Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time

Painting is one of the fewest forms of art that has been developed in the prehistoric time. It is quite an intriguing question that why cave man started painting. Was it completely out of necessity or out of whim? However, from the cave painting to the modern expressionism, the painting has come through a long journey that we, common people, barely can fathom. But most of the famous paintings of all time are the product of European renaissance and post renaissance time.  Making a list of most famous paintings of all time is not an easy task. As you can see millions of dollars are spent by the collectors to buy famous painting. But most famous paintings of all time do not necessarily have to be the most expensive one.

There are other criteria such as the critic value, the authenticity, the mass people’s appreciation are to be considered while choosing the aesthetic beauty of painting. Moreover most of the famous paintings of all time are possessed by different world renowned museums. And those can’t be bought in money. So in other words, you can call them priceless.

10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time:

I must admit there could have controversies over top ten most famous paintings of all time, but here is a list of famous paintings, which is consented by most art connoisseurs all over the world.

10. Birth of Venus

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Birth of Venus
Birth of Venus | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus, a masterpiece by Sandro Botticelli was created most probably in the mid-1480s. Sandro Botticelli, an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance, was hired to paint this masterpiece by the bank tycoon Medici family of Florence. It depicts the Roman goddess Venus (equivalent to the Greek goddess Aphrodite) emerging from the sea upon a shell in the form of a naked woman. The myth of the birth of Venus is quite similar to the emergence of Hindu goddess Lakshmi from the sea. It is one of the most famous paintings of all time for not only its mere mythological depiction of the birth of Venus, but also its reflection of Neoplatonic Philosophy.  Venus has two forms viz., earthly and heavenly.

In earthly form, she arouses man physically while in heavenly form, she inspired intellectual or platonic love. Now for Plato to understand the plethora of spiritual love, one must face physical beauty. Sandro Botticelli’s attempt was to catch the platonic love out of physical beauty in the painting. That is where the real significance lies. A poem by Angelo Poliziano was taken as the model to paint it. The birth of Venus indicates the style of Sandro Botticelli’s painting. He was not allegiance to naturalism like other renowned painters in his time. The anatomical improbability can easily be seen in the picture.

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9. Water Lilies

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Water Lilies
Water Lilies | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Claude Monet

Can any of us think that a man becomes so obsessed with the beauty of his flower garden that he spends 13 years of his life depicting that beauty in paintings? French Impressionist Claude Monet is our guy. He spent  at his 70s started depicting his own flower garden is a series of 250 oil paintings, which has become one of the most famous painting of all time. Most interestingly he painted all of this while suffering from cataracts. These paintings depict the aesthetic beauty of nature at its best and give great felicity whoever watches these.

Playing with the light and shade in the sunset color reflecting off the water inspires the beauty of surroundings. It is fascinating to see the paintings of the same subject in different colors as the day light changes. One of these paintings was sold for £18.5 million an auction in London on 19 June 2007. Another Monet’s water Lily got sold for £41 million. These series of paintings is regarded as one of the most celebrated works of 20th century and it influences numerous painters of the generations over generations.

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8. Night Watch

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Night Watch
Night Watch | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Rembrandt van Rijn

The Night Watch is definitely one of the best creation of the Dutch Golden Age. Painted by Rembrant Harmenszoon van Rijnin 1642, it is one of the most famous paintings of all time, painted in baroque style. Commissioned by the Captain Banning Cocq and seventeen members of his Klovenier, the paintings original name was “The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out”. The name Night Watch was actually a misconception. However, the original color was restored in 1940s.

The painting was coated with dark varnish in 18th century and got its current name. However the painting shows a quite mastery of using light and shadow. It was also one of the first successful attempt of showing three dimensional view on the picture. However, the girl holding the chicken bears the inner meanings, the victory. The painting was the pioneer of later painters work.

