20 Most Famous Art Pieces Around the World

By Parul Parashar on Feb 06, 2019
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Horace once said, 'A picture is a poem without words.'

What a beautiful thought! They say in every work of art, the artist is present. Have you ever seen an art piece so glorious, you transcended into the world you know doesn’t exist? A place where the artist shows you his world on a canvas? A canvas that is a riot of colours, a stage where there is pain, freedom, happiness and secrets embedded for us only if we have the courage to go beyond the imaginable and understand the mind of the maker.

There are no words that can describe the beauty of the wonderful works of these greatest artists from the ancient past. And even if we were to talk about them, it just doesn't seem fair to critique their remarkable timeless art. We should rather take them as gifts and nourish them for the future generations as they should not miss out this gorgeous artistic history.

We attempted to compile a list of 20 most beautiful artworks from across the world. Get ready to be swayed!

1. The Arnolfini Portrait:

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The Arnolfini Portrait or The Arnolfini Marriage is a 1434 oil painting of an Italian Merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges by the Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck. The painting is highly acclaimed for the geometric orthogonal perspective and the way space is expanded in the picture with the use of a mirror. If you look closely you can see the reflection of the artist in the convex mirror. The Arnolfini Portrait is currently housed in National Gallery of London.


2. Gabriël Metsu Genre Paintings

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Man Writing a Letter and Woman Reading a Letter are companion paintings painted in the years 1662-1665 by the Dutch painter Gabriël Metsu. Records indicate that these paintings were always owned as a pair. There are intricate paintings inside the painting which make the artwork all the more remarkable. The paintings have been in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin since 1987.

3. Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait Without Beard

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The Self-Portrait without Beard is considered to be van Gogh's last self-portrait before his death and was painted in 1889 with oil on canvas. It's assumed that Vincent Van Gogh gifted this portrait to his mother on her birthday. It's the most expensive painting of all time and was sold in 1998 for $71.5 million in New York City.

4. The Scream by Edvard Munch

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The Scream is a masterpiece by the Norwegian impressionist Edvard Munch created sometime between 1893 and 1910. It's an oil, tempera, pastel and crayon artwork on a cardboard. The Scream, Shrik in Norwegian, is a highly renowned piece of art and is also known as 'an icon of modern art', a Monalisa of our time. The popular masterpiece has been a target of several high-profile art thefts. The painting is currently located in the National Gallery, Oslo, Norway.  

5. American Gothic by Grant Wood

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American Gothic is an extremely popular artwork of 20th century made in 1930 by the American artist Grant DeVolson Wood. The picture is of a farmer holding a pitchfork standing beside a woman that is interpreted as either his wife or his daughter. The inspiration behind this artwork is very interesting. He made the picture of a house, now popular as the American Gothic House, with the kind of people he fancied should live in it. American Gothic is currently located at the Art Institute of Chicago.

6. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

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Nighthawks is an oil on canvas by Edward Hopper made in 1942. It is known as the artist's most famous artwork. Currently housed in Art Institute of Chicago, the artwork portrays people at a cheap diner late at night. The street outside the diner is quiet and empty and although the couple and the attendant seem to be engrossed in a conversation, there is always a curiousity about the presence of the third guy. The artwork inspired a lot of other artists to create parodies around the scene including Ridley Scott. Now that's something!

7. Dance (La Danse)

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La Danse or Dance is a 1909 oil on canvas artwork by the French artist Henri Matisse. It is considered as Matisse's study to his mural The Dance (II). Dance(I) was a highly regarded painting by the artist who called it 'the overpowering climax of luminosity'. It is currently housed at the Museum of Modern Art NYC.

8. Primavera (Botticelli)

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Also known as Allegory of Spring, Primavera is a tempera panel painting by the famous Sandro Botticelli, an Itlaian Renaissance artist in 1482. The history of the painting is unknown. But according to most critics, the painting is allegorical for the lush growth of Spring. It depicts mythological figures like the Roman Goddess Venus in the center, her son Cupid, Mercury with the three Graces and the spring Goddess on the right of Venus that symbolize both springtime and fertility. The painting is also sometimes described as an illustration of Neoplatonic love. It's an eluding, extremely controversial and popular painting of the Modern Art. It is currently located in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. 

