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Art Paintings in Washington, D.C.

Posted by Susan Benford

With so many art paintings in Washington, D.C. art museums, how can you see some of the best paintings  -- without becoming overwhelmed?

From a library of 23 art history books written by art historians, I researched which art paintings were used to exemplify styles and art movements from Renaissance art through Pop art. 17,000 pages later, I published Masterpiece Cards, 250 flashcards of the famous paintings that cropped up most -- think "The Greatest Hits of Art History"! 

If you, too, are willing to defer to the collective wisdom of forty art historians, here's your guide to some of the most famous art paintings in Washington, D.C. art museums

  • Beckmann Max. The Argonauts (Triptych). Oil on canvas, 1950. National Gallery of Art.

titian feast of gods

Giovanni Bellini and Titian, Feast of the Gods.  Oil on canvas, 1514.  80 1/4" x 86" x 3".  Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art.

  • Bonnard, Pierre. The Open Window. Oil on canvas, ca. 1921. Phillips Collection

  • Cassatt, Mary. The Boating Party. Oil on canvas, ca. 1893 - 1894. National Gallery of Art

  • Castagno, Andrea del. David with the Head of Goliath. Tempera on leather mounted on panel, ca. 1450-57. National Gallery of Art 

Paul Cezanne, Boy incezanne boy in red waistcoat a Red Waistcoat.  Oil on canvas, 1888-1890.  Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art. Explore more of the most famous Cezanne paintings, including Bathers.

  • Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Simeon. The Kitchen Maid. Oil on canvas, ca. 1740. National Gallery of Art

  • Church, Frederic Edwin. Niagara. Oil on canvas, 1857. Corcoran Gallery of Art 

  • Clouet, Francois. Lady in her Bath (Diane de Poitiers). Oil on wood, ca. 1570. National Gallery of Art

  • Constable, John. Wivenhoe Park, Essex. Oil on canvas, 1816. National Gallery of Art

  • Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille. Ville d'Avray. Oil on canvas, 1867 - 1870. National Gallery of Art

  • Cuyp, Aelbert. Maas at Dordrecht.  Oil on canvas, ca. 1660. National Gallery of Art

  • David, Jacques-Louis. Napoleon in his Study.  Oil on canvas, 1812. National Gallery of Art.  Read about other David paintings like Death of Marat

  • Derain, Andre. Mountains at Collioure.  Oil on canvas,1905. National Gallery of Art

  • Fontana, Lavinia.  Portrait of a Noblewoman. Oil on canvas, ca. 1580.  National Museum of Women in the Arts. Learn about Portrait of a Noblewoman!

  • Frankenthaler, Helen. Mountains and Sea. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 1952. Collection of the artist on extended loan to the National Gallery of Art

  • Gainsborough, Thomas. Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  Oil on canvas, 1785 - 1787. National Gallery of Art

  • Hicks, Edward. The Peaceable Kingdom.  Oil on canvas, 1833 - 1834. National Gallery of Art

  • Hofmann, Hans. The Gate.  Oil on canvas, 1959 - 1960. Guggenheim Museum

  • Homer, Winslow. Breezing Up (A Fair Wind), Oil on canvas, 1876. National Gallery of Art

  • Indiana, Robert. The Figure Five.  Oil on canvas, 1963. Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • Lawrence, Jacob. During the World War There Was a Great Migration North by Southern Negroes (panel 1 from The Migration of the Negro). Tempera on masonite, 1940 - 1941. Phillips Collection.  Read about all sixty art paintings by Lawrence in The Migration series. 

  • Leyster, Judith. Self-Portrait, Oil on canvas, 1635. National Gallery of Art

  • Modigliani, Amedeo. Nude on a Blue Cushion.  Oil on canvas, 1917. National Gallery of Art

  •  Pippin, Horace. Domino Players.  Oil on composition board, 1943. Phillips Collectionhorace pippin domino players

Horace Pippin, Domino Players. Oil on composition board, 1943.  12 3/4" x 22". Phillips Collection.


  • Pissarro, Camille. The Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight. Oil on canvas, 1897. National Gallery of Art

  • Pollock, Jackson. Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist). Oil, enamel and aluminum on canvas, 1950. National Gallery of Art

  • Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). Alba Madonna.  Oil on canvas transferred from panel, ca. 1510. National Gallery of Art

  • Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio). The Small Cowper Madonna.  Oil on wood panel, ca. 1505. National Gallery of Art

  • Rauschenberg, Robert. Reservoir.  Oil, pencil, fabric, wood and metal, 1961. Smithsonian American Art Museum

  • Rembrandt (Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn). Self Portrait.  Oil on canvas, ca. 1659. National Gallery of Art.  Read about another famous painting by Rembrandt, Aristotle with the Bust of Homer.

  • Renoir, Pierre-Auguste. The Luncheon of the Boating Party.  Oil on canvas, 1881. Phillips Collection

  •  Rothko, Mark. The Ochre [Ochre and Red on Red].  Oil on canvas, 1954. Phillips Collection.  Don't miss the Rothko Room, which holds four art paintings by Rothko.

  • Stael, Nicolas de. Musicians.  Oil on canvas, 1953. Phillips Collection

  • Vasarely, Victor de. Arcturus II.  Oil on canvas, 1966. Hirshhorn Museum

The largest of the Washington D.C. art museums is the National Gallery of Art, which, in spite of its youth -- its art collection was formed in the 20th and 21st centuries -- has an internationally influential collection of American and European art paintings.

The Phillips Collection houses famous artwork by European and American painters. Its founder, Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), was an early proponent for American art, contending that American painters were as talented as their European counterparts. The Phillips Collection of 3,000+ art paintings focuses on impressionist paintings and modern art paintings.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum contains works of art solely by American painters and artists, boasting one of the most extensive collections of American art.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the world's only art museum dedicated to showcasing the contributions of women artists. 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden shows contemporary and modern art from the 20th and 21st centuries.

American art from the 18th century on is the focus of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Design.

Topics: art museums, art paintings, washington dc

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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

Caillebotte, Gustave, The Floor Scrapers; The House Painters; Pont de l'Europe; Paris Street, Rainy Day; Fruit Displayed on a Stand

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

Degas, The Bellilli Family, The Dance Class, In a Cafe (Absinthe Drinker)

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

Ingres, Oedipus and the Sphinx

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

Lawrence, Great Migration Series

Leonardo, Lady with an Ermine

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, Impression, Sunrise

Monet, Nymphaes, Le Pont de l'Europe

Monet Paintings at the Marmottan Monet Museum

Monet, Waterlilies

Morisot, Famous Paintings

MorisotMore Famous Paintings

Munch, The Scream

O'Keeffe, Jack in the Pulpit

Peeters, Clara

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

Pippin, Domino Players and Cabin in the Cotton

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

van Gogh, Three Pairs of Shoes

Vincent van Gogh paintings up to 1889

Vincent van Gogh paintings, 1888-1890

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her Children, Self Portrait, Self-Portrait with Julie

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

Vigee-LeBrun, Marie Antoinette and Her ChildrenSelf PortraitSelf-Portrait with Julie

Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans

Warhol, Marilyn Diptych and Gold Marilyn 

Warhol, Mao 

Whistler, Whistler's Mother

Anders Zorn

Famous Paintings by Art Museums

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 collectionExplore famous paintings at the 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. Or read the blog post, "Famous Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum". 

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.

Whitney Museum of American Art.  Don't miss these 10 famous paintings at the Whitney.

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. 

10 Famous Paintings at the Prado. Don't miss a one of these.

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.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun.  Self-Portrait; Marie Antoinette and Her Children; Self-Portrait with Julie

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 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