The collection of famous paintings at the Metropolitan Museum is one of the world’s most comprehensive.  This 2 million square foot facility houses 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of art history. And yes, it is easy to wonder where to start exploring all these masterpiece paintings!


Thomas Eakins. The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), 1871.  Oil on canvas, 32 1/4″ by 46 1/4″.

See These Famous Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum

Below are works most often referred to by 24 leading art historians in major art history books. Take along this itinerary (and read below about Masterpiece Card’s research behind it) when visiting the Metropolitan Museum:

  • Balthus.  Nude Before a Mirror*.  Oil on canvas, 1955
  • Bierstadt, AlbertThe Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak*. Oil on canvas, 1863.
  • Bonheur, Marie-Rosalie (Rosa)The Horse Fair*. Oil on canvas, 1853.  Below. Ms. Bonheur had to disguise herself as a woman in order to gain access to the Paris horse market, where she went to draw horses.  Not long ago, it was discovered that she painted a self-portrait as one of the jockeys in this remarkable painting. Learn more about the life and work of Rosa Bonheur.
  • 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.  One of the most famous paintings at the Met.  Is this four young men, or two viewed from different angles? Read about more Caravaggio paintings, including Conversion of St. PaulCardsharps and Fortune Teller. And learn about St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, too.

Caravaggio.  The Musicians, ca. 1595.  Oil on canvas, 36 1/4″ by 46 5/8″.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

  • Cole, ThomasView from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, MA, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow)*. Oil on canvas, 1836.  Below.

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.

  • Courbet, GustaveWoman with a Parrot. Oil on canvas, 1866
  • Daumier, HonoreThe 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 those 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-LouisDeath of Socrates. Oil on canvas, 1787.  Learn about Death of Socrates,  Death of Marat, and one the most propagandist paintings ever made, Napoleon Crossing the Alps – it was fake news of its era!
  • Eakins, ThomasMax Schmitt in a Single Scull. Oil on canvas, 1871.  Top.
  • El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos). View of Toledo*. Oil on canvas, circa 1604 – 1614. Again, one of the most famous paintings at the Metropolitan Museum! Learn the art history behind 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.

  • Goya, Francisco de. Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga. Oil on canvas, circa 1798.
  • Hartley, MarsdenPortrait of a German Officer*. Oil on canvas, 1914. In this work, Hartley eulogizes a young Prussian lieutenant.

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-DominiquePrincess de Broglie. Oil on canvas, 1853
  • Kauffmann, AngelicaTelemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso. Oil on canvas, 1783.  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 about the remarkable career of Angelica Kauffmann.
  • Labille-Guiard, AdelaideSelf-Portrait with Two Pupils. Oil on canvas, 1785
  • Louis, MorrisAlpha-Pi*. Acrylic on canvas, 1961. 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.

  • Memling, HansMaria Baroncelli Portinari and Tommaso di Folco Portinari*. Oil on wood, circa 1470
  • Monet, Claude. Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (In Sun)*.   Oil on canvas, 1894. Below, right.

Claude Monet. Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (in Sun), 1894. Oil on canvas, 39 1/4″ by 25 7/8″.

  • Panini, Giovanni PaoloModern Rome*. Oil on canvas, 1757.
  • Picasso, Pablo. Portrait of Gertrude Stein. Oil on canvas, 1906. Learn about Gertrude Stein, one of the earliest collectors of Picasso paintings. Then there is Picasso’s  Girl Before a Mirror. And his Las Meninas, a riff on the Velazquez painting of the same name. 
  • Pollock, JacksonAutumn Rhythm (Number 30)*. Oil on canvas, 1950. One of the most famous paintings at the Metropolitan Museum – and still causing a stir nearly 70 years later.
  • Sargent, John SingerMadame X. Oil on canvas, 1894. When Madame X was shown publicly in 1884, it was considered some of the most controversial art ever seen.  Go figure. Read about Smoke of Ambergris, another renowned work by John Singer Sargent.
  • Stuart, GilbertGeorge Washington*.  Oil on canvas, 1795
  • van Goyen, JanPelkus Gate near Utrecht*.  Oil on panel, 1646
  • Velazquez, DiegoJuan de Pareja.  Oil on canvas, 1650.  Below, left. Read about Juan de Pareja, one of the few Velazquez paintings in the U.S. Considered one of the most famous painters in art history, Velazquez was also a brilliant curator whose choices are now in the Prado.
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.

Diego Velazquez. Juan de Pareja, 1648. Oil on canvas, 32″ by 27 1/2″.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

*: one of the paintings featured in Masterpiece Cards (read on!)

Who Says These are Some of the Most Famous Paintings in the Met Museum?

24 art historians do.  From some 17,000 pages of their books, Masterpiece Cards tallied which paintings were used to exemplify work by major painters. We could then identify 250 with the most “votes” (those at the Met are noted with an *  asterisk). The results?

Masterpiece Cards, 250 famous paintings in a box. With a museum-approved reproduction, an art historian’s introductory essay, and key facts for each work.  See a sample Card! 

Visiting other Art Museums?

Here are 10 famous paintings at the Whitney Museum,

20 Louvre paintings not to miss, and 10 famous paintings in the Prado Museum.