7. The Scream

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, The Scream
The Scream | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Edvard Munch

You probably see the painting several times in many movies or internet but not give too much thought. Well now it is going to be in the list of one of the most famous paintings of all time. It is the milestone of expressionism. Expressionism is a form of art that only want to catch the feelings of human. Anatomical perfection, tricks of light and shade are not important here. Created as both paintings and pastels, by the Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910, it is an iconic painting of modern time and often compared to the Mona Lisa in its artistic value. It is series of four paintings. Cadmium, yellow, vermilion, ultramarine and viridian among other pigments of the 19th century were used in this painting.

The paintings depict an agonized figure against a blood red sky. The background’s landscape is Oslofjord, watched from the hill of Ekeberg, in Oslo. The depiction was one the personal experiences of the painter. One evening while walking on the road, he felt very exhausted. It appeared to him like that the nature was screaming. The paintings have been targeted by the thefts. The painting is used as a parody or cartoon in different times.  It   is one of favorite Halloween costumes and mast of a serial killers in some movies and TV series.

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6. Girl with a Pearl Earring

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Johannes Vermeer

Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, the Girl with a Pearl Earring is definitely one of the most famous paintings of all time. Johannes Vermeer was one of the pioneer painters who broke the trend of painting on religious subject and aristocratic life. Rather he choose middle class life. The oil painting is a tronie, a commonly used style in Dutch golden age. It depicts a European girl wearing an exotic dress, a large pearl earring and an oriental turban.  It is really hard to take of the eyes from this beautiful lady. The work on the color of skin is also fascinating.

To compare the level of beauty, it is often called as “the Dutch Mona Lisa”. The time of the painting is unknown and model. This thought provoking painting was the inspiration of a historical novel, also entitled “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier . The novel eventually adapted to a movie on the same name and earned multiple awards and nominations. Since 1902, the painting has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

5. Guernica

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Guernica
Guernica | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Picasso

When it comes to Pablo Picasso, to understand the significance of the painting, we may need some professional help. The pioneer of cubism with his unparalleled mastery in painting is probably the greatest painter of the previous century. And Guernica might be the most famous painting of Pablo Picasso and must be on the top list of the most famous paintings of all time. Depicted on Spanish civil war in June 1937, it is the world’s most moving antiwar paintings. Gray, black, and white colors were used on this mural-sized oil painting.

This single painting was more than enough to show the horrible massacre of war to the world. It is a wakeup call to the humanity that are long forgotten for the lust of power. But the painter was not pessimist at all. In the painting he also showed that the hope were not totally lost. It might be shattering in the fright of war but it is the most powerful thing that man possesses. The historical context behind the Guernica is that Guernica, a small town in the province of Biscay in Basque Country was massively bombarded by the Nazi during the Spanish civil war.

4. The Creation of Adam

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Adam | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Michelangelo

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” this famous quote of the Book of Genesis was the inspiration of the creation of Adam. Prefer to work as a sculptor, Michelangelo was reluctant to work as a painter. But well aware of the flare of Michelangelo,   Pope Julius II was adamant to assign him to paint on Sistine Chapel ceiling. Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted through the Sistine Chapel ceiling on the basis of the Book of Genesis. The creation of Adam is one of the fresco of the at the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It took two or three weeks to complete the painting.

In the Painting a bearded man surrounded by a bunch of man and woman are stretching hand toward the man on the other side who is also stretching hand towards him but not touching the hand. The bearded man is depicted as God and the nude man on the other side is Adam. Adam wants to personify God. The stretching hand indicates that God is giving life to Adam. The finger may indicate the finger of the paternal right, a idea came from a medieval hymns.  The conception of the painting has a deep impact on modern philosophy and psychology. An indication that man pictures god subconsciously in a image of father figure. This one of the most famous paintings of all time is the the most replicated religious paintings of all time along with Last Supper.

