistPierre-Auguste RenoirDate Created1876MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMusée d’Orsay
The title, “Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette,” translates to “The Mill at the Moulin of the Galettes,” and this masterwork of modern art is one of the most well-known Impressionist paintings and a breathtaking example of Renoir’s talent for capturing dappled light. Both the subject matter (a typical Sunday afternoon scene of Parisian working-class people relaxing at the Moulin de la Galette) and the loose Impressionist brushwork contribute to the work’s sense of modernity.
The viewer’s eyes dart all over the active surface, aware of the brightly coloured brushstrokes yet unable to settle on any one form.
Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The surface is as dynamic as a Jackson Pollock “drip” painting from the 1950s, but it contains a million individual observations. Renoir was inspired to paint this lively and joyful crowd by the unique composition of its members. Because of this, in 1876 he looked into and settled into a place at 78 Rue Cortot in the area. Two separate dwelling quarters and a stable/workshop were available.

John Singer Sargent’s 1884 portrait of Madame X

ArtistJohn Singer SargentDate Created1884MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan
As the wife of a successful businessman, Virginie Gautreau had a comfortable lifestyle. To use an English term, she was considered a “professional beauty,” which describes someone who has risen in their social circle by a combination of charm, charisma, and good looks. Instead of being commissioned, Sargent’s painting was an idea he pitched to capture the young socialite.
Portrait of Madame X (1884) by John Singer Sargent; Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
In a letter to a mutual friend, Sargent said, “I have a tremendous urge to paint her image and have reason to assume she will permit it and is aching for someone to show this regard to her beauty — you may tell her that I am a person of remarkable talent.” Sargent finally convinced Madame Gautreau to sit for a picture, and he did so after doing a number of studies of her.

These varied poses were used in watercolour, pencil, and oil compositions.

Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (1884–1886). ArtistGeorges SeuratDate Created1886MediumOil PaintCurrent LocationArt Institute of Chicago
Despite its removed location, Seurat was able to capture a remarkable portrait of nineteenth-century Parisian aristocracy. Many people saw different meanings in the picture, and it was criticised for being excessively technical. On the other hand, it was regarded as a masterpiece of perfect proportions when it was first released.
Seurat’s painting style diverged greatly from that of his academic peers, thus he left to go to La Grande Jatte.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–1886) by Georges Seurat; Georges Seurat, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Here he came up with the concept for the masterpiece that would cement his place in art history. Designing and casting Grande Jatte apparently proved as challenging as the painting itself for Seurat, who went through many sketched concepts before settling on the one he ultimately used. There were three dogs, eight boats, and forty-eight individuals in attendance on that sunny Sunday afternoon at the park.

Vincent van Gogh, “Café Terrace at Night,” 1888

ArtistVincent van GoghDate Created1888MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationKröller-Müller Museum
This beautiful outdoor scene is painted from the perspective of a casual spectator who takes in everything the scene has to offer without any ethical reservations. It’s reminiscent of Van Gogh’s observation that “the night is more colourful and vividly coloured than the day,” to use his words. The hues are more vibrant, and the eye is drawn to the sharp corners of adjacent pieces that fit together in a jigsaw-like pattern.
The long-term separation of this area into a massive object and background motif is a visual difficulty since the far and near perspectives are distinct.

Cafe Terrace at Night (1888) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The sharp corner of the awning nearest us touches the far blue sky, creating a compositional contradiction that helps to combine the work with the golden hue of the café and the deeper blue of the remote street and the violet of the front door. There is perfect parallelism between lines that run in planes comparable to the first (like the slope of the yellow canopy and the home above the rooftop) and lines that are foreshortened and pushed into depth (like the entrance lintel).

Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” (1889)

ArtistVincent van GoghDate Created1889MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMuseum of Modern Art
The oil on canvas depicts a starry sky with blue spirals, a golden crescent moon, and spheres representing the constellations. The dark, swaying branches of one or two cypress trees, like flames, tower above the landscape to one side. In the background, to the right of the canvas, amid all this motion, is a structured settlement.
Straight, regulated lines characterise the humble homes and the slender spire of a church that shines out against the rolling blue hills.

The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The bright, square windows of the residences are reminiscent of the warm lighting of seRené houses and provide a soothing space among the chaos of the artwork. After having a breakdown in which he cut off part of his own earlobe with a razor, Van Gogh was sent to an asylum, where he remained for many months, during which time he painted. He would have productive periods of painting interspersed with periods of depression when he was institutionalised.

