No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) is a painting by the Russian-American Abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. It was painted in 1951. In common with Rothko’s other works from this period, No. 6 consists of large expanses of colour delineated by uneven, hazy shades. Sold in 2014 for $186 millions.
Title: Jeanne (Spring). A chic young woman in a day dress with floral accents holds a parasol against a background of exuberant foliage. She looks straight ahead, a picture of poise and detachment even as she seems fully aware of the viewer’s admiring gaze. Representing aspiring Parisian actress Jeanne Demarsy as the embodiment of Spring, this portrait debuted at the last major public exhibition of Manet’s life, the Paris Salon of 1882. For more than two decades, Manet’s paintings were rejected by the Salon or met with controversy; Spring was the most unalloyed success of the artist’s Salon career, a career that ended tragically a year later when Manet died of causes related to syphilis. It was last sold in November 2014 for $65 million.
Completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age, The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings by Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. It depicts a city guard moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch. For much of its existence, the painting was coated with a dark varnish which gave the incorrect impression that it depicted a night scene, leading to the name Night Watch. This varnish was removed only in the 1940s. The painting is on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The Last Supper is a 15th century mural painting in Milan created by Leonardo da Vinci and covers the back wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It represents the scene of The Last Supper when Jesus announces that one of his Twelve Apostles would betray him. Leonardo began work on The Last Supper in 1495 and completed it in 1498 though he did not work on the painting continuously. Some writers propose that the person in the painting seated to the left of Jesus is Mary Magdalene rather than John the Apostle, as most art historians identify that person. This popular theory was the topic of the book The Templar Revelation (1997), and plays a central role in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003).
Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso most famous paintings, showing the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. Picasso’s purpose in painting it was to bring the world’s attention to the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German bombers, who were supporting the Nationalist forces of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso completed the painting by mid-June 1937. The painting can be seen in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.
The Scream is a series of expressionist paintings and prints by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, showing an agonized figure against a blood red sky. The landscape in the background is Oslofjord, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg, in Oslo. Edvard Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The one shown above was painted in 1893 and is on display in The National Gallery of Norway. It was stolen in 1994 in a high-profile art theft and recovered several months later. In 2004 another version of The Scream was stolen from the Munch Museum, only to be recovered in 2006.
No. 5, 1948 is a painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. Last sold in November 2, 2006 for $140 millions.
The “Red Vineyards near Arles” is an oil painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, executed on a privately primed Toile de 30 piece of burlap in early November 1888. It supposedly is the only piece sold by the artist while he was alive.
Salvator Mundi in its original state as discovered before restoration, and after. Composite: Christie’s/Art Collection/Alamy
Salvator Mundi is a painting of Christ as Salvator Mundi (Latin: Saviour of The World) by Leonardo da Vinci, dated to c. 1500. The painting shows Jesus, in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his raised right hand and crossed fingers while holding a transparent crystal orb in his left hand. Around 20 other versions of the work are known, by students and followers of Leonardo, and some chalk preparatory drawings are held in the Royal Collection. Long thought to be a copy, veiled with overpaints, of a lost original, it was rediscovered in 2005, restored, and included in a major Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, London, in 2011–12. Several leading scholars have since considered it to be an original work by Leonardo da Vinci, although this attribution has been disputed by other specialists. It is one of fewer than 20 known works by Leonardo, and was the only one to remain in private hands. It was sold at auction by Christie’s in New York, on 15 November 2017, for $450.3 million, setting a new record for most expensive painting ever sold.
American Gothic is a painting by Grant Wood in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood was inspired to paint the American Gothic House along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” He painted it in 1930, depicting a farmer standing beside a woman who has been interpreted to be his daughter or his wife. The figures were modeled by Wood’s sister Nan Wood Graham and their dentist Dr. Byron McKeeby. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron evoking 19th-century Americana, and the man is holding a pitchfork. The plants on the porch of the house are mother-in-law’s tongue and beefsteak begonia, which are the same as the plants in Wood’s 1929 portrait of his mother Woman with Plants.
The Kiss (Lovers) was painted by the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt between 1907 and 1908, the highpoint of his “Golden Period”, when he painted a number of works in a similar gilded style. A perfect square, the canvas depicts a couple embracing, their bodies entwined in elaborate robes decorated in a style influenced by both linear constructs of the contemporary Art Nouveau style and the organic forms of the earlier Arts and Crafts movement. The work is composed of oil paint with applied layers of gold leaf, an aspect that gives it its strikingly modern, yet evocative appearance. The painting is now in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere museum in the Belvedere palace, Vienna, and is widely considered a masterpiece of the early modern period. It is a symbol of Vienna Jugendstil—Viennese Art Nouveau—and is considered Klimt’s most popular work.
