Art is almost as old as mankind itself, and there have been many famous art pieces created over the ages. It would be too daring to try to make a ranking of the best art pieces so instead, we decided to compile a list with the most famous pieces of art while focusing on paintings and sculptures. So what are the most famous art pieces? From the Statue of Liberty to Mona Lisa, these are the 25 Most Famous Art Pieces.
The Bathers (Cezanne)
Considered a masterpiece of modern art, “The Bathers” is Paul Cezanne’s most famous art piece. First exhibited in 1906, this oil painting paved the way for future artists to break away from tradition, thus providing a bridge between Post-Impressionism and art movements of the 20th century.
“Discobolus” is a legendary Greek sculpture that was completed around 460–450 BC by famous Athenian sculptor Myron. The sculpture was also admired by the Romans, who made several copies of it before the original piece got lost. “Discobolus” also became the symbol of the Olympic Games.
Apollo and Daphne (Bernini)
“Apollo and Daphne” is a life-sized sculpture created by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1622 and 1625. It shows a partially nude woman who tries to flee her pursuer. The sculpture shows the masterful craftsmanship of Bernini as he painstakingly recreates the climax of the Ovid’s famous story of Daphne and Phoebus.
The Night Watch (Rembrandt)
The masterpiece of renowned Dutch painter Rembrandt, “The Night Watch” is one of the most famous paintings of the 17th century. Completed in 1642, the painting depicts the night watch of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburgh. The art piece is displayed in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Massacre of the Innocents (Rubens)
“Massacre of the Innocents” is a horrific depiction of the infanticide ordered by King Herod to prevent the prophesied new King of the Jews taking over the throne. Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens did two versions of the fable some 25 years apart. The first version (pictured above) was created between 1611 and 1612.
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Campbell's Soup Cans (Warhol)
Painted by Andy Warhol in 1962, “Campbell’s Soup Cans“ is one of the most famous modern art pieces. In this work, Warhol masterfully mimicked the repetition and uniformity of advertising by carefully reproducing the same image across each individual canvas. Warhol said he had been eating the soups every day for 20 years.
The Starry Night (van Gogh)
“The Starry Night” is an oil on canvas painted by Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh in 1889. The painter’s inspiration for this art piece was the night sky he observed from a window of his room in the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy, Southern France, where van Gogh sought rest from his emotional suffering.
Chauve Cave Paintings
The paintings found in the Chauvet Cave in Southern France are one of the most famous and well-preserved prehistoric art pieces in the world. Dating back to between 30,000 and 33,000 years ago, the paintings depict hundreds of prehistoric animals such as bears, mammoths, cave lions, panthers, hyenas etc.
The Kiss (Rodin)
“The Kiss” is a marble sculpture created by prominent French sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1889. The art piece was inspired by Paolo and Francesca, two characters from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. The two lovers were killed by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss.
Manekeen Piss (Duquesnoy)
Meaning “little peeing man,” the “Manekeen Piss” is a small bronze sculpture located on a fountain in Central Brussels. The sculpture was created by renowned Belgian sculptor Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619. An iconic landmark of the city of Brussels, the sculpture has always been associated with celebrations in the city, during which it wears different costumes.
The Persistence of Memory (Dali)
Painted in 1931 by famous Spanish artist Salvador Dali, “The Persistence of Memory” is one of the most recognizable surrealist art pieces in history. Depicting a dismal shoreline draped with melting clocks, it is thought that Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity inspired this unusual painting.
Dali’s work is all pretty mind-bending. Want to see more mind-bending art from famous artists? Check out 25 Disturbing Art Pieces That Challenges People’s Sanity.
“Pieta” is a famous Renaissance sculpture created by renowned Florentine sculptor Michelangelo between 1498 and 1500. The work shows Mary holding the body of Christ in her arms right after he was taken down off of the cross. Housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, “Pieta” is the only work of Michelangelo that he ever signed.
Water Lilies (Monet)
“Water Lilies” is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings produced by French impressionist painter Claude Monet. The set is one of the greatest achievements of early 20th century painting. When put next to each other, the paintings give the illusion of an endless landscape dotted with water lilies, trees, and cloud reflections.
