This is an incredibly hard list to put together, as there have been so many wonderful paintings of the years. Below, you will find a selection of some of the most famous paintings in the world. They have been chosen based on their perceived value, historical significance, their importance to the art world or a particular movement in art, and of course their overall beauty and originality.
Here are the 12 most famous paintings in the world.
Table of Contents
- #12 – The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
- #11 – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat
- #10 – Whistler’s Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
- #9 – American Gothic by Grant Wood
- #8 – The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
- #7 – The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
- #6 – The Night Watch by Rembrandt
- #5 – Guernica by Pablo Picasso
- #4 – The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
- #3 – The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
- #2 – The Scream by Edvard Munch
- #1 – The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
#12 – The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
The Kiss was painted by Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt between 1908 and 1909. The painting depicts a couple in an embrace. Their bodies are entwined and a lot of detail has been placed on their robes. There is a hint of the Art Nouveau style of art, with the pattern on the robes, but the style shifts to symbolism and some abstract notions.
#11 – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat
A Sunday Afternoon by Seurat is one of the most famous examples of pointillism. Seurat spent over two years completing the painting, finishing in 1886, with a major focus on the landscape of the park. Seurat is credited with originating the concept of using small dots or brushstrokes to create the optical illusion of detail.
He believed that this helped the colors become more vivid and brilliant – and he was right. This led to a major movement in the art world and a technique of painting that is still used by artists today.
#10 – Whistler’s Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
The actual name of this painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1. It was painted by James McNeill Whistler in 1871. Whistler promoted the concept of “art for the sake of art”. He did not want to promote emotion or allude to a moral significance in his paintings.
This large painting, nearly full-size, is a portrait of his own mother. This painting has always evoked a variety of reactions. Some found it significant while others ridiculed the painting.
#9 – American Gothic by Grant Wood
The unsettling American Gothic by Grant Wood was painted in 1930. The name comes from the style of architecture used in the home behind the couple. Grant Wood stated that he wanted to paint the home and then decide to add the people that he thought might live in a home like that. It is easily one of the most recognizable paintings of the twentieth century.
#8 – The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli was painted sometime around the mid-1480’s. The painting features Venus standing on a large shell by the edge of a sea, with several other gods nearby. There are many interpretations of this painting, with most believing that it stands for divine love.
#7 – The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali makes it number seven on the list of the most famous paintings in the world. Dali was a unique painter and entertainer, known just as much for his celebrity and odd behavior as he was for his work. The majority of his paintings are surreal oil paintings on canvas, with The Persistence of Memory being his most famous work. It is also referred to, incorrectly, as The Melting Watches.
#6 – The Night Watch by Rembrandt
The Night Watch is a 1642 painting by Rembrandt van Rijn. The Night Watch is also known as Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. This is perhaps the most famous and recognizable paintings of the Dutch Golden Age. It is a large painting, painted on canvas measuring nearly 12 feet by a little over 14 feet.
#5 – Guernica by Pablo Picasso
Guernica by Pablo Picasso is one of the most moving paintings in history. It is 11 feet tall and 24 feet wide. It is a large abstract mural showing the suffering of people and the casualties of war. Some feel that the painting helped bring more attention to the Spanish Civil War and is thought to be a direct response to the bombing of Guernica.
#4 – The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper is the most famous depiction of the last supper of Jesus Christ. Painted towards the end of the 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci, this large mural painting shows Jesus and his disciples seated along one side of a long table. The scene portrays the moment immediately following Jesus announcing to his twelve disciples that one of them will betray him.
#3 – The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is widely regarded as one of the most important painters of all time and The Starry Night is a prime example of his command of color and brush strokes. Vincent painted this painting while housed in an asylum. The view is from his window in the asylum, just before sunrise. It is arguably one of the most recognized painting in the history of Western culture.
#2 – The Scream by Edvard Munch
The Scream, by Edvard Munich, was painted in 1893 and features a man screaming in agony as the sky turns a deep orange. Munich actually painted four versions of this work. The most recognizable version is the oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard version. The other versions include pastel on cardboard, a lithograph, and another pastel on cardboard version.
#1 – The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
What painting is the most famous painting in the world? The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. This half-length portrait by Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506; though, some work may have continued until 1517. It is an oil painting and the model seems to hold a mysterious secret. Cultural references to the Mona Lisa have permeated through history. It will likely always remain the most famous painting of all time.
That covers the 12 most famous paintings in the world. There are definitely a lot of paintings that came close to making this list. It is hard to narrow down some of the most iconic paintings to a small list of just 12 paintings. Hopefully, you find this list somewhat agreeable.
If you came across any paintings or artists that you have never noticed before, then you learned something new today!