Vincent van Gogh, Beardless Self-Portrait (1889).

ArtistVincent van GoghDate Created1889MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationPrivate Collection
Van Gogh was in a financial bind, yet he never stopped buying Bernard and Gauguin paintings. In the summer of 1888, his brother Theo received a small quantity of money, some of which was used to pay for Van Gogh’s continuous care. Theo suggested that Gauguin and Van Gogh room together to save costs, and the two artists took up the suggestion.
Self-Portrait Without a Beard (1889) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The complicated and ambivalent nature of Van Gogh’s connection with his brother are shown by the fact that, although he was looking forward to Gauguin’s visit, he was also worried about the extra burden it would throw on Theo’s shoulders. After his relationship with Gauguin ended, Van Gogh painted this sorrowful Self Portrait without a Beard.
It’s a disturbing depiction of the artist, who was losing his grip on reality as his mental health deteriorated.

Edvard Munch’s The Scream, 1893

ArtistEdvard MunchDate Created1893MediumOil and Pastel on BoardCurrent LocationMunch Museum
After the Mona Lisa, The Scream may be the most well-known human figure in Western art. We all recognise the vague skull-shaped head, the outstretched hands, the large eyes, the flared nostrils, and the oval mouth; the spinning blue surroundings, especially the brilliant orange and yellow sky, has inspired a plethora of theories regarding the situation portrayed.

The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch; Edvard Munch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Like the Mona Lisa, the Scream has been the target of spectacular thefts and subsequent recoveries, and in 2012, a pastel on cardboard copy of the painting sold to a private bidder for over $120,000,000, making it the second-highest price paid for artwork at auction at the time.
The wide range of styles and mediums used is indicative of the artist’s creativity and eagerness to experiment, while the themes reflect Munch’s preoccupations at the period with issues of connection, existence, death, and terror.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “At the Moulin Rouge,” ca. 1895 ArtistHenri de Toulouse-LautrecDate Createdc. 1895MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationArt Institute of Chicago
Since 1889, when the owner of the now-famous Moulin Rouge nightclub bought Henri de Toulouse-Equestrienne Lautrec’s to hang over the club’s door, the name “Toulouse” has been inextricably linked to the work of the artist. Indeed, people did live in Toulouse-Lautrec.
His cousin, the doctor Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran, who was with him at the Moulin Rouge, was showing off photos of the club’s regulars, including himself (the little figure in the middle background).
At the Moulin Rouge (c. 1895) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Behind the booth where famous act Jane Avril is chatting, dancer La Goulue is doing her hair. Singer May Milton’s face is brightly lit and acid green as she peers out from the right side of the picture. Perhaps because of the difficulty in selling the painting due to Milton’s peculiar appearance, the artist or dealer cut her out of the final version by reducing the size of the canvas.

Sir Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June (ca. 1895)

ArtistSir Frederic LeightonDate Createdc. 1895MediumOil PaintCurrent LocationMuseo de Arte de Ponce
The attention to detail seen in several parts of Flaming June is further proof of Leighton’s skill. The fabric on the wall is so close that it may be touched. The marbled textures and vivid hues also stand out.
Leighton House Museum in London recently borrowed this painting, connecting it to the museum’s past. Many journeys throughout the UK led to its eventual destination in Puerto Rico.
Flaming June (c. 1895) by Sir Frederic Leighton; Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The original painting was purchased by the Museo de Arte de Ponce at a reduced price since Victorian artists were not as popular as they are now. To resell it in today’s market would result in a much greater price. The encouragement from this museum has been important in reviving Leighton’s career.

Paul Gauguin, Two Tahitian Women, 1899

ArtistPaul GauguinDate Created1899MediumOil PaintCurrent LocationNational Gallery of Art
The photo confronts the viewer with two shirtless women dressed in the same and traditional way that likens women’s breasts to fruits or blooms, even if Tahiti is shown as a perfect paradise. That artwork by Paul Gauguin was one of his final works done in Tahiti.
He painted this to show how peaceful and lovely Tahitian women are.
Two Tahitian Women (1899) by Paul Gauguin; Paul Gauguin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Gauguin used sculptural formed gestures, images, shapes, and expressions to convey the emotions he had used to characterise the famous “Tahitian Eve” in this work, implying that women of Tahiti were nuanced and understanding within their cluelessness, while also being able to walk around naked without feeling any guilt.

