A Snapshot of Masterpieces: Top 12 Favorite Paintings of All Time

“Art has a voice – let it speak.”

― Rochelle Carr

Just like Rochelle Carr said, art indeed has a voice of its own. Any piece of creation is actually the depiction of the creator’s psyche. Art is the depiction of the artist’s voice. There are many pieces of art that have changed the world with their very existence. Art gives voice to things that usually remain unsaid by us humans.

Paintings are one of the age-old media of artists. Right from the stone ages, man started painting caves to give voice to their thoughts when they did not even have words to express themselves. The Lascaux Paintings and the wall art at the Ajanta and Ellora Caves are some of the most ancient instances of man’s artistic nature. The art of painting took on a completely new dimension since the Italian Renaissance. Ever since then, a plethora of movements cropped up in the art world. The paintings of these movements depict the essence of their time.

Millions of paintings have been produced over the years. Every few of them have stood the test of time and become a masterpiece. Gazing at such a masterpiece is a privilege indeed. In the hustle-bustle of life, we tend to forget the importance of appreciating the beauty of art.

Hence, stop by and have a look at some of my favorite paintings from different art movements.

Painting: The Mona Lisa

Artist: Leonardo da Vinci

Style: Renaissance

Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, from C2RMF retouched

The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most renowned work of art in the world. It would be indeed difficult to find someone who is not familiar with the notorious painting in some way or another. Master artist Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of a mysterious lady with an intriguing smile epitomizes the ideals of the Renaissance. Painted between 1503 and 1506, The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of naturalistic painting techniques. The use of sfumato to create a smoky background is one of my favorite aspects of the masterpiece. Factoid: The Mona Lisa became a worldwide sensation when it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911.

Painting: The Calling of Saint Matthew

Artist: Caravaggio

Style: Baroque

The Calling of Saint Matthew-Caravaggo (1599-1600)

Caravaggio, also known as Michelangelo Merisi, was a man of many talents. The Italian painter constantly toed the boundary in both his personal life and artistic endeavors. His trademark use of light and shadow is masterfully evident in his 1599-1600 painting, The Calling of Saint Matthew. The dramatic piece of art depicts men dressed in contemporary clothing. Astoundingly, the setting is not religious. Factoid: Many believe that Mathew is the bearded man pointing to himself in the painting. Still, there are others who think that the bearded man is simply pointing to draw attention to the slumped man.

Painting: Judith Slaying Holofernes

Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi

Style: Baroque

Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the rare female painters who were able to subvert social conventions and gain fame in the world of art. Her 1610 painting, Judith Slaying Holofernes, depicts the painter’s innermost rage. The dramatic use of colors adds a chilling vibe to the painting. The painting shows Judith, a biblical heroine, severing the head of a Babylonian general. Factoid: Gentileschi was sexually assaulted by her father’s colleague, Tassi, at the tender age of eighteen. She was even betrayed by her closest female companion who turned a blind eye to her plight. Judith Slaying Holofernes depicts her rage at the outrage.

Painting: Girl With a Pearl Earring

Artist: Johannes Vermeer

Style: Dutch Golden Age

Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring is a true masterpiece of the Dutch Golden Age. Painted in 1665, the piece of art has been enthralling viewers since resurfacing in the 19th century. Though we are all mesmerized by the beauty wearing an oversized pearl earring, we know very little about her. Some say that she might have been Vermeer’s daughter while some argue her to be his mistress.  Nevertheless, the unknown woman sitting before a black background was meant to be an idealized image wearing exotic blue and yellow apparel. Many may even call it a tronie, a headshot portraying still life. Factoid: The intrigue surrounding the portrait has given it the nickname, the Mona Lisa of the North.

Painting: The Swing

Artist: Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Style: Rococo

Joean Honoré Fragonard - The Swing

Originating in France in the late 18th century, the Rococo Movement popularized a light and whimsical style. Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 painting, The Swing, captures the inherent charisma of the Rococo style. The pastel colors and fluid forms always manage to catch one’s attention. Factoid: Jean-Honoré Fragonard was tasked to paint The Swing by French aristocrat, Baton de Saint-Julien. He wanted a painting of his mistress being pushed by a bishop while he himself peaked under her dress. Fragonard followed all the Baron’s instructions. The only change he made was to replace the bishop with a cheated husband.

