Countless painters have delighted people with their paintings down the centuries. Many have inspired new thoughts and pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. Such painters are remembered even today for their legacy, and their works have become part of the current human civilization and heritage.
In almost every major city of the world, there are galleries and museums that celebrate the most accomplished artists of older and current times. Their paintings reflect the values and attitudes of the times and offer a window into the societal and cultural concerns of the age in which they were created. A small number of these paintings survive the test of time to become actual timeless works of art that are remembered beyond the lifetime of their creators.
Take a look below for our list of 12 of the most famous paintings in the world.
1. Las Meninas By Diego Velazquez
This one by Diego Velázquez is a painting of a painting within a painting. The masterpiece has rolled up three different themes. It is a portrait of the family of King Philip IV (Spain’s royal family) in the studio, the painter’s self-portrait, and an interior scene that shows a glimpse of Diego’s working life. Since everyone had a different perception of this puzzle-like painting, it remained a riddle for the viewers.
2. The Peaceable Kingdom By Edward Hicks
There are more than a hundred versions of this now-popular Peaceable Kingdom. The ornamental painter created all these versions featuring a theme of the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. The painting made its mark not only for its appealing imagery but also for its beautiful message of peace.
3. Napoleon Crossing The Alps By Jacques-Louis David
Completed in 1801, the painting signifies the beginning of a new century. It is a perfect portrayal of the emergence of France as a great power after a decade of uncertainty and terror following the Revolution. The painting features General Napoleon Bonaparte, who eventually became the emperor and the most powerful man in France.
4. Musicians By Caravaggio
Caravaggio’s paintings are famous for their chiaroscuro effects. One such fantastic painting is the ‘Musicians’ that show four boys wearing classical costumes in a musical arrangement. The independent sketches of four figures make it a fascinating piece of work. This painting is referred to as one of the most complex and ambitious compositions of Caravaggio to date.
5. The Card Players By Paul Cezanne
The post-impressionist French artist is famous for some of the most captivating still-life paintings. ‘The Card Players’ is not one but a series of oil paintings that historians believed the artist chose as a subject because people playing card games were essentially a very common form of still-life. All the versions vary in size, setting, and the number of players.
6. The Sleeping Gypsy By Henri Rousseau
Most of Rousseau’s contemporaries were captivated by wandering gypsies. The painting features a dark-skinned Romany sleeping calmly while a large lion sniffs her. The Sleeping Gypsy summons an aspiration for a preindustrial past, which represented it as a highly-fascinated modern art during the mid-nineteenth century. The dream-like atmosphere and simple geometric designs portray the painter’s remarkable illustrative imagination.
7. The Gleaners By Jean-Francois Millet
This Jean-Francois Millet artwork is a simple oil painting that depicts three peasant women gleaning a wheat field after the harvest. The painting is perceived as a pioneering work of modern art and represents the artist’s profound respect for peasants and their timeless dignity. The painting is the result of Millet’s ten years of research on the subject of the gleaners.
8. Primavera By Sandro Botticelli
This exceptional piece of artwork is labeled as one of the most popular paintings in western art by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli. While the history of the painting is unclear, the theme is based on a group of figures from ancient mythology. Historians believe the painting is based on the rich growth of springs.
9. Charles I In Three Positions By Anthony Van Dyck
The popular painting is a triple portrait of King Charles I in three different viewpoints, including left-full profile, right three-quarter profile, and front face on. The painter was presumably inspired by Lotto’s Portrait of a Man in three different positions. The painting was also used as a study piece for sculpturing the monarch later.
10. The Tower Of Babel By Pieter Bruegel The Elder
This painting depicts the incredible construction of the Tower of Babel. The painting features numerous arches and portrays the real essence of Roman engineering. Bruegel visited Rome and studied the Roman ruins before attempting the painting to show its true layers and the ascending spiral design.
11. A Cotton Office In New Orleans By Edgar Degas
This seminal piece of artwork was designed by the impressionist artist after visiting the cotton office in New Orleans that belonged to his brother. The painting combined genre and portraiture art and is a realistic portrayal of capitalism in the 18th century. The aim was to capture the lively, friendly, and successful American business style.
12. Bacchus And Ariadne By Titian
This exotic piece of artwork is based on the mythological story of Bacchus and Princess Ariadne. After being abandoned by her lover Theseus, she married Bachhus, the god of wine, who fell in love with her. The painting gained popularity for the way Titian froze the moment in a very dynamic scene. The beautiful and bright colors in the painting give it a very life-like appeal.