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 who have names that are familiar, 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.
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 on Wikipedia
Period / Movement: Italian Renaissance, Renaissance
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 on Wikipedia
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
Period / Movement: Post-Impressionism
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 on Wikipedia
Artist: Sandro Botticelli
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 on Wikipedia
Artist: Ivan Aivazovsky