Painting: Impression, Sunrise

Artist: Claude Monet

Style: Impressionism

Monet - Impression, Sunrise

Claude Monet is hailed as the Father of Impressionism. His 1872 painting, Impression, Sunrise, led to the rise of the Impressionist Movement. The painting’s hazy blue sea with little boats and an orange sun somehow manages to always soothe the soul. I love how Monet uses decisive brushstrokes to capture the beauty of a sunrise. Factoid: Monet entitled his painting, Impression, Sunrise, because he felt that the details of the painting would not be evident by naming it after its location of LeHarve harbor in France. Monet had the habit of beginning the title most of his paintings with Impression.

Painting: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Artist: Georges Seurat

Style: Post- Impressionism

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

Georges Surat was the pioneer of Pointillism, a technique where paint is added to the canvas using small points of color. His A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is a painting of its kind. Not only does it emphasize Surat’s mastery of Pointillist but also captures his intention of evoking a timeless permanence in his painting. The piece of art portrays France’s working class enjoying a day of leisure outside the hubbub of the city center. This 7 by 10 foot painting was completed by Surat when he was only twenty-six years old. Factoid: Surat took two years to piece together dozens of his own sketches to create this masterpiece.

Painting: The Starry Night

Artist: Van Gogh

Style: Post- Impressionism

Van Gogh is one of my most favorite painters of all time. Naturally, I had to include his most popular painting in this list. Van Gogh’s use of vibrant colors enlivens his paintings. The Starry Night is no different. The frenetic brush strokes and stark colors make it a true masterpiece. Factoid: Van Gogh had committed himself in the Saint-Rémy-de-Provence asylum in 1889. The Starry Night is his depiction of the night view out the window of his room at the asylum. The painting beautifully captures the painter’s own inner turmoil. A year before this, in 1888, Van Gogh had painted another painting called the Starry Night Over the Rhone.

Painting: The Scream

Artist: Edvard Munch

Style: Expressionism

Edvard Munch, 1893, The Scream, oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard, 91 x 73 cm, National Gallery of Norway

If there ever was a painting that had a voice of its own, it would be Edvard Munch’s The Scream. The expressionist masterpiece perfectly captures the modern man’s frustrations. Munch created this painting in 1893 and named it The Shriek of Nature. One day, when he was out on an evening walk, he was blindsided by a scream that seemed to be emitted by nature itself. Munch wanted to capture that shriek of nature in his painting. Factoid: The mask in Wes Craven’s film, Scream, was inspired by the painting.

Painting: The Kiss

Artist: Gustav Klimt

Style: Vienna Succession

The Kiss - Gustav Klimt - Google Cultural Institute

Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is an opulent depiction of intimacy. In his 1907-1908 amalgamation of Symbolism and Vienna Jugendstil, Klimt uses his famous gold leaf technique to capture a gilded moment of love. He makes his mythical subjects modern by using graphic motifs. Factoid: Gustav Klimt’s gold leaf technique was inspired by the Byzantine mosaics of the Basilica di San Vitale in Italy.

Painting: Guernica

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Style: Cubism 

Believe it or not, war can never benefit anyone. It wreaks havoc and leaves its impact on generations to come. The world is still recovering from the devastation of WWII. The famous painter, Pablo Picasso, himself was not immune to the aftermath of war. The bombing of the tiny Basque town of Guernica by the Germans in 1937 shook him. This prompted him to paint the gigantic Guernica. By showcasing the pain of humans and animals in this anti-war painting, Picasso sought to make a plea for peace during WWII and the Spanish Civil War. Interestingly, all the characters in the painting are women. Factoid: Picasso refused to exhibit his painting in Spain till it became a republic. It was only after the death of Francisco Franco that the painting was seen at the Prada in Madrid in 1981.

Painting: The Persistence of Memory

Artist: Salvador Dali

Style: Surrealism

Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory always makes me introspect. Something about the painting has always struck a chord with me. The iconic painting transports us to a dreamscape where melting timepieces are strewn over a desert. Factoid: Dali was most likely practicing the paranoiac-critical method, where he induced himself into a delusional state when he painted this masterpiece. Dali aimed to create “hand-painted dream photographs” by entering into a state of psychotic hallucinations.


Art is never stationary. It keeps on evolving. The world is full of zillions of paintings. All of which depict a particular time and state of mind. They pull us in and transport us to another era. So, let us take a moment and appreciate the timeless masterpieces that have fortunately survived the travails of time.

Do comment and let me know your favorite painting of all time. 

Note: The cover image came from Pexels used with permission from WordPress. All other images used belong to the public domain, unless stated otherwise.

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