Bal du moulin de la Galette (commonly known as Dance at Le moulin de la Galette) is an 1876 painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It is housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and is one of Impressionism’s most celebrated masterpieces. The painting depicts a typical Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre in Paris. In the late 19th century, working class Parisians would dress up and spend time there dancing, drinking, and eating galettes into the evening. It was last sold in May 17, 1990 for $78.1 million.
Although the title isn’t very creative, Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait without Beard is certainly one of the most notable paintings of all time. While Van Gogh has painted many portraits before, this is the most notable because it’s one of the few that depicts him without a beard. Additionally, having sold for $71.5 million in 1998, it is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
Les Femmes d’Alger (Women of Algiers) is a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by the Spanish cubist artist Pablo Picasso. The series was inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement). The series is one of several painted by Picasso in tribute to artists that he admired. Version O was sold in May 2015 for $179.4 millions.
Nurse is a painting by American pop art painter Roy Lichtenstein made in 1964. It was purchased in November 9, 2015 by an anoynmous buyer for $95.4 million and it has the record price for piece by American pop art painter. It subsequently emerged that Liu Yiqian, a 51-year-old former taxi driver and self-made billionaire, and his wife Wang Wei had bought the painting for a museum they’ve set up in Shanghai, China.
When Will You Marry? (Tahitian: Nafea faa ipoipo) is an oil painting from 1892 by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. On loan to the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland for nearly a half-century, it was sold privately by the family of Rudolf Staechelin to Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, in February 2015 for close to US $300 million (£197 million), the highest price ever paid for a work of art.
Le Rêve (French, “The Dream”) is a 1932 oil painting by Pablo Picasso, then 50 years old, portraying his 22-year-old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is said to have been painted in one afternoon, on 24 January 1932. It belongs to Picasso’s period of distorted depictions, with its oversimplified outlines and contrasted colors resembling early Fauvism. The erotic content of the painting has been noted repeatedly, with critics pointing out that Picasso painted an erect penis, presumably symbolizing his own, in the upturned face of his model. On March 26, 2013, the New York Post reported that Steven A. Cohen of SAC Capital had bought the painting from casino magnate Steve Wynn for $155 million.
Garçon à la Pipe (English: Boy with a Pipe) is a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was painted in 1905 when Picasso was 24 years old, during his Rose Period, soon after he settled in the Montmartre section of Paris, France. The oil on canvas painting depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand and wearing a garland or wreath of flowers. It was last sold in May 4, 2004 for $104.2 million.
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also called The Lady in Gold or The Woman in Gold) is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt. The first of two portraits Klimt painted of Bloch-Bauer, it has been referred to as the final and most fully representative work of his golden phase. Adele Bloch-Bauer (1881–1925) was a wealthy member of Viennese society and a patron and close friend of Gustav Klimt. Last sold in June 18, 2006 for $135 million.
The most famous painting of all time, the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance in Florence. He began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 and finished it shortly before he died in 1519. The painting is named for Lisa del Giocondo, a member of a wealthy family of Florence. In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian patriot who believed the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy. After having kept the painting in his apartment for two years, Peruggia was finally caught when he attempted to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Today, the Mona Lisa hangs again in the Louvre in Paris where 6 million people see the painting each year.
The Sleeping Gypsy (French: La Bohémienne endormie) is an 1897 oil painting by French Naïve artist Henri Rousseau. It is a fantastical depiction of a lion musing over a sleeping woman on a moonlit night.
The Dancing House (Czech: Tančící dům), or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašínovo nábřeží (Rašín Embankment) in Prague, Czech Republic. It was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous, and in the opinion of some it does not accord well with these architectural styles. The then Czech president, Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had avidly supported this project, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.
The Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit are a pair of full-length wedding portraits by Rembrandt. Formerly owned by the Rothschild family, they became jointly owned by the Louvre Museum and the Rijksmuseum in 2015 after both museums managed to contribute half of the purchase price of $180 million, a record for works by Rembrandt.
Sometimes referred to as “the Dutch Mona Lisa”, the Girl with a Pearl Earring was painted by Johannes Vermeer. Very little is known about Vermeer and his works and this painting is no exception. It isn’t dated and it is unclear whether this work was commissioned, and if so, by whom. In any case, it is probably not meant as a conventional portrait. Tracy Chevalier wrote a historical novel fictionalizing the circumstances of the painting’s creation. The novel inspired a 2003 film with Scarlett Johansson as Johannes Vermeer’s assistant wearing the pearl earring.