9. The Persistence of Memory

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The Persistence Of Memory is a surreal painting made in 1931 by the renowned Spanish artist Salvador Dali. Also recognized as 'The Soft Watches' or 'The Melting Watches', this painting is Dali's most recognizable painting. The painting is Dali's representation of the Theory of Relativity. The melting watches are generally interpreted as a rejection of time as a solid and deterministic influence. The painting is owned by the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

10. No 1 - Lavender Mist

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Number 1, also known as the Lavender Mist, was created in 1950 by the American painter Jackson Pollock. It is located in the National gallery of Art East Building. The painter is highly acclaimed for his drip action technique and physicists studied his work, specially the Lavender Mist, for fractals to understand the nature of chaos.

11. Campbell's Soup Cans

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Campbell’s Soup Can is a 32 canvas artwork created by the famous Andy Warhol in 1962. Each canvas is 20 inches x 16 inches and every soup can is a different flavour. The work of art was handpainted individually by Warhol and the fleur de lys pattern in each was hand-stamped. Campbell’s Soup Can marked an important step in the history of pop culture. It is currently located in Museum Of Modern Art, NYC.

12. The Kiss

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A popular painting, The Kiss is an amalgamation of contemporary and organic art and craft. It was painted between 1907-08 by the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. The work is composed of oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf. The painting depicts a couple in a warm embrace covered in beautiful layer of golden intricate robes. It’s a highly controversial artwork and Klimt received a lot of criticism for it. The painting is located in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in the Belvedere palace, Vienna.

13. The Son of Man

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Known for works of wit and whimsy, Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte’s Son of Man is one of the most widely recognized workpieces in the world. The painting is a self-portrait of Magritte and if you look closely you can see his eyes peeking from behind the floating apple. Critics believed that ‘Son of Man’ is reference to Jesus while in actuality, Magritte had a more oblique explanation to it. He said, 'Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.' The artwork is currently under private ownership and rarely goes on display.

14. Frida's El Autobus

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El Autobus is an artwork by Frida Kahlo, made in 1929. The painting has people from different classes of the Mexican society sitting side by side in a rickety bus, a display where she sympathizes with the impoverished. The painting is also a depiction of a gruesome bus accident that Frida had met with in 1925 that changed her life forever. The painting is located in the Dolores Olmedo Collection, Mexico.

15. The Night Watch

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Also known as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, The Night Watch is an oil on canvas made by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1642. It is considered as the greatest portrait of the Dutch Baroque era. An interesting trivia is that Rembrandt’s painting was set in daytime, but the dark background gets mistaken for the night sky and hence the name, The Night Watch. It is currently located in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

16. Van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night

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Café Terrace at Night is one of van Gogh’s masterpieces painted in 1888 in Arles, France. An interesting conspiracy theory is that the painting is a secret homage to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper having a central figure with long hair surrounded by 12 individuals. The painting is housed in Kröller-Müller Museum, Netherlands.

17. Guernica by Pablo Picasso

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Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, painted in 1937 in grey, black and white is one of the most powerful anti-war paintings in history. After the Spanish Civil War, when the Nazis bombed the Basque town of Guernica, Picasso painted this mural-size oil painting to make a political statement. It shows tragedies of wars and the eventual sufferings and is located in Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.

18. School of Athens

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Raphael’s The School of Athens is a fresco made in the years 1509-1511 in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City. It’s one of the four frescos (descriptive of philosophy, poetry, law and theology) in the rooms that is now known as the Stanze di Raffaello. School of Athens is a dedication to philosophy that shows a union of Greek philosophers engaged in conversations, work and games, the central figures being Plato and Aristotle. School of Athens provides a wonderful glimpse into the High Renaissance Art.

19. Girl with a Pearl Earring

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Girl With a Pearl Earring, also known as Girl with a Turban, is a Tronie painted oil on canvas circa 1665 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermmer. The canvas is also referred to as the Mona Lisa of the North or the Dutch Mona Lisa. The girl in the painting is debated as either being the artist’s daughter or a servant girl turned muse. The speculation on the girl’s identity led to the making of a movie in 2003 starring Scarlet Johansson. The painting is located in Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands.

20. Water Lily Pond

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The Japanese Bridge (The Water Lily-Pond) is an extremely popular artwork by the French artist Claude Monet in 1899. Monet, once bought a beautiful garden with a pond near his property in Giverny. The beautiful view with the exotic plants and calm water inspired the artist to record the display in a series of paintings, The Water Lily-Pond being one of them.

Compiling just one single list of the many wondrous beauties by the most incredible artists is an extremely difficult task. There just cannot be one definitive list. Every country has their own cultures and opinions and with the constantly changing nature of the human mind, there are records of many more brilliant artworks hidden around the world. However, we hope this list is a good introduction to some of the better known ones.

And if we did miss out on any of your favourite artwork, do let us know in the comments.

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