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (1908)

ArtistGustav KlimtDate Created1908MediumOils and Gold LeafCurrent LocationAustrian Gallery, Belvedere
In “The Kiss,” we see a doting pair knelt together in a field of flowers. The man, clad in a robe with geometric patterns and a crown made of vines, grabs the woman’s face as he leans in for a kiss. The female figure is adorned with flowers and is dressed in a bold, organically-patterned gown that stands in stark contrast to her male partner’s neutral attire.
Closing her eyes in contentment, she wraps her arms over his shoulders, creating a warm and intimate scenario.
The Kiss (1908) by Gustav Klimt; Gustav Klimt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Gustav Klimt was an active member of the Secessionist Style and a precursor to Symbolism, a European art movement characterised by mystical aspects, a distinctly individual approach to the creative arts, and stylistic affinities with modern Art Nouveau. Produced during his brilliant “Golden Period,” The Kiss is a perfect representation of his signature flair.

Odilon Redon, The Cyclops (ca. 1914)

ArtistOdilon RedonDate Createdc. 1914MediumOil on BoardCurrent LocationKröller-Müller Museum
As she rests, Galatea’s naked form blends into the flowery slope of the hill to her lower right. With one eye on the naiad, Polyphemus’s shoulders tower above a mountain range in the upper section of the photograph.
Afraid by the sprite’s “helpless” form, Polyphemus hid himself among the rocks so he wouldn’t have to interact with her directly.
The Cyclops (c. 1914) by Odilon Redon; Odilon Redon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The title of this painting may refer to a figure from Classical mythology, but the image itself may be a reference to the one-eyed giants of Aquitaine, the region where the artist was born and raised. The striking resemblance between Redon’s cyclops and actual cases of cyclopia has led many to speculate that the legend of the cyclopes was inspired by the experiences of real-life cyclopes, notably humans.

Picasso’s Three Musicians, 1921

ArtistPablo PicassoDate Created1921MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationGallatin Collection
Even though it is an oil painting, “Three Musicians” seems like a collage made of multicoloured paper scraps. Shapes are simplified into angular patterns that fit together like jigsaw pieces, and a surface design with several spatial uncertainty is generated by the use of flat colours.
A dark brown colour is used for the wall in the background, the table in the foreground, parts of the people’ faces, and the dog’s body shape beneath the table.
Harlequin’s mask is a component of Pierrot’s larger, more intricate blue shape. The same shade of blue is used for both the furniture in the bottom third of the picture and the still life on the tabletop. Some items, like the guitar in the centre and the sheet music and clarinet on the left, are easily identifiable, while others, like the stack of products on the table, are less so.

Grant Wood’s American Gothic, from 1930

ArtistGrant WoodDate Created1930MediumOil on BeaverboardCurrent LocationRoyal Academy of Arts
A middle-aged man and woman, assumed to be a farmer and his wife or daughter, pose in front of their home, a farmhouse built of wood in the fashionable Carpenter Gothic style of the 1890s. People are so near to the camera that it’s hard to make out the setting.
He modelled the farm after a house he saw in Eldon, Iowa called Dibble House, and cast his sister Nan and his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby, as the estate’s proprietors.

American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood; Grant Wood, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many reviewers saw the picture as a scathing satire of small-town life because of its apparent likeness to the stereotypical image of rural Midwesterners, replete with pitchfork and dungarees. The community was outraged when a copy of the picture appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. People were offended by Wood’s portrayal of them as gloomy puritans.

Salvador Dal’s The Persistence of Memory was published in 1931.

ArtistSalvador DalíDate Created1931MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMuseum of Modern Art
A self-portrait is covered with a delicate watch in The Persistence of Memory. In his pliable timepieces, Dal alludes to the “camembert of time,” suggesting that the concept of time has lost all significance in the realm of the unconscious. The ants clustering around the pocket watch suggest it is a decoy, which is absurd because it is made of metal.
Dal’s “paranoid-critical” pictures are an embodiment of his understanding of and commitment to the Freudian concept of the unconscious as a repository for latent desires and psychoses inside the human psyche, such as the irrational dread of death shown here.
Dal improved upon an effect made possible with the use of techniques as diverse as those of Johannes Vermeer’s meticulousness and those of Carriere’s blurred forms. After giving his protagonists a sense of freedom on a mental level, he used spatial relationships — often a landscape — to create harmony in the picture via the juxtaposition of unrelated elements.

