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20 Well-known Work Everybody Ought to Know

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Art history is an important part of education as it teaches about different perspectives, cultures, values, and traditions. Studying famous paintings like the ones suggested here helps encourage students to share their opinions. Challenge your students to tell you what they like and dislike about the paintings. You can also try one of the included visual art lessons to get your students creating paintings in a style that speaks to them.

The selected artworks span the course of human history as well as the regions of the globe. Regardless of your art history prowess, we’ve included famous paintings that you’ll likely recognize, as well as those that you may not. Enjoy our list of famous paintings we think your students should know about!

Note: To abide by copyright laws, images for paintings in the public domain are published below while paintings that are still under copyright can be viewed at the provided links.

Famous Paintings in the Public Domain

1. Claude Monet, The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil, 1881

A painting shows a figure of a small child in a garden (famous paintings)

French painter Claude Monet was one of the founders of impressionist painting. Monet frequently painted gardens, but what sets this one apart is his young son on the path.

Learn more: National Gallery of Art

Try it: Make a Monet at KinderArt

2. Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889

Vincent Van Gogh is painted in 3/4 view from the bust up holding a palette and paint brushes (famous paintings)

Vincent van Gogh’s subjects were varied, but he is perhaps best known for the 30-plus self-portraits he painted. This particular self-portrait was the first painting completed by Van Gogh following a significant mental breakdown in 1889.

Learn more: National Gallery of Art

Try it: Paint Van Gogh Using Forks at Projects with Kids

3. Edgar Degas, The Dance Class, 1873

Ballet dancers are shown dancing in class in this painting (famous paintings)

More than anything else, French impressionist Edgar Degas was best known for painting, drawing, and sculpting ballet dancers. In total, he created over 1,500 artworks dedicated to his love of ballet.

Learn more: The Dance Class at The History of Art

4. El Greco, Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple, 1570

A panting crowded with figures shows Christ in the center inside an open temple (famous paintings)

El Greco was a man of many talents. He was a painter, a sculptor, and an architect. Art historians consider this painting the masterpiece of El Greco’s Venetian period.

Learn more: Cleansing the Temple at Wikipedia

5. Pietro Lorenzetti, Madonna and Child, With the Blessing Christ [middle panel], probably 1340

Madonna is seen holding a baby Jesus.

Pietro Lorenzetti and his younger brother Ambrogio incorporated naturalism into the Sienese School of painting. While it isn’t known for sure, some think this painting was created for a church in Pisa where Christ eating cherries was a popular motif.

Learn more: Madonna and Child at National Gallery of Art

6. Paul Cézanne, Still Life With Milk Jug and Fruit, 1900

A painting shows a close-up of oranges and a pitcher on a table.

Paul Cézanne was a French painter most notable for breaking away from impressionism while paving the way for 20th-century movements like cubism. He painted many different subjects throughout his career but is well-known for his still lifes like the one shown here.

Learn more: Artsy.net

Try it: Still Life Drawing for Kids at YouTube

7. Rembrandt van Rijn, A Polish Nobleman, 1637

A distnguished man is shown in 3/4 profile view from the waist up. He is wearing a tall black hat and a fur cape. (famous paintings)

No artist from Holland’s Golden Age is more well-known than Rembrandt. Although this portrait currently resides in the National Gallery of Art in D.C., it has previously belonged to Catherine the Great and Andrew Mellon.

Learn more: A Polish Nobleman at Wikipedia

8. Amedeo Modigliani, Adrienne (Woman With Bangs), 1917

A woman with exaggerated stylized features is shown with her hand behind her head.

Modigliani is known for his highly stylized portraits like this one that include an elongated oval face and neck. His appreciation of African sculpture and masks undoubtedly comes through in the style of his paintings.

Learn more: Joy of Museums

Try it: How To Draw Like Modigliani at Art Projects for Kids

9. Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1893

A woman is shown in a boat facing the viewer holdng a baby. A man is seen from behind also in the boat, paddling (famous paintings)

Cassatt was an American printmaker and painter but spent much of her life in France with the impressionists. This painting is emblematic of her work as it includes the motif of a mother and child.

