Top 10 Famous Paintings In The World (Greatest Work Of Art)

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A work of art or art object is an aesthetic physical item or artistic creation. Over the centuries, countless artworks have delivered us with some amazing paintings and sculptures, and limiting them to 10 pieces is not completely fair.

However, we have tried our best to lists 10 of the greatest work of art ever created. Therefore, discover the 10 greatest work of art and their unique stories, bizarre tales of the inspiration behind them.

10. The Goldfinch (painting)

famous paintings in the world

The Goldfinch is an animal painting by Carel Fabritius of a chained goldfinch painted in the year 1654. It is an oil painting on panel of 33.5 by 22.8 cm. The work belongs to the collection of the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Goldfinch’ is one of the many masterpieces created by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) student, Carel Fabritius (1622-1654).

In the 17th century, European Goldfinches were popular pets because they could be trained to draw water from a bowl with a miniature bucket.

Fabritius painted it in a style, distinctively different from Rembrandt. The painting plays a central role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch written by Donna Tartt.

Fabritius died as a result of a gunpowder store explosion in Delft city (Netherlands). In the explosion, only a dozen of his paintings, including ‘The Goldfinch’ survived.

9. Whistler’s Mother

famous paintings in the world

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, best known under its colloquial name Whistler’s Mother, is a painting in oils on canvas created by the James McNeill Whistler in 1871.

It is one of the most famous works by an American artist outside the United States, and it has been variously described as an American icon.

While there are many interesting stories revolving around how this particular painting was conceived, one of the most talked about is the one concerning Anna McNeill Whistler, James Whistler’s mother. Anna was 67 during the painting of the picture.

It is believed that Anna Whistler posed in replacement of a model who did not show up. James had initially envisioned painting the model standing up, but since his mother found it uncomfortable to keep standing for a long period of time, he captured the essence by painting his mother relaxing in a sitting position.

The painting has been featured or mentioned in numerous works of fiction and within pop culture, including the 1997 Rowan Atkinson film Bean features the painting as a plot element.

8. Sistine Madonna

famous paintings in the world

The Sistine Madonna, also called the Madonna di San Sisto, is an oil painting by the famous Italian artist Raphael Sanzio. The altarpiece was commissioned in 1512 by Pope Julius II for the church of San Sisto, Piacenza.

In this painting, Madonna is shown holding the child Jesus, as Saint Sixtus and Saint Barbara stand on either side. Contemporary Italian artist Correggio was moved to tears on seeing the masterpiece.

Relocated to Dresden in 1754, the well-known painting was particularly influential in Germany. After World War II, it was relocated to Moscow for a decade before being returned to Germany.

It is now a masterpiece of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister Museum.

7. The Starry Night

famous paintings in the world

The Starry Night is an oil on canvas by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (France), just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village.

The painting is said to have been created during the daytime in Van Gogh’s ground floor studio, allegedly from memory.

However, this theory is debated a lot given the fact that the view he painted captures the outside view from the east-facing window of his asylum room, just before sunrise.

It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941. It is regarded as among Van Gogh’s finest works and is one of the most recognized paintings in the history of Western culture.

6. The Last Supper

famous paintings in the world

The Last Supper is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci housed by the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.

It is one of the world’s most recognizable paintings, and the unrivaled masterpiece painted between 1495 and 1497 by Leonardo da Vinci, whose work was to herald a new era in the history of art.

Leonardo Da Vinci created ‘The Last Supper’ on the request of the Duke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21.

It shows his disciples dismayed, shocked and lost in thoughts, contemplating, after Jesus predicts that one of the present apostles is about to betray him.

Because the painting was on a thin exterior wall, a variety of environmental factors, and intentional damage, very little of the original painting remains today despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.

5. The Scream

famous paintings in the world

The Scream is one of the most famous masterpieces of modern art. The Scream is the popular name given to each of four versions of a composition, created as both paintings and pastels, by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910.

The works show a figure with an agonized expression against a landscape with a tumultuous orange sky.

Arthur Lubow, journalist and author of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer has described “The Scream” as “an icon of modern art, a Mona Lisa for our time.”

In Edvard Munch diary in an entry headed “Nice 22 January 1892”, he wrote about his painting:

One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. This became The Scream. 

The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later.

In 2004, both The Scream and Madonna were stolen from the Munch Museum, and both were recovered two years later.

4. American Gothic (painting)

famous paintings in the world

American Gothic is a painting by Grant Wood, an American painter best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly American Gothic, an iconic painting of the 20th century.

This familiar image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicagowinning a $300 prize and instant fame for Grant Wood. The impetus for the painting came while Wood was visiting the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa.

There he spotted a little wood farmhouse, with a single oversized window, made in a style called Carpenter Gothic. He immediately drew a sketch of the house on an envelope he had on him and he used his sister and his dentist as models for a farmer and his daughter, dressing them as if they were “tintypes from my old family album”.

It is one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art and has been widely parodied in American popular culture.

3. Portrait of Dr.Gachet

famous paintings in the world

Portrait of Dr Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by the Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh.

It depicts Dr Paul Gachet – a French physician most famous for treating the painter Vincent van Gogh during his last weeks in Auvers-sur-Oise, a commune located in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, France.

Over the years, Portrait of Dr Gachet has become one of Vincent van Gogh’s most recognizable works. But beneath the brushstrokes, there may be a mystery of jealousy, fraud, and the death of a legend.

It is believed that Vincent van Gogh was sent to Dr Gachet, after being released from the asylum, with the goal that he remains under supervision.

Though Van Gogh was initially suspicious of the doctor, he soon became his friend. He ended up painting two versions of his Portrait of Dr Gachet.

In May 1990, the first version was sold at auction for $82.5 million ($151.2 million today), a new mark for the highest-ever price for a painting, not surpassed for the first time until June 2006.

2. The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

famous paintings in the world

The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted c. 1508–1512.

It has long been one of the most replicated biblical paintings in history, now blazoned on anything from placemats to umbrellas. The painting illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man.

This composition stretches over 500 square meters of the ceiling and contains over 300 figures. At its centre are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis, divided into three groups: God’s Creation of the Earth; God’s Creation of Humankind and their fall from God’s grace; and lastly, the state of Humanity as represented by Noah and his family.

The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity. The painting has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies.

Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are the most replicated religious paintings of all time.

1. Mona Lisa

famous paintings in the world

The Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci that has been described as the best known, the most visited, and the famous painting in the world.

The Mona Lisa is also one of the most valuable paintings in the world. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest known insurance valuation in history at $100 million in 1962, which is worth nearly $800 million in 2017.

The painting is thought to be a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, who was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence, a wealthy Florentine silk merchant.

However, little is known about Lisa’s life. Born in Florence and married in her teens, she was a mother to five children and led what is thought to have been a comfortable and ordinary middle-class life. Lisa outlived her husband, who was considerably her senior.

It had been believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506; however, Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517.

It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.