The collection of famous paintings in the Metropolitan is one of the world's most comprehensive - and overwhelming. This 2 million square foot facility houses 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of art history.
That's a lot of square feet, and a lot of walking.
How do see the some of the best paintings in the Met - while staying focused (and sane)? Take along this itinerary!
When I first began frequenting art museums, I wanted to know which paintings shaped art history, which art museums housed them, and what political and social forces influenced these famous painters (Yep, I was in a hurry to learn art history!).
I couldn't find a product that met these specs, so I created Masterpiece Cards, a set of art history cards introducing 250 famous paintings discussed most often in leading art history books.
The paintings in boldface are in Masterpiece Cards; the other art paintings are slightly less well-known (according to consensus from some 40 art historians):
- Balthus. Nude Before a Mirror. Oil on canvas, 1955
- Bierstadt, Albert. The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak. Oil on canvas, 1863.
- Bonheur, Marie-Rosalie (Rosa). The Horse Fair. Oil on canvas, 1853. Below. The first woman to receive the Cross of the French Legion of Honor. Discover other paintings by Bonheur. And see Bonheur's miniscule study for Horse Fair at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
- Boucher, Francois. The Toilet of Venus. Oil on canvas, 1751.
Rosa Bonheur. The Horse Fair, 1853-55. Oil on canvas, 8' 1/4" by 16' 7". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Campin (The Master of Flemalle), Robert. Merode Altarpiece (Triptych of the Annunciation). Tempera and oil on wood, 1425 - 1430
- Caravaggio, (Michelangelo Merisi). The Musicians. Oil on canvas, ca. 1595. See below. Is it four young men, or two viewed from different angles? Answers are in Masterpiece Cards!
Caravaggio. The Musicians, ca. 1595. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4" by 46 5/8". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Christus, Petrus. A Goldsmith in his Shop, Possibly St. Eligius. Tempera and oil on wood, 1449
- Cole, Thomas. View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, MA, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow). Oil on canvas, 1836. Below. Customers of Masterpiece Cards know that the name "Noah" is hidden in this famous painting...
Thomas Cole. View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm - The Oxbow, 1836. Oil on canvas, 51 1/2" by 76". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Constable, John. Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds. Oil on canvas, ca. 1825
- Courbet, Gustave. Woman with a Parrot. Oil on canvas, 1866
- Daumier, Honore. The Third Class Carriage. Oil on canvas, 1863 - 1865. Below. An ardent defender of the poor and those who could, as here, only afford third-class rail tickets, Daumier frequently portrayed people displaced by industrialism.
Honore-Victorin Daumier. The Third-Class Carriage, ca. 1863-65. Oil on canvas, 25 3/4" by 35 1/2". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- David, Jacques-Louis. Death of Socrates. Oil on canvas, 1787. Discover other Jacques Louis David paintings like Death of Marat and Napoleon Crossing the Alps, a pure publicity stunt.
- Eakins, Thomas. Max Schmitt in a Single Scull. Oil on canvas, 1871
- El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). View of Toledo. Oil on canvas, circa 1604 - 1614. Is this, one of the best known El Greco paintings, real or imagined? It's some of each, as explained by the art analysis in Masterpiece Cards. Learn more about View of Toledo, and about another El Greco masterpiece, Burial of Count Orgaz.
El Greco. View of Toledo, ca. 1604-14. Oil on canvas, 47 3/4" by 42 3/4". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Goya, Francisco de. Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga. Oil on canvas, circa 1798. Explore more Goya paintings including the political masterpiece, The Third of May; Family of Charles IV (with its anonymous, stand-in bride); Duchess of Alba, whose relationship with Goya inspired rumors for years, and one of the most poignant portraits in art history, his Self Portrait with Dr. Arrieta.
- Hartley, Marsden. Portrait of a German Officer. Oil on canvas, 1914. In this famous painting, Hartley eulogizes a young Prussian lieutenant. In Masterpiece Cards, we explore who he was, why he mattered to Hartley, and the meaning of the initials (Kv.F) and numbers ("4" and "24").
Marsden Hartley. Portrait of a German Officer, 1914. Oil on canvas, 68 1/4" by 41 3/8". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique. Princess de Broglie. Oil on canvas, 1853. Learn about one of France's most famous painters.
