mona lisa smileLove reading analysis of famous paintings? 

Explore 250 top art paintings with the Famous Paintings ebook - and discover highlights in U.S. and European art museumsWith sortable data and introductory art essays. 


Then try smiling like that. 


Famous Paintings Reviewed

World Famous Paintings: Can You Name Them?

Posted by Susan Benford

What a bold question -- and a foolhardy one, too, if identifying "the" world famous paintings is merely one person's opinion. 

But this list of 250 famous paintings is derived from multiple opinions and from many pros - it's a consensus from over forty art historians who've written prominent art history textbooks (for details, see "Methodology" and "References" below).  According to them, the world famous paintings in Western art (from the Renaissance to the 1960s) are these:

Albers, Homage to the Square: Ascending// Altdorfer, Alexander's Victory (Battle of Alexander at Issus)// Angelico, Annunciation// Bacon, Figure with Meat// Baldung Grien,The Three Ages of Man and Death// Balthus, Nude Before a Mirror// Beckmann, Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery// Bellini, Saint Francis in the Desert & The Doge Leonardo Loredan// Bierstadt,The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak// Boccioni, Dynamism of a Human Body// Bonheur,The Horse Fair// Bonnard,The Open Window// Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights//Botticelli,The Birth of Venus & Mystical Nativity// Boucher, The Toilet of Venus// Braque, Fishing Boats// Bronzino, An Allegory with Venus and Cupid// Brueghel the Elder, Peasant Wedding & The Return of the Hunters// Campin (Master of Flémalle), The Annunciation Triptych (Mérode Altarpiece)// Canaletto, Venice: Campo San Vidal and Santa Maria della Carità (The Stonemason's Yard)// Caravaggio,The Conversion of St. Paul & The Musicians// Carracci,Loves of the Gods// Cassatt, Boating Party// Castagno, David with the Head of Goliath// Cézanne, Valley of the Arc & The Large Bathers// Chagall, I and the Village// Chardin, The Kitchen Maid// Chirico, The Soothsayer's Recompense// Church, Niagara// Close, Big Self Portrait// Clouet, A Lady in her Bath// Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm - The Oxbow// Constable, The Hay Wain// Copley,The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781// Corot, Le Port de la Rochelle (The Harbor of La Rochelle)// Correggio,The Assumption of the Virgin & Jupiter and Io// Cortona, Triumph of Divine Providence// Courbet, Burial at Ornans & The Painter's Studio: An Allegory// Cranach, Rest on the Flight into Egypt// Cuyp,The Maas at Dordrecht// da Vinci, The Last Supper & The Mona Lisa// Dalí,The Persistence of Memory// Daumier,The Third-Class Carriage// Gerard David,The Wedding at Cana// Jacques Louis David, The Oath of the Horatii between the Hands of Their Father & The Death of Marat// Davis, Swing Landscape// de Kooning,Woman I// Degas, In a Café (L'Absinthe) & Dancing Lesson// Delacroix, Dante and Virgil & Death of Sardanapalus// Derain, Mountains at Collioure// Dubuffet, Le Métafisyx// Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2// Dufy, Street with Flags// Dürer, Self -Portrait// Eakins,The Gross Clinic// El Greco, View of Toledo// Elsheimer,The Flight to Egypt// Ensor, Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889// Ernst,The Attirement of the Bride (La Toilette de la mariée)// Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi// Fabritius,The Goldfinch// Fragonard,The Swing// Francesca, Battista Sforza and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino & The Baptism of Christ// Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea// Friedrich, Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog// Fuseli, The Nightmare// Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews// Gauguin, Spirit of the Dead Watching & Where Do We Come From? What are We? Where are We Going?// Gaulli, Triumph of the Name of Jesus and the Fall of the Damned// Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes// Géricault, Raft of the "Medusa"// Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni// Giorgione, La Tempesta (The Tempest)// Gorky, The Liver is the Cock's Comb// Goya, The Duchess of Alba, Executions of the Third of May, 1808, & The Family of Charles IV// Gozzoli, The Adoration of the Magi// Greuze, Betrothal in the Village// Gris, Le Déjeuner// Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Victims of the Plague at Jaffa, 11 March 1799// Grosz,The Funeral - Dedicated to Oskar Panizza// Grüenewald,The Isenheim Altar// Guardi, Gala Concert in Honour of Princess Maria Fedorowna in Venice// Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St. George// Hartley, Portrait of a German Officer// Hicks, Peaceable Kingdom// Hockney, American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)// Hodler,The Stockhorn Group on the Lake of Thun// Hofmann, The Gate// Hogarth, Marriage à la Mode: The Tête à Tête// Holbein the Younger, Henry VIII & Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve ('The Ambassadors')// Homer, Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)// Hooch, Courtyard of a House in Delft// Hopper, Nighthawks// Hunt, The Awakening Conscience// Indiana,The Figure Five// Ingres, Valpinçon Bather & Oedipus and the Sphinx// Johns, Three Flags// Jordaens, Portrait of the Artist's Family in the Garden// Kahlo,Self-Portrait with Monkey// Kalf, Still Life with Lobster, Drinking Horn and Glasses// Kandinsky, Improvisation No. 30 (Cannons)// Kauffmann, Cornelia Pointing to Her Children as Her Treasures// Kelly, Red Blue Green// Kirchner, Two Women in the Street// Klee, Senecio// Klimt, The Kiss// Kokoschka,The Bride of the Wind (Windsbraut)// La Tour, The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame// Lam, Initiation// Léger,The City// Leibl, Three Women in a Church// Leyster, Self-Portrait// Lichtenstein, Whaam!