Culture
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The Best Paintings Of All Time

Updated December 18, 2020 143.2k votes 8.7k voters 215.2k views200 items

List RulesVote up the best paintings from the medium's history

There have been so many paintings in such a wide range of subjects and movements across history that it can be difficult to narrow a selection to the best paintings ever. This list of the best paintings in history includes the best Baroque period art, the most famous Renaissance paintings, and even the most famous portraits.

Even though some of the paintings on this list may be from famous artists whose works sell for lots of money, like Picasso or Frida Kahlo, you may also find some classic paintings you recognize from artists whose names you didn't know, like Jan Brueghel the Younger. There are even famous paintings that may be new to you, like Tiger by German Expressionist Franz Marc and España y Filipinas by Juan Luna. From the smooth precision of painters like Peter Paul Rubens to the broad strokes of Matisse paintings, these famous art pieces are of the very best by the greatest painters of all time.

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  • Photo: Michelangelo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, painted circa 1511–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis. It is the most well-known of the Sistine Chapel fresco panels, and its fame as a piece of art is rivaled only by the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies....  more
    • Artist: Michelangelo
    • Subject: Adam
    • Period / Movement: Italian Renaissance, Renaissance
    2,816
    965
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  • Photo: Vincent van Gogh / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The Starry Night is an oil on canvas by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June, 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village. It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941, acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. It is regarded as among Van Gogh's finest works, and one of the most recognized monuments in the history of Western culture....  more
    • Artist: Vincent van Gogh
    • Subject: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
    • Period / Movement: Post-Impressionism
    3,434
    1,197
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  • Photo: Russian Museum / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The Ninth Wave is an 1850 painting by the Russian Armenian marine painter Ivan Aivazovsky. It is his best known work. The titles refer to the nautical tradition that waves grow larger and larger in a series up to the largest wave, the ninth wave, at which point the series starts again. It depicts a sea after a night storm and people facing death attempting to save themselves by clinging to debris from a wrecked ship. The painting has warm tones in which the sea appears to be not so menacing and giving a chance for the people to survive....  more
    • Artist: Ivan Aivazovsky
    2,300
    966
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  • Photo: Johannes Vermeer / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is a tronie of a girl with a headscarf and a pearl earring. The painting has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902....  more
    • Artist: Johannes Vermeer
    • Period / Movement: Dutch Golden Age
    2,425
    1,022
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