Painting is one of the oldest art forms which started from charcoal creations on cave walls by our ancient ancestors. Throughout the centuries, different generations of artists have contributed their creativity and left their marks through the artworks. In fact, there are ten-thousand or even hundred-thousand of art pieces every year. But the public only can recognise precious few of them across all ages and societies. In this article, we summarise the top 10 world famous paintings for you and some of their stories behind.
Have you ever wondered which are the 10 most world famous paintings?
For years, some paintings have held the attention of art lovers. Not just because they are beautiful, but because they hold within themselves, unsolved mysteries and hidden secrets.
1. Mona Lisa (1503)
Mona Lisa is undoubtedly the masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci. Also, it is probably the most recognised artwork in the world nowadays. People are crazy about the mystery woman with a cryptic smile and suspicions about her identity remain undissolved. Many scholars suggest that the subject of the painting is actually Lisa Geraldine, the wife of Florence merchant Francesco del Gioconda. But no one has the confirmed answer on this statement.
Location: Louvre Museum, Paris
2. The Last Supper (1495-1497)
This is another well-known art piece by Leonardo da Vinci which is a close second to the Mona Lisa. The Last Supper depicts Jesus and his 12 disciples. To illustrate, this art piece records the moment of shock, anxious and annoyed reactions from apostles when he announced the news that he suspects that one of the disciples had betrayed him.
What makes this artwork become one of the world famous paintings? Perhaps it is the fact that the public suspect there are hidden secrets behind this artwork. For instance, The Last Supper is key evidence to cover up the true identity of Christ by the Roman Catholic Church. Notwithstanding, it is simply a suspicion without answer since the last centuries. Another interesting fact about this world famous painting is that it is not located at a famous art museum like other masterpieces. Instead, it is located at a monastery in Milan.
Location: Santa Maria Delle Grazie Monastery, Milan
3. The Scream (1893)
Moving forward, The Scream by Edvard Munch is also one of the world famous paintings of all time. The painting shows a frightened person screaming under a bloody orange-red sky. The background is Oslofjord, viewed from a hill in Oslo. This art piece was inspired by a moment of overwhelming desolation and anxiety he experienced while out for a leisurely walk with friends one evening.
One interesting fact about The Scream is that it is not a single artwork. Rather, as it has two versions. The first version which displayed in the National Gallery of Norway was stolen in 1994 and recovered months later. While the second version of The Scream was stolen in 2004 and only to be recovered two years later in Munch Museum.
Location: National Gallery and Munch Museum, Norway
Many of us were impressed by the fantasy night view of The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Did you know it is actually the view from his window in the asylum?
4. The Starry Night (1889)
The next world famous painting is The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. The Starry Night has a history of 131 years starting from 1889 until today. However, little did we know that the awe-inspiring starry sky was actually inspired by the view from a small window of his asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. He painted this when he was suffering from mental illness and living in the asylum.
As you can see from the painting, the sky is full with swirls and orbs of a frantically applied brush. Hence, The Starry Night seems to express the chaotic state of Van Gogh at the time. Given that reason, people also indicate that Van Gogh quests to free himself from his illness and struggle from mental hospital.
Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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5. The Girl with the Pearl Earring (1665)
The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer in 1665 is another world famous painting. Many compare this artwork always with the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci as they are all portraits like. However, The Girl with the Pearl Earring is not even a portrait. In fact, it is a tronie which is a common type of works in Dutch Golden Age painting. Tronie shows exaggerated features or facial expressions of an imaginary figure. The girl who wears a pearl earring and is staring back inside the painting has no name, hence it is mysterious and enigmatic. Being that, the public suspect the girl is Vermeer’s mistress to being one of his 15th children.
Did you notice that her mouth in the painting is open as though she is going to ask a question, but what is it? This detail adds on to the mystery behind this world famous painting. In fact, The Girl with the Pearl Earring became more famous during the release of the films “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “St Trinian’s”.
Location: Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands.
Girl with A Pearl Earring is a tronie – a Dutch word for a painting of an imaginary figure with exaggerated features.
6. Guernica (1937)
Besides the five world famous paintings above, Guernica is Pablo Picasso’s most exalted and best-knowing artwork. This huge piece of work is a typical classic anti-war painting of all time. Particularly, this masterpiece describes the bombing of Basque town during the Civil War by Italian and German aircraft. Picasso created this for the Spanish Pavilion at 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.
Through a series of black, white, and grey shapes and figures, Picasso highlights the destruction wrought upon the town by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. After the Spanish Pavilion, Guernica had a series of international tours and temporary displays at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The government of New York, United State decided to return the painting to Spain after they are free from domination as it is the hometown of Picasso.
Location: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
Check out The Cubist inspired by Cubism, an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement.
7. The Birth of Venus (1840)
The Birth of Venus is a masterpiece by Sandro Botticelli in the mid of 1840 at the height of the Renaissance. This artwork describes the emergence of the Goddess Venus from the sea foam. While the goddess of spring, Pomona is waiting for her in store. To illustrate, Venus represents the goddess of love. One interesting fact about this world famous painting is that it is made from the tempera on canvas. This is different from other paintings which use conventional wood panels.
Location: Uffizi Gallery, Florence
8. The Kiss (1907-1908)
Moving to the next world famous painting, we have The Kiss by the Austrian Symbolist artist Gustav Klimt during the height of his ‘Golden Period’. In fact, The Kiss was the last art piece during this period. It is an oil on canvas painting that contains gold leaves, silver and platinum. This artwork depicts the two gold-clad couples embracing each other. The woman’s robe is full of circular shape while the man’s cloak was designed with rectangular decorative elements. The fact that the Klimt’s trip to Italy and the stunning Byzantine mosaics found in Ravenna’s basilica inspire the use of the gold element for this whole painting.
Location: Upper Belvedere Museum,Austria.
9. The Persistence of Memory (1931)
Next, it is the masterpiece of the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali — The Persistence of Memory. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best recognised artwork of Surrealism. It is sometimes referred to as ‘The Melting Clocks’. People always confuse the artwork’s meaning and the first thought that comes into mind will always be “What am I looking at?”
The painting turns our sense of normality on its head with the melting clocks and the strange arrangement of objects within this dreamy landscape. The autobiographical meaning of this artwork will probably refer to the dream of Dali and the clocks might represent the passing of time in the dream. Thinking this art piece is interesting? Speaking on this , there are many artworks in the modern era that have been inspired by this painting. On a visit to the artist JS Mohan’s studio, he told us that Dali’s bizarre subconscious imagery holds an irresistible fascination for him.
Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York.
10. The Creation of Adam (1508-1512)
Last but not least, The Creation of Adam is the most famous painting by the artist Michelangelo in the mid of 1508 – 1512. Different from other paintings that hang on the wall, this masterpiece is covering the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Therefore, you have to look up to the ceiling to view it. Indeed, this world famous painting depicts the scene when God nearly touched Adam’s finger who is the first person on the Earth created by God. This biblical screen describes how God reached out and gave Adam his life and this is one of the most replicated images in history.
Location: Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.
Each of these works evoke a profound, indescribable feeling, and it is the power they hold over us that has immortalized them in history. Do you agree with the list above? If not, then which art pieces will be your favourite?
Let us know in the comment box below!