The Scream (Munch)
“The Scream” is an iconic art piece created by Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch. He produced four different versions of the painting between 1893 and 1910. This famous work is based on Munch’s actual experience of a scream piercing through nature while on a walk, after his two companions (seen in the background) had left him.
The Moai statues are massive megaliths found on the Easter Island in Eastern Polynesia. The statues are also known as the Easter Island Heads but in fact, all of them have full bodies hidden under the ground. The Moais were built in approximately 1400 – 1650 by the natives of the island, the Rapa Nui. There are about 1,000 of these remarkable statues on the island.
The Thinker (Rodin)
“The Thinker” is the most famous work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. When completed in 1880 as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, the sculpture was entitled “The Poet.” It represented Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work.
A mural-sized oil painting on canvas, “Guernica” is arguably the most famous work by renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The painting was Picasso’s reaction to the Nazi’s devastating bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The art piece shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it causes individuals, particularly innocent civilians.
The Last Supper (da Vinci)
Housed in the Dominican convent of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy, “The Last Supper” is one of the most well-known art pieces in the world. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1494 and 1498, this fresco represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel of John.
Statue of Liberty (Bartholdi; Eiffel)
An iconic sculpture located on Liberty Island in New York City, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the U.S. It’s recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Designed by French sculptor F. A. Bartholdi and built by French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel, the statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
Hermes and The Infant Dionysus (Praxiteles)
Also known as “The Hermes of Praxiteles” or “The Hermes of Olympia,” “Hermes and The Infant Dionysus” is an ancient Greek sculpture of, as the title suggests, Hermes and the infant Dionysus. It was discovered in 1877 in the ruins of the Temple of Hera in Greece. The right arm of Hermes is lost, but he probably held a bunch of grapes in front of the baby Dionysus, god of wine and intoxication.
The Creation of Adam (Michelangelo)
“The Creation of Adam” is one of the most famous frescos by Michelangelo. Created between 1508 and 1512, the painting is the most renowned section of the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace in Vatican. The painting illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man.
Venus de Milo
Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, “Venus de Milo” is one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. The marble sculpture was discovered in 1820 on the island of Melos (Milo in modern Greek) in the Cyclades Archipelago. The identity of the sculpture remains unknown. It might be Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty who was often portrayed half-naked. It could also be the sea goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on the island where it was found.
The Birth of Venice (Botticelli)
Created by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli between 1482 and 1485, “The Birth of Venus” is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous and appreciated works of art. The painting depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses where the goddess Venus has emerged from the sea. The painting is exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
The masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504 by Michelangelo, “David” is considered the most famous sculpture in the world. This astonishing piece of art depicts the Biblical hero David, represented as a male standing nude. Traditionally, David was portrayed after his victory over Goliath, but Michelangelo, for the first time ever, decided to depict the hero before the battle.
Mona Lisa (da Vinci)
“Mona Lisa” is Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. It’s the best known, the most visited, the most written about, and the most sung about piece of art in the world. Believed to have been created between 1503 and 1506, this iconic painting is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Famous for her mysterious expression, “Mona Lisa” is housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Photos: 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24. After Myron Livioandronico2013, Discobolus in National Roman Museum Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, CC BY-SA 4.0, 23. Gian Lorenzo Bernini Alvesgaspar, Apollo & Daphne September 2a, CC BY-SA 4.0, 22-21. wikimedia commons (public domain), 20. Sharon Mollerus via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 19. wikimedia commons (public domain), 18. Patilpv25, JLEnvironment03, CC BY-SA 4.0, 17. wikimedia commons (public domain), 16. max pixel (public domain), 15. Courtney Collison via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 14. Juan M Romero, Michelangelo’s Pietà, St Peter’s Basilica (1498–99), CC BY-SA 4.0, 13-12. wikimedia commons (public domain), 11. TravelingOtter, Moai at Rano Raraku – Easter Island (5956405378), CC BY 2.0, 10. wikimedia commons (public domain), 9. Mark Barry via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 8-7. wikimedia commons (public domain), 6. tetraktys, Hermes di Prassitele, at Olimpia, front 2, CC BY-SA 2.5, 5-3. wikimedia commons (public domain), 2. David Gaya, Michelangelos David, CC BY-SA 3.0, 1. wikimedia commons (public domain)