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The Best Paintings Of All Time

Updated December 18, 2020 144.2k votes 8.9k voters 219.9k 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.

  • 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
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  • Photo: Claude Monet / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    "The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny" (1899) is one in a series of water lilies paintings by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet....  more
    • Artist: Claude Monet
    • Period / Movement: Impressionism
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  • Photo: John William Waterhouse / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The Lady of Shalott is an 1888 oil-on-canvas painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse in Tate Britain in London, where it is usually on display, in room 1840 in 2013. The work is a representation of a scene from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1832 poem of the same name, in which the poet describes the plight of a young woman, loosely based on the figure of Elaine of Astolat from medieval Arthurian legend, who yearned with an unrequited love for the knight Sir Lancelot, isolated under an undisclosed curse in a tower near King Arthur's Camelot. Tennyson also reworked the story in Elaine, part of his Arthurian epic Idylls of the King, published in 1859, though in this...  more
    • Artist: John William Waterhouse
    • Subject: The Lady of Shalott
    • Period / Movement: Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
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  • Photo: Sandro Botticelli / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli generally thought to have been painted in the mid 1480s. It has long been suggested that Botticelli was commissioned to paint the work by the Medici family of Florence, specifically Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici under the influence of his cousin Lorenzo de' Medici, close patron to Botticelli. However, there are no documents associated with the painting, and its first identification with the Medici family only comes in the 1550 edition of Vasari's Lives. It depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as an adult woman, arriving at the sea-shore. The painting is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy....  more
    • Artist: Sandro Botticelli
    • Subject: Venus
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