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 Last Supper is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. It is one of the world's most famous paintings, and one of the most studied, scrutinized, and satirized. The work is presumed to have been commenced around 1495 and was commissioned as part of a scheme of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John, 13:21. Leonardo has depicted the consternation that occurred among the Twelve Disciples when Jesus announced that one of them ...more on Wikipedia
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Subject: Jesus Christ
Period / Movement: High Renaissance, Italian Renaissance, Renaissance
Liberty Leading the People is a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. A woman personifying the concept and the goddess of Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolour flag, which remains France's flag – in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic known as Marianne. ...more on Wikipedia
Artist: Eugène Delacroix
Subject: July Revolution, Marianne
Period / Movement: Romanticism