Portrait of Dr. Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. It depicts Dr. Paul Gachet who took care of Van Gogh during the final months of his life. There are two authenticated versions of the portrait, both painted in June 1890 at Auvers-sur-Oise. Both show Gachet sitting at a table and leaning his head on his right arm but they are easily differentiated in color and style. In 1990, the first version fetched a record price of $82.5 million ($75 million, plus a 10 percent buyer’s commission) when sold at auction in New York.
Flag is an encaustic painting by the American artist Jasper Johns. Created when Johns was 24 (1954–55), two years after he was discharged from the US Army, this painting was the first of many works that Johns has said were inspired by a dream of the U.S. flag in 1954. It is arguably the painting for which Johns is best known. It was last sold in March 2010 for $110.0 million.
The artist Duke Riley’s ice skating rink along the Malecón, part of the 12th Havana Biennial.
Belshazzar’s Feast is a painting by Rembrandt housed in the National Gallery, London. The painting is an attempt to establish Rembrandt as a painter of large, baroque history paintings.
Woman III is a painting by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme was a woman. In November 2006, the painting was sold by Geffen to billionaire Steven A. Cohen for $137.5 million.
Interchange is a painting by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. It measures 200.7 by 175.3 centimetres (79.0 by 69.0 in) and was completed in 1955. In September 2015, it was sold by the David Geffen Foundation to Kenneth C. Griffin for $300 million, the highest price for a painting to date. It has been on loan at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, at the commission of Pope Julius II, is one of the most renowned artworks of the High Renaissance. The ceiling is that of the large Chapel built within the Vatican in Rome. Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. Among the last to be completed was the Creation of Adam in which God the Father breathes life into Adam, the first man. The Creation of Adam is one of the famous paintings of all time and has been the subject of countless of references and parodies.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honour of Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. The castle was intended as a home for the king, until he died in 1886. It was open to the public shortly after his death. Since then more than 61 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with as many as 6,000 per day in the summer.
The Census at Bethlehem (also known as The Numbering at Bethlehem) is an oil-on-panel by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566. Acquired in 1902, it is currently held and exhibited at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.
The Card Players is a series of oil paintings by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne. Painted during Cézanne’s final period in the early 1890s, there are five paintings in the series. The versions vary in size and in the number of players depicted. Cézanne also completed numerous drawings and studies in preparation for The Card Players series. One version of The Card Players was sold in 2011 to the Royal Family of Qatar for a price variously estimated at between $250 million and $300 million, making it the second most expensive work of art ever sold.
The Persistence of Memory (Spanish: La persistencia de la memoria; Catalan: La persistència de la memòria) is a 1931 painting by artist Salvador Dalí, and is one of his most recognizable works. First shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932, since 1934 the painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, which received it from an anonymous donor. It is widely recognized and frequently referenced in popular culture, and sometimes referred to by more descriptive (though incorrect) titles, such as ‘The Soft Watches’ or ‘The Melting Watches’.
The Starry Night was painted by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Although Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life, the aftermath of his work is enormous. Starry Night is one of his most famous paintings and has become one of the most well known images in modern culture. The painting shows the village of Saint-Rémy under a swirling sky, in a view from the asylum towards north. The cypress tree to the left was added into the composition. Since 1941 it has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Number 17A is a painting by Jackson Pollock, an American painter known for his contributions to the abstract expressionist movement. Sold in September 2015 for about $200 millions.
Water Lilies (or Nymphéas, French: [nɛ̃.fe.a]) is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840–1926). The paintings depict Monet’s flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of Monet’s artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts.
Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier is a painting created circa 1893 to 1894 by French artist Paul Cézanne (19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906). It is considered the most expensive still life ever sold at an auction. Cézanne was famous for painting still lifes which expressed complex emotions while still being based upon carefully observed reality. Paintings of this type would eventually lead to the creation of new art styles during the 20th century such as Cubism. It was last sold in May 1999 for $60.5 million.
Suprematist Composition (blue rectangle over the red beam) is a painting by Kazimir Malevich, a Ukrainian-Polish painter known as a pioneer of geometric abstraction. The painting represents a constellation of geometry and color in space with remarkable austerity.
Malevich’s masterpiece was sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $60 million to an anonymous buyer in November 2008. It is the most expensive work in the history of Russian art.
Nu couché (also known in English as Red Nude or Reclining Nude ) is a 1917 oil on canvas painting by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. It is one of his most widely reproduced and exhibited paintings. Last sold in November 9, 2015 for $170.4 millions.