mona lisa smileLove reading analysis of famous paintings? Discover more about 250 of the best paintings in the history of art with the Famous Paintings ebook.  It names names (and titles, art museums, and dates), with links to in-depth commentary about the works.  Explore must-see masterpieces in US and European art museums! 


It'll make you smile. 

Famous Paintings Reviewed

Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum

Posted by Susan Benford

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.
met museum resized 600That'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 knowhich 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.
art paintings analysis

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!
Read about more Caravaggio paintings, including Conversion of St. Paul, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller. Explore the extraordinary Caravaggio paintings at the Villa Borghese. 
art paintings Caravaggio

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...
art paintings Thomas Cole

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.  

art paintings Metropolitan Museum

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.

  • 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 

El Greco. View of Toledo, ca. 1604-14. Oil on canvas, 47 3/4" by 42 3/4".  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

  • 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").  
famous paintings Metropolitan Museum

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.
famous artwork Metropolitan museum

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!
Art paintings Morris Louis

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
  • georgia o'keeffe paintingsO'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. 
  • Pollock, Jackson. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). Oil on canvas, 1950.
  • 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
rubens paintings

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.  
Learn about another of his best paintings, El Jaleo (nobody paints better whites), and Smoke of Ambergris, Sargent's interpretation of Orientalist art. 
  • 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.

Velazquez Metropolitan Museum

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.
Explore two of the most famous Vermeer paintings, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Girl with the Red Hat

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, rsz_orion-art-history-booksjpg-resized-600and 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!

Look at Samples

Feeling Lucky?

famous paintings cards

Good - because we're feeling generous! Join this blog and earn a chance to win a FREE set of these art history cards (a $60 value). 

Enter Me to Win!

Join this Blog - (and add your thoughts!)

Famous Painters Blogroll

Anguissola, Three Sisters Playing Chess and Phillip II of Spain

Beckmann, Blind Man's Buff

Beckmann, Departure; Self-Portrait in Tuxedo; Sinking of Titanic

Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri

BonheurPlowing in the Nivernais

Bonheur, The Horse Fair

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Botticelli, Primavera

Caravaggio, Fashion and Art History

CaravaggioConversion of St. Paul

Caravaggio, Young, Sick Bacchus and Basket of Fruit

Caravaggio, Cardsharps and Fortune Teller

Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

Caravaggio, Taking of Christ (Kiss of Judas)

Caravaggio Paintings at the Villa Borghese

Cave Paintings

Cezanne, Bathers 

Cezanne, Card Players

Cezanne, Madame Cezanne Paintings

Cezanne, Most Famous Paintings

Cezanne, Red Dress series

Copley, Paul Revere

David, Death of Marat 

David, Death of Socrates

David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps

de Kooning, Retrospective at MoMA (Part I)

de Kooning,Excavation and Painting, 1948 

de KooningWoman I

Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People  

Diebenkorn, The Ocean Park Series

Duncanson, Robert Seldon.  Art History Welcomes Duncanson 

Durer, The Four Apostles

El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz

El Greco, View of Toledo

FontanaPortrait of a Noblewoman

Frankenthaler, Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea

Gainsborough, The Blue Boy

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Judith Beheading Holofernes

Gentileschi, Artemisia.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting 

Ghent Altarpiece.  GiorgioneThree Philosophers 

Goya, Duchess of Alba

Goya, Family of Charles IV

Goya, Self-Portrait with Dr. Arrieta

Goya, The Third of May 1808 

Goya, Duchess of Alba; Saturn Devouring his Son; Two Old Men; Half-Submerged Dog; Black Paintings

Grunewald, Isenheim Altarpiece

Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard

Hals, The Laughing Cavalier

Hals, Regents of St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Hopper, Nighthawks

Ingres, Grande Odalisque and Portrait of Madame Moissetier

Isenheim Altarpiece

Kahlo, Renowned Frida Kahlo Paintings.  

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting and David Garrick.  

Klimt, The Kiss and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Leonardo, Painter at the Court of Milan, National Gallery, London 

Leonardo, La Bella Principessa 

Leonardo, New Mona Lisa

Leonardo, Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta 

Leonardo, Savior of the World(Salvator Mundi) 

Leonardo, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Leyster, Famous Female Painters

20 Louvre Paintings not to Miss 

ManetA Bar at the Folies-Bergere

Manet, Luncheon in the Studio

Manet, The Old Musician

Manet, Street Singer

MantegnaDead Christ

Matisse Paintings, In Search of True Painting

Matisse, The DanceThe Music

Matisse, The Cone Collection

Matisse, The Red Studio

Matisse, The Yellow Dress

Michelangelo, Crucifixion with the Madonna

Michelangelo, Famous Paintings

Michelangelo, La Pieta with Two Angels (latest attribution?)