Diego Rivera’s The Flower Seller (1935)

ArtistDiego RiveraDate Created1935MediumOil and TemperaCurrent LocationSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art
In the colourful picture, a peasant in white clothes and a yellow hat struggles on all fours while carrying an absurdly large basket of flowers by its yellow strap. Behind him, a woman who is presumably the farmer’s wife holds up the basket as he struggles to get to his feet.
Though the flowers in the basket are stunning to the naked eye, the individual carrying them has only one thing on his mind as he makes his way to the marketplace. Each person, object, and patch of vegetation is shown separately in the geometric patterns to emphasise their uniqueness.
Some see the heavy basket on the man’s back as a metaphor for the difficulties facing unskilled labourers in today’s capitalist society.

Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso

ArtistPablo PicassoDate Created1937MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Picasso’s depiction of the Spanish Civil War is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of art ever created, period, regardless of subject matter. Even though Picasso’s work is a massive allegory depicting the horrors of war, it may have been designed to actively shape viewers into proactive participants, encouraging both communal transformation and policy decisions.
By doing so, Picasso intended to influence legislative changes and broaden the discussion beyond the borders of his war-torn homeland.
A replica of Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso; Winfried Weithofer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
As part of the greater wartime tale, this well planned creation of a remarkable achievement merits serious study and admiration. Even more importantly, the study of wartime art may contribute to the professional development of military leaders by providing new avenues for discussion on the value of different perspectives on the meaning of victory and loss in contemporary society.

Frida Kahlo’s The Two Fridas (1939)

ArtistFrida KahloDate Created1939MediumOil on CanvasCurrent LocationMuseo de Arte Moderno
It has been theorised by a number of experts that the picture’s two figures represent Frida’s mixed heritage. Her father Guillermo Kahlo was German, while her mother Matilde Calderon was Mexican. Another possibility is that Diego Rivera preferred the Tehuana version of Frida to the European version because of their different cultural backgrounds.
Frida painted this based on her recollection of a fictional playmate she had as a youngster. The Mexican Frida holds a little Diego Rivera picture on her lap, whereas the European Frida has a pair of forceps.
Blood seeps down the European Frida’s white dress where the forceps broke a blood vessel.

Jackson Pollock, “№5” (1948)

ArtistJackson PollockDate Created1948Medium Oil on FiberboardCurrent LocationPrivate Collection
An eight-by-four-foot sheet of fiberboard was used to create this. Jackson Pollock used a technique using liquid paints in this work. He decided to stop using canvas and paints. A lot of brown and yellow paint can be seen splashed all over №5. It was Pollock’s emotions that prompted him to create this work of art. The traditional use of liquid paints was abandoned by him.
The nest-like design of the picture has been interpreted in many different ways.
The level of difficulty and detail put into this masterwork is what drove it to the forefront of the art world. For №5, Pollock primarily used action painting, which entails the spontaneous dribbling, spreading, and flinging of liquid paint. Pollock also sought to usher in a radical new perspective to the art form. With №5, he tried to capture the peak of the artist’s enthusiasm using his own style of painting.

René Magritte, The Son of Man (1964).

ArtistRené MagritteDate Created1964MediumOil on canvasCurrent LocationPrivate collection
The sponsor, adviser, and close friend of Magritte, Harry Torczyner, commissioned a self-portrait from the artist in 1963. The public letters of Magritte, however, reveal his struggles with the task of self-portraiture. Magritte said that he had a “conscience issue” because of his predicament. Magritte’s finished self-portrait featured an anonymous figure in a bowler hat and was titled “The Son of Man.”
At first sight, this sketch appears easy, but upon further inspection, it proves to be quite the conundrum.
Someone is shown in front of a stony sea wall. The sky is foggy and starting to turn grey just above the horizon. Since the figure is lit from behind and somewhat shaded on his left side, the viewer assumes that it is midday. The guy seemed excessively dressed for the occasion. He looks quite businesslike with his grey suit, bowler hat, and collared shirt with scarlet tie.
There ends our enumeration of historical masterpieces of art. These paintings are among the most well-known ever created. Each of these well-known works of art broke new ground at the time of its release and continues to be appreciated now for its innovative qualities. Were you satisfied with our selection of the world’s most well-known paintings?

Questions & Answers

If you were to choose just one old painting to represent all of art history, which would it be?

Throughout art history, there are several well-known works of art. The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, has to be among the world’s most recognisable works of art. It’s indisputably one of the most recognisable pictures in the world.

What was the most common medium for creating masterpieces of Western art?

Famous historical paintings we admire were created using a wide variety of media. There are many different kinds of paint, such as oil, watercolour, and tempera. It seems that oil on canvas is the preferred medium for many of the classics.