- Kauffmann, Angelica. Telemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso. Oil on canvas, 1783. Below. Kauffmann was one of the most prominent female artists of her era. Astonishingly, she was forbidden - like other female painters - from sketching nude models of either gender. Learn more about the incredible accomplishments of Angelica Kauffmann.
Angelica Kauffmann. Telemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso, 1782. Oil on canvas, 32 1/2" by 44 1/4". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Labille-Guiard, Adelaide. Self-Portrait with Two Pupils. Oil on canvas, 1785
- Louis, Morris. Alpha-Pi. Acrylic on canvas, 1961. Masterpiece Cards' customers learn why Morris' paintings were considered "breakthrough" in art history -- literally and figuratively!
Morris Louis. Alpha-Pi, 1960. Magna on canvas, 102 1/2" by 177". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Matisse, Henri. Promenade Among the Olive Trees. Oil on canvas, 1905. Explore the art history behind two famous paintings by Matisse at the Hermitage, The Dance and The Music. Check out another Matisse painting in New York, Red Studio. And don't miss the art history behind The Yellow Dress, one of the extraordinary Matisee paintings at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
- Memling, Hans. Maria Baroncelli Portinari and Tommaso di Folco Portinari. Oil on wood, circa 1470
- Modigliani, Amedeo. Reclining Nude. Oil on canvas, 1917
- Monet, Claude. Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (In Sun). Oil on canvas, 1894.
- Murillo, Bartolome Esteban. The Virgin and Child. Oil on canvas, 1675 - 1680
- O'Keeffe, Georgia. Black Iris III, oil on canvas, 1926. Learn about another O'Keeffe masterpiece, Jack in the Pulpit.
Georgia O'Keeffe. Black Iris, 1926. Oil on canvas, 36" by 29 7/8". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Panini, Giovanni Paolo. Modern Rome. Oil on canvas, 1757.
- Picasso, Pablo. Portrait of Gertrude Stein. Explore other Picasso paintings in New York, including Girl Before a Mirror. Learn about his incomparable Las Meninas paintings.
- Pollock, Jackson. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). Oil on canvas, 1950.
- Rembrandt. Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer. Oil on canvas, 1653. Read about one of Amsterdam's most beloved Rembrandt paintings, Night Watch and the Rembrandt paintings at the Rijksmuseum.
- Rubens, Peter Paul. Venus and Adonis. Oil on canvas, circa 1635. Discover the art history behind Venus and Adonis, one of the most beloved Rubens paintings. Hint: Rubens was riffing on another version of Venus and Adonis!
Peter Paul Rubens. Venus and Adonis, mid or late 1630s. Oil on canvas, 77 3/4" by 95 5/8". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
- Sargent, John Singer. Madame X. Oil on canvas, 1894. One of the most famous art paintings by Sargent -- and his most scandalous. It wouldn't merit a second look today, but sent Sargent packing.
- Stuart, Gilbert. George Washington. Oil on canvas, 1795
- van Goyen, Jan. Pelkus Gate near Utrecht. Oil on panel, 1646
- Velazquez, Diego. Juan de Pareja. Oil on canvas, 1650. Don't miss one of the few Velazquez paintings in the U.S. And explore an overview of him, one of the most famous painters in all Western of art history.
Diego Velazquez. Juan Pareja, 1648. Oil on canvas, 32" by 27 1/2". Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Fletcher Fund, Rogers Fund, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton deGroot.
- Vermeer, Jan. Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. Oil on canvas, ca. 1662.
Learn about Vermeer's Allegory of Painting, and Saint Praxedis, a painting newly attributed to Vermeer in 2014.
- Watteau, Jean-Antoine. Mezzetin. Oil on canvas, circa 1718.
Like Famous Paintings?
We had that hunch.
Masterpiece Cards is a set of art history flashcards that survey 250 of the most famous paintings in art history.
From this tower of art history books (some 17,000 pages), we determined which paintings were most often used to illustrate the careers of famous painters.
We reproduced these paintings on 4" by 6" Cards, and added an introduction to the work on the reverse - key facts, and an essay written by an art historian.
To have and to hold, to compare, to study, and to make art history come alive!