3. The Last Supper

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, The Last Supper
The Last Supper | image credit – Wikimedia/artist-Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper is unarguably one of the most influential work in European Renaissance. The subject of the paintings, the mastery of placement, the hidden meanings make it one of the most famous paintings of all timer. This mural painting is created by Italian great painter Leonardo da Vinci in 15th century. The subject of the painting is one the most famous religious moment in the history.  It was the supper that Jesus Christ said would be the last supper for him. He would be no longer as he was going to be betrayed by one of his Apostles (the primary disciple of Jesus Christ). The Leonardo da Vinci’s main purpose was to show the different expression by twelve Apostles.

Commissioned by Ludovico Sforza in 1495, it was not quite an easy task even for Leonardo da Vinci. He could not work on it continuously and find it real hard what types of villainous look should Judas have. Sadly the original has been damaged hardly. So some of the real flavor is missing from the picture. Major restoration work has been done later. A series of famous artists including Salvador Dali created artwork that is related to “Last Supper” directly. Recently some experts have identified the person to Jesus’ right (left of Jesus from the viewer’s perspective), not as John the Apostle, but a woman, often purported to be Mary Magdalene. It played an important key factor to the Dan Brown”s famous thriller “The vinci Code”. In literature, movies, dramas, the Last Supper is a popular name to quote. It is even the subject of comedy stuffs.

2. Starry Night

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Starry Night
Starry Night | image credit – Wikipedia/artist-Vincent van Gogh

If you make a list of top most famous painting of all time and miss “The starry Night”, then it would be a great sin. Playing a deep inspiration on literature and songs, the starry Night is one of the most significant painting in impressionism. Impressionist painters are quite familiar with their mastery of playing with light and shadows. In this form of art it is not the subject that is important but the reflection of light fall upon the subject is important. And that’s what we saw exactly in “The starry Night”. This one of the most famous paintings of all time was created by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Although his life was not as colorful as the painting, only sold one picture in his lifetime. Even the exquisite painting was created in most disturbed time of his life. Self-mutilation of his left ear to keep the girlfriends word and got admitted into asylum, it is quite a wonder how the artist created this masterpiece.

The greatest thing about the starry night is that you don’t have to be an expert of art to feel the painting. When you see the painting, you instantly become dreamy. You will go in your own starry night with a mutual memory. You hardly can distinguish what was yours and what was the artist. And that’s how the artist lives in us. Who cares when he left the mortal world? Famous American singer Don Mclean sang a marvelous song “Starry night” on the basis of this famous portrait and the vision of the posthumously famous impressionist painters.

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1. Mona Lisa

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings of all Time, Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa | image credit – Wikipedia/artist-Leonardo da Vinci

You can hardly find a person who doesn’t know “the Mona Lisa”. So I think I fail to surprise you to keep it in number one on the list of the most famous of all time. “The Mona Lisa” is the most discussed painting of all time. Painted by great painter Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 or 1504, the paintings is always an enigma   in the eyes of painting lovers and connoisseurs. Who could forget her haunting smile?  They are still discovering new things about the paintings and it seems the discovery is not going to stop. There is a lot of speculation who was the model of the picture.

Some believe the model was the wealthy Florence’s merchant Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocond‘s wife Lisa del Giocondo. Then again, it has been told that the picture of Mona Lisa is not a woman at all. Instead it is a combination of man and woman. It is believed that the whole nature is divided into two parts, masculine and feminine. The two completes the nature. The two form the real beauty. The origin of the name is also controversial. Some believes that the name Mona is the anagram of Egyptian god Amon and Lisa is another name of Egyptian goddess Isis, the counterpart of Amon. The background of the picture is not less intriguing. It shows the utmost mastery of Leonardo da Vinci.

The painting is now in the renowned French Museum “Louvre” and the top of its visiting subjects. The Mona Lisa was stolen from Louvre by an Italian who worked on employee who believed Italy is the rightful place of Mona Lisa. The great painter died shortly after creating Mona Lisa. Over 6 million people come every year to see the painter’s last great masterpiece.

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