// Limbourg Brothers, Les Très Riches du Duc de Berry, February// Lippi,The Coronation of the Virgin// Lorrain, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba// Lotto, Portrait of a Young Man// Louis, Alpha-Pi// Mabuse, Saint Luke Painting the Virgin// Magritte, The Menaced Assassin// Malevich, Black Square// Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère & Olympia// Mantegna, Camera degli Sposi (Room of the Newlyweds)// Marc, Large Blue Horses // Masaccio, Holy Trinity// Matisse, The Dance & The Red Room (Harmony in Red)// Matta, Je m'honte// Memling, Maria Portinari (Maria Maddalena Baroncelli) and Tommaso di Folco Portinari// Michelangelo, Holy Family (Doni Tondo) & The Sistine Chapel ceiling// Millais, Ophelia// Millet, The Gleaners// Miró, Painting// Modersohn-Becker, Seated Nude with Flowers// Modigliani, Nude on a Blue Cushion// Monet, Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (In Sun) & Impressionism: Sunrise// Moreau, The Apparition// Morisot, Summer's Day// Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 34// Munch, The Scream// Murillo, The Immaculate Conception of the Escorial// Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimus// Noland, Gift// Nolde, Masks// O'Keeffe, City Night// Panini, Modern Rome// Parmigianino, Madonna of the Long Neck// Perugino, Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter// Picasso, Les Desmoiselles, Guernica & Three Dancers// Pippin, Domino Players// Pissarro, La Place Du Théâtre Français// Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)// Pontormo, Entombment// Poussin, Landscape with Saint John on Patmos & A Dance to the Music of Time// Prud'hon, Empress Josephine// Puvis De Chavannes, The Sacred Grove, Beloved of the Arts and the Muses// Quarton, Pieta de Villeneuve d'Avignon// Raphael, Madonna of the Meadow & Philosophy (School of Athens)// Rauschenberg, Reservoir// Reinhardt, Abstract Painting, Blue// Rembrandt, Return of the Prodigal Son & Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq ("Night Watch")// Reni, Aurora// Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party// Reynolds, Mrs. Elisha Mathew// Ribera, The Club-footed Boy// Rigaud, Portrait of Louis XIV// Rivera, Controller of the Universe// Romano, Fall of the Giants from Mount Olympus// Rossetti, Ecce Ancilla Domini! (The Annunciation)// Rothko, No. 61 (Rust and Blue) [Brown Blue, Brown on Blue]// Rouault,The Old King// Henri Rousseau, The Snake Charmer (Le Douanier)// Theodore Rousseau, The Forest of Fontainebleau, Morning// Rubens, The Disembarkation of Maria de' Medici at the Port of Marseilles on November 3, 1600 & The Judgement of Paris// Ruysch, Flower Still Life// Ruysdael, Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven, Netherlands// Sánchez Cotán, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber// Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit// Schiele, Portrait of Paris von Gütersloh// Schlemmer, Bauhaus Stairway// Schmidt-Rottluff, Manor in Dangast, Gramberg Houses// Schongauer, Madonna of the Rose Bower// School of Fontainebleau, Diana the Huntress// Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884// Signorelli, Damned Cast into Hell// Soutine, The Little Pastry Cook// Stael, Musicians// Steen, The Christening Feast// Stella, Tahkt-i-Sulayman I// Stuart, George Washington// Tanguy, The Five Strangers// Tanner, Annunciation// Teniers, The Archduke Leopold's Gallery// ter Borch, The Letter// Tiepolo, Rinaldo Under the spell of Armida//Tintoretto, The Last Supper// Titian, Venus of Urbino, Le Concert champêtre (Pastoral Concert), & Madonna of the Pesaro Family// Toulouse-Lautrec, At The Moulin Rouge// Turner, Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)// Uccello, The Battle of San Romano (1423)// van der Weyden, The Escorial Deposition (or Descent from the Cross)//van Dyck, Equestrian Portrait of Charles I// van Eyck, Madonna adored by the Canonicus Van der Paell & Man in a Red Turban// van Gogh, Bedroom at Arles, The Starry Night & The Night Café// van Goyen, The Pelkus Gate near Utrecht// Vasarély, Arcturus II// Velázquez, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) & Surrender at Breda (The Lances)// Vermeer, View of Delft, Netherlands, After the Fire & Woman Holding a Balance// Veronese, Last Supper (Christ in the House of Levi)// Vigée-Lebrun, Marie-Antoinette and her Children// Vuillard, Interior with Work Table (The Suitor)// Warhol, Marilyn Diptych// Watteau, Embarkation for Cythera// Wesselmann, Great American Nude No. 57// West, Penn's Treaty with the Indians// Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold - The Falling Rocket, & Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl// Witte, Interior of a Church// Witz, The Calling of St. Peter (The Miraculous Draught of Fishes)// Wood, American Gothic// Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump// Zurbarán, Saint Serapion.