Michelangelo, St. John the Baptist Bearing Witness

Modersohn-Becker, Famous Female Painters

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Picasso, Portrait of Gertrude Stein

Picasso, Las Meninas

Piero della Francesca, The Baptism of Christ

Poussin, Assumption of the Virgin

Raphael, Sistine Madonna

Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer 

Rembrandt, Night Watch

Rembrandt paintings at Frick Show

Rembrandt, Self-Portrait at an Early AgeJeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Bride

Rembrandt, The Syndics of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild

Rubens, Venus and Adonis

Sanchez Cotan, Spanish Still-life

Sargent, El Jaleo

Sargent, Madame X

Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris

Steen, The Christening Feast 

Steen paintings at Frick Show

Tanner, The Banjo Lesson and The Thankful Poor

Titian, Assumption of the Virgin

Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne

Titian, Man with a Glove

Titian, Nymph and Shepherd, Allegory of Prudence, Jacopa Strada, St. Jerome, Slaying of Marysas

Titian, Rape of Europa

Turner, J. M. W, The Fighting Temeraire

Uccello, Battle of San Romano

van der Weyden, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin

van Eyck, Arnolfini Portrait

van Eyck, Adoration of the Lamb

van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece

van Gogh, The Potato Eaters

van GoghMemory of Garden at Etten; Tatched Cottages; White House

van Gogh,  Portrait of Madam Trabuc; Morning: Going Out

van Gogh, Starry Night

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Velazquez, Juan de Pareja

Velazquez, Pope Innocent X

Velazquez, Overview of Famous Paintings

Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer, Saint Praxedis

Vermeer, The Kitchen Maid

Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting

VermeerGirl with the Red Hat

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums - ebooks

Learn about famous paintings to see in these art museums:

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY). One of those intimate, small art museums with a stellar collectionFamous Paintings at Albright-Knox. 

Art Institute of Chicago: Plan to see these famous paintings at the Art Institute -- and download an ebook about them.

Louvre Museum, (Paris): one of the largest art museums in the world! Know which Louvre paintings not to miss in this sortable ebook. 

Mauritshuis Museum: explore works by renowned Dutch painters

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City): download the ebook, Famous-Paintings-Metropolitan-Museum, to learn its must-see masterpieces.

National Gallery (London): with 2300 famous paintings alone in its European painting section, discover highlights to see!  Art Paintings to See at the National Gallery.

Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam): 10 famous paintings not to miss

Washington, D.C. Art Museums: Explore forty famous paintings in Washington, DC in this article.

Most Popular Posts

Michelangelo PaintingsThe Torment of Saint Anthony; The Manchester Madonna;Holy Family (Doni Tondo); and Entombment

Cave Paintings: explore this prehistoric art in Spain and France.

Picasso's Las Meninas: 58 Picasso paintings inspired by Velazquez's Las Meninas

Ghent Altarpiece: the van Eyck masterpiece, one of the most famous artworks ever made. 

Survey of Renaissance Paintings: want to know what Renaissance paintings were all about? Start with 20 of its most famous painters in this sweeping survey! 

Discover more of readers' favorite art history blog posts. 

Female Artists

While we long for the time when artists are artists and genderless, that time isn't yet here.

These are a few of the female artists who've left lasting legacies in the history of painting:

Sofonisba AnguissolaThree Sisters Playing ChessPhillip II of Spain

Rosa Bonheur.  Plowing in the Nivernais.  Horse Fair.

Lavinia Fontana. Portrait of a Noblewoman.

Helen Frankenthaler. Color Field Painting and Mountains and Sea. 

Artemisia Gentileschi.  Judith Beheading Holofernes.  Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting.

Frida Kahlo.  Frida and Diego Rivera.  The Two Fridas.  The Love Embrace of the Universe. 

Angelica Kauffmann.  Self-Portrait Torn Between Music and Painting.  David Garrick.

Judith Leyster.  Self-Portrait.  The Proposition. 

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Self-Portrait with an Amber Necklace. Still Life with Goldfish. 

Berthe Morisot.  Refuge in Normandy.  The Cradle. 

Georgia O'Keeffe. Jack in the Pulpit Series. 

Survey of Female Artists

Art History Other

Art History Reading List: 50+ great reads in fiction and non-fiction

Art History Videos on YouTube

Cave Paintings

Most Controversial Paintings

Google Art ProjectArt Museums Up Close

Survey of Female Artists

Survey of Renaissance Paintings.

Art History Blogs

ArtDaily: daily breaking news about art museums and art history.

Art Blog by Bob: this brilliant art history blogger of Picture This on Big Think.

Art History Resources. Unwieldly but informative.

Marisol Roman.  A Spanish art history blog.

Mother of all Art & Art History Links: extensive list of online art history resources (including images, research resources, and art history depts.)

smARThistory. Think online art history textbook.  Brilliant. 

Art History Beyond Europe

A few forays into art outside Europe:

African Art and Bocio

African Mask of Idia


Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Great Wave

The Terracotta Warriors


Famous Paintings ebook

This free ebook has a wealth of facts and articles about the 250 influential paintings in Masterpiece Cards.

Did we mention it's free? d0e42560-d745-43b3-8b2d-9ee2d3273b82