If you love art, you’ll have probably already visited an art gallery to see decorative arts, contemporary art, modern art, sculpture, or even the masters.
Famous paintings are all over the world, but there are a number of museums that are home to incredible masterpieces as part of their permanent and temporary collections.
In this article, Superprof is looking at the best art museums in the world and the famous pieces you can admire in them.
The Works in the Louvre
The collection in the Louvre is probably the most complete in the world and including pieces and paintings by Ingres, Degas, Géricault, Kandinsky, Delacroix, and Véronès.
The Mona Lisa
You can’t talk about the Louvre without mentioning its most famous piece: The Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503.
The jewel of the Italian Renaissance still draws in visitors to the museum from all over the world.
If you visit the museum, make sure you spend the time to stop by to see one of the world’s most famous pieces of art alongside plenty of other exhibitions.
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The Fortune Teller by Georges de la Tour
In the 1630s George de la Tour painted The Fortune Teller, a piece that covered the same theme as Caravaggio’s Fortune Teller.
It shows several people in a 17th-century scene with a gipsy lady predicting the future of a young man and three young women picking his pockets.
The piece is considered his masterpiece and you can see why.
The Coronation of Napoleon
Jacques-Louis David is a French painter who was very active in the 18th and then the 19th century.
His piece The Coronation of Napoleon is an essential piece to see when you visit the Louvre. This oil on canvas is one of the museum’s most important pieces and shows the emperor Napoleon and his Empress Josephine.
Here are some of the artist’s other famous pieces:
- The Funeral Games of Patroclus in 1778
- The Death of Socrates in 1787
- The Death of Marat in 1793
- The Intervention of the Sabine Women from 1796 to 1799
- Portrait of Madame Récamier in 1800
- Napoleon Crossing the Alps from 1800 to 1803
- Leonidas at Thermopylae from 1800 to 1814
These magnificent paintings can be found in several museums around the world including the Louvre and the MET.
The Musée d’Orsay and Its Impressionist Collection
There are many different artists represented at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris but it’s the impressionists who draw in the crowds! Their collection includes Gauguin, Cézanne, Pissarro, Maurice Denis, and Claude Monet.
The Romans in their Decadence by Thomas Couture
The Romans in their Decadence is a painting done in 1847 by Thomas Couture and is considered a masterpiece of academic art. It symbolises the popular artistic movements during the latter half of the 20th century and draws upon old themes while using the technical criteria expected at the time.
This piece shows Romans at a party but drunk and out of energy. It also displays an orgy, a symbol of Roman decadence at the time. In fact, Couture was denouncing the decadence of the French people at the time.
Unsurprisingly, this piece was condemned by Napoleon III, who considered it too violent for society at the time. However, you can see it at the Musée d’Orsay and you won’t be condemned for doing so.
L'Origine du monde
Gustave Courbet’s 1866 piece has been written about a lot. This canvas presents a nude lady and focuses on her genitals.
Courbet’s goal was to show women as they were at the time without the embellishment or academic modesty.
It was rather controversial at the time and is today proudly displayed at the Musée d’Orsay
Starry Night Over the Rhône
Starry Night Over the Rhône is an oil painting from 1888 by Vincent van Gogh, the famous Dutch painter.
Painting night intrigued van Gogh and he’d do this for several of his paintings. Starry evenings particularly fascinated him:
“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realising it.” - Vincent van Gogh
At the Musée d’Orsay, you can see his 1889 self-portrait, an incredibly famous piece that you’ll think of whenever the name of Vincent van Gogh is mentioned.
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The Works in the Prado
The Prado Museum in Spain has been home to some of the greatest European pieces since the 19th century. Rubens, Titian, and El Greco are among the greatest Spanish painters of all time.
The Third of May 1808
Francisco de Goya is one of the most famous Spanish painters of all time and a large amount of work from him can be seen at the Prado Museum in Madrid. His most famous piece, “Tres de Mayo” (The Third of May 1808), is no exception!
This Romantic piece from 1814 shows a dark side of Spain’s history, the executions on the 3rd of May. It denounces the vengeful nature of the French invaders:
“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters” - Francisco de Goya
This piece makes you think and it symbolises the Spanish resistance.
The Triumph of Bacchus by Diego Velásquez
The Triumph of Bacchus is a baroque painting by Diego Velásquez dated 1628-1629. It’s also known as “The Drinkers” or “The Drunks”. This is for the simple fact that it shows seven drunk men around the Roman god of wine, drunkenness, and partying, Bacchus.
Bacchus is often represented in painting as the temporary liberation that alcohol brings. Velásquez wanted to show the mediocrity of this deliverance by representing the men as drunk and ungraceful.
The work was commissioned by King Philip IV and was brought to the Prado several centuries later.
David and Goliath by Caravaggio
Caravaggio is an Italian painter who created caravaggism, a mix of naturalism, realism, and tenebrism. His colossal work is famous all over the world.
Here are some of his other great works:
- The Fortune Teller, 1594
- The Cardsharps, 1594-1595
- The Musicians, 1595
- Narcissus, 1597
- Medusa, 1597-1598
- Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1599-1602
- Death of the Virgin, 1604-1606
- Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, 1607-1610
In the painting of David and Goliath, you can see the Biblical combat between King David and the Giant Goliath, a theme that’s appeared in many paintings.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Temple of Paintings
The MET in New York is just like the city itself: huge, passionate, and it’ll take you ages to see it all. Among the pieces on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you’ll find Vermeer, Giacometti, Rembrandt, Watteau, and even Warhol.
Bain à la Grenouillère by Claude Monet
Bain à la Grenouillère is a painting by the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Impressionism is an art movement based on impressions, landscapes, and light.
“I have always worked better alone and from my own impressions.” - Claude Monet
The Grenouillère is a restaurant by the Seine that was regularly frequented by the Parisian bourgeoisie. In the centre of the canvas, you can see visitors bathing.
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Washington Crossing the Delaware
As a powerful symbol of the United States of America in the War of Independence, the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware tells the story of an event preceding America’s independence.
It was painted by a German-American artist, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851. The painting features George Washington, America’s first president, crossing the River Delaware following a military operation in 1776.
While this canvas could appear in the White House, you can see it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art!
Oedipus and the Sphinx by Gustave Moreau
The painting Oedipus and the Sphinx is a canvas by Gustave Moreau from 1864 based on the Greek myth of Oedipus. Gustave Moreau was a Parisian symbolist painter who often painted mysterious pieces.
This painting shows the Greek hero Oedipus facing the Sphinx threatening the Greek city of Thebes. The Sphinx challenges the hero who finds the right answer and manages to defeat the dangerous creature.
We could have also mentioned plenty of other famous museums around the world that are full of incredible works of art. There are also history museums, archaeological museums, modern art museums, decorative arts museums, and contemporary art museums you can check out.
This might make you want to travel a bit to discover more about each of the museums around the world and the works they contain. Superprof can help if you’re looking for a private tutor to help you learn more about painting, art, or art history. They can teach you more about the art world, American art, fine arts, abstract expressionism, still life, prints, portraits, sculptures, etc.
While your city may not have a museum of modern art, thanks to the internet, you can see examples of famous artworks online and your tutor can talk you through what makes them so special.