  • Laurie Schneider Adams, Art Across Time.
  • Carol Strickland, Ph.D. and John Boswell, The Annotated Mona Lisa.
  • H. H. Arnason and Peter Kalb, History of Modern Art.
  • Robert Cumming, Annotated Art.
  • Jonathan Fineberg, Art Since 1940.
  • Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner's Art Through the Ages.
  • Frederick Hartt, Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.
  • Hugh Honour and John Fleming, The Visual Arts: A History.
  • H. W. Janson, History of Art.
  • H. W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, A Short History of Art.
  • Martin Kemp, The Oxford History of Western Art.
  • Penelope J. E. Davies et al, Janson's History of Art: Western Tradition.
  • Marilyn Stokstad, Art History.
  • Sister Wendy Beckett and Patricia Wright, The Story of Painting.
  • The Art Book.  Phaidon
  • Dr. Robert Belton, Art: The World of Art, from Aboriginal to American Pop, Renaissance Masters to Postmodernism.
  • E. H. Gombrich. The Story of Art.
  • Thomas Hoving. Greatest Works of Art of Western Civilization.
  • Herbert Read.  A Concise History of Modern Painting
  • M. Therese Southgate, M. D. The Art of JAMA: One Hundred Covers and Essays from The Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Ingo F. Walther. Art of the 20th Century and Masterpieces of Western Art.


Using the reference books above (some 17,000 pages of art history), I recorded which famous paintings were reproduced in each text.  From this database, I counted the number of citations for each work and generated a list of 250 masterpiece paintings. Presto!

Addendum: To ensure that the list represented diverse famous painters (Picasso, Goya, Titian and van Gogh alone could create a list of 250 masterpiece paintings!), I limited to three the number of paintings from each. 

Questions? Comments? Wondering what happened with all this great data? Visit

Susan Benford

Add to Technorati Favorites


Tags: famous paintings, famous artwork, famous painters, history of art, art history, art analysis, art appreciation, art critique, art museums, art tours, best paintings, classical paintings, famous art paintings, famous art work, history of painting, old masters paintings, world famous paintings

Join this Blog - (and add your thoughts!)

Feeling Lucky?

famous paintings cards

Good - because we're feeling generous!

Join this blog and earn a chance to win a FREE set of Masterpiece Cards (a $60 value). 

Enter Me to Win!

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

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