Learn more: The Boating Party at National Gallery of Art

10. Paolo Veronese, The Finding of Moses, 1581

Figures crowd around one woman with some standing and some kneeling around her. A kneeling woman present a newborn baby. (famoust paintings)

Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter who painted multiple renditions of the finding of Moses.

Learn more: The Finding of Moses at National Gallery of Art

11. Gustav Klimt, Baby (Cradle), 1917/1918

A baby sits atop a pile of colorful blankets in this semi abstract painting.

Klimt was an Austrian symbolic painter who had a distinct and easily recognizable style because of his eclectic mix of influences. The mass of blankets swirling around the baby in this painting are certainly representative of that style.

Learn more: Baby at GustavKlimt.com

Famous Paintings Not in the Public Domain

12. Lucian Freud, Girl With a Kitten, 1947

Lucian Freud painted what he knew, so many of his subjects were lovers and friends. This particular painting is one of eight he completed of his first wife Kathleen Garman during a five-year period. Freud was dissatisfied with portraits that too closely resembled the subject and therefore said he wanted his paintings to be “of” rather than “like” the person.

Learn more: Girl With a Kitten at Tate.org

13. Roy Lichtenstein, M-Maybe, 1970

Roy Lichtenstein was one of the central figures in American pop art. Although he was a painter, Lichtenstein liked his works to be mechanical, often opting to use single frames from comics as his subjects. Famous paintings like M-Maybe are often recognizable by the masses despite them not knowing the artist.

Learn more: M-Maybe at Wikipedia

Try it: Lichtenstein Art Projects for Kids at Artsy Craftsy Mom

14. Georgia O’Keeffe, Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931

No list of famous paintings would be complete without representation from American painter Georgia O’Keeffe. She was one of the most successful painters of the 20th century. O’Keeffe was also a key contributor to the modern art movement. Earlier in her career, O’Keeffe focused on New York City skyscrapers but later turned her attention to natural elements from the Southwest.

Learn more: Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue at The Met Museum

Try it: Georgia O’Keeffe Art Activities at Jenny Knappenberger

15. Amy Sherald, First Lady Michelle Obama, 2018

Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley became the first African American artists to create official presidential portraits with their paintings of Michelle and Barack Obama, respectively, in 2018. Sherald’s portrait of Obama drew record numbers of visitors to the National Portrait Gallery.

Learn more: First Lady Michelle Obama at Wikipedia

16. Gu Kaizhi, The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies, approximately 344–406

This hand-painted scroll illustrates a political parody about an indulgent empress. Gu Kaizhi was famous as a painter and also a writer in Chinese culture.

Learn more: The Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies at the Museum of the World

17. Christine Ay Tjoe, Hyaluronic Pledge #05, 2022

Indonesian artist Christine Ay Tjoe explores themes of the human condition through her dramatic, layered abstract paintings. The most recent masterpiece in our list of famous paintings, Hyaluronic Pledge #05 is part of a larger series that explores an imaginary organism.

Learn more: Hyaluronic Pledge at White Cube

18. Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954/1955

Jasper Johns was chiefly known for painting in the abstract expressionism style. He painted everyday objects with large, free gestures to disturb the viewer into truly seeing them.

Learn more: Flag at MoMA.org

Try it: Jasper Johns Flag Art for the Fourth of July at Art History Kids

19. Hannah Höch, In Front of a Red Evening Sun, n.d 

Höch was a founder of Berlin Dadaism, an anti-art movement that would eventually be banned by the Nazi regime in the 1930s. While Höch was one of the founders of photomontage, this particular painting highlights her experimentation with abstract art.

Learn more: In the Front of a Red Evening Sun at NMWA.org

20.  Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

The Mona Lisa might be the only painting more famous and easily recognizable than The Scream. Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter and one of the most prominent figures of the modern art movement. Munch based The Scream on an autobiographical experience but painted the figure in a nondescript manner.

Learn more: The Scream at EdvardMunch.org

Did we miss your favorite paintings? Share them in the comments below.

Also, check out 20 Famous Artists Your Students Should Know.

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Everyone can grow an appreciation for great art and your students are no exception. Check out our list of 20 famous paintings to know!





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