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
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’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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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