Are you curious about what are the most expensive drawings in the art world?
The world record of expensive artworks is iconic paintings many of which are in private hands.
The history of art and painting is dated back to 1000s years ago.
The earliest painting is dated back to 42000 years ago.
During this time, many important works are held in museums, by a private collector, or even for private sale.
Below I have listed over 39 most expensive paintings in the world.
1. Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa is an iconic art by Italian renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. It was painted between 1503-1519.
At first glance, it may look like just an ordinary oil painting, but Leonardo de Vinci has left some mystery to it.
Who is the woman in the Portrait?
And why is she smiling?
The secret is questioned by thousand of the audience that visits the Louvre museum of France daily.
Da Vinci Code has also featured Mona Lisa as a mystery.
The painting holds insurance of $870 million as of 2021. It is a new record for the most expensive sale.
Read Also: Top 20 World Famous Visual Artists of All Time
2. The Starry Night
The Starry Night is a famous oil painting by the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Vincent painted this piece of art in 1889 when he was admitted to an asylum to treat his mental illness.
The painting depicts the dawn of the asylum center as viewed by Vincent from his room.
The mental state of Vincent can be seen in the painting where he is fighting with his demons.
The tiny fragments of light from the windows show his hope for the future.
It is present in the Museum of modern art in New York.
3. Nu Couché
Nu Couch’e is an expensive oil painting by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani painted in 1917.
The artwork was sold for $100 million. Sadly, the Work of Modigliani was appreciated after his death.
He painted many other nudes paintings of women during his life, but Nu Couche is the most popular one.
It is in the private collection of Liu Yiqian.
4. Les femmes d’alger
Women of Algiers is a set of 15 paintings painted by famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1955.
Some of them are privately owned, and others are showcased in the public gallery.
Victor and Sally Ganz bought the whole set of paintings for a price tag of $2 million.
5. Head of a Bear
Head of a bear – a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. It is believed that it was drawn in the early 1480s.
In London, this Renaissance masterpiece was sold for $12 million.
This silver point piece is in the private collection.
Leonardo da Vinci produced another bear drawing as well, which is in the public gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
6. Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Portrait of Dr. Gachet 1890 is a famous piece by Vincent van Gogh.
The man in the painting is homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet with whom Vincent resided after coming out of the asylum.
Dr. Paul took care of Vincent in his final days and to whom he referred as a true friend.
The painting is present in Musee d’Orsay, France, and is adored by thousands of spectators every day.
7. Salvator Mundi
Salvator Mundi is the most expensive painting by Leonardo da Vincent and is privately owned b the crown prince of Saudi Arabia- Muhammad bin Salman.
This renaissance was sold for $450 million.
The painting was painted in the year 1500 and has disappeared from the public for some years.
Some people even claimed that Salvator Mundi was not painted by Vincent at all.
The art was restored and then put up for auction in 2005.
8. Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a pearl earring is a famous oil painting by Johannes Vermeer painted in 1665.
The iconic painting is renowned for portraying the delicacy of the Girl’s look and smile.
The Girl in the painting has been a mystery since its creation. It is often nicknamed as Mona Lisa of the North.
The artwork is in the public domain in the Netherlands.
Many film adaptations are made of the same name.
9. The Last Supper
The Last Supper is a famous painting by Leorando de Vincent created in 1498. In the painting,
Jesus can be seen having his last supper with his apostles, followed by a betrayal.
The painting is in the public domain and is adored by thousands of people in Santa Maria Delle Grazie Milan Italy daily.
10. Blue Poles
Jackson Pollock painted the Blue Poles in 1952.
An American artist who is famous for abstract painting. Pollock art is renowned for the drip technique.
The painting is present in the National Gallery Australia.
It was named number 11 by the painter as he didn’t like assigning names to his work.
The painting was in controversy for some time.
The piece was bought in 1973 for $.13 million.
11. Woman I
Woman I was painted from 1950 -1952 by William de Kooning.
Kooning was a Dutch American oil painter famous for abstract and action art.
Woman I is one of the most renowned paintings of 20 century.
It is present in the Museum of modern art in New York City.
It is known as one of the controversial pieces of De Kooning as the audience thinks that his representation of women is too aggressive.
12. Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? was painted by Paul Gaugin in 1895.
He painted this piece when he was struggling in his personal life. Made in Tahiti, Gaugin painted his hopeless situation as a painful piece of art and not seeing any light of hope.
Gaugin is famous for using bold colors, making the character more prominent. It is present in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
13. Orange Red and Yellow
Orange-red and yellow is an abstract painting, painted on an oil medium.
It was painted in 1961 by Mark Rothko, an American artist. It is the most expensive painting of Rothko to be sold for $86.9 million.
The painting is famous for depicting the transformation of colors.
Presently it is placed in Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, United States.
14. Crying Girl
The Crying Girl was created in 1961 by American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.
The idea of crying women was taken by women who fall for the wrong men and eventually end up crying that is painted like comic books. Lichtenstein is a famous comic-style painter.
The 1961 painting can still be related to today’s women.
The idea behind the artwork was to showcase how vulnerable women are in relationships and how easily manipulated.
Crying Girl is available to the public in Moco Museum Amsterdam.
Painted by famous Irish painter Francis Bacon in 1972, the medium of the painting is oil and was sold for $84 million.
Bacon is famous for using bold and sharp styles to depict his characters.
According to Bacon, he didn’t consider himself a religious man, but his work shows glimpses of being a holy man.
16. The Kiss
The Kiss is a popular and expensive oil painting painted in 1908 by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.
The painting is present in the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere Museum Vienna.
A couple is seen kissing passionately in a yellow/gold leaf, where Klimt has shown the psychology of women’s sensitive emotions.
One of the interesting facts about the painting is that it was sold before its completion.
It was the highest price ever offered to an artist in Vienna for an incomplete art.
17. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907.
The woman in the painting is Adele, a close friend of the painter whom he met in the 1890s.
During World War II, the painting was stolen by Nazis when Adele’s husband fled Austria right after the invasion of Germany.
Later it was sold for $135 million by the family and is present in Neue Galerie New York.
18. Campbell’s Soup Cans
Painted by Andy Warhol in 1968, Campbell’s soup cans are a famous art originally inspired by advertisements.
The idea behind the painting was to draw everyday items, something that an ordinary man is familiar with.
After the era of comic art in 1940 and 1950, it was time for something new. It is displayed in the museum of modern art in New York.
19. The Scream
Painted in 1893, The scream is a famous artwork by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
It is present in the National museum Oslo. It is sold for $199.9 million.
The screaming man in the painting is the depiction of Edvard Munch’s life and circumstances.
Munch describes it as the scream of nature which terrified him all his life.
Nature was never kind to Munch.
Since early years Munch has seen the death of family members and pain.
20. Impression Sunrise
Impression sunrise is an iconic painting by French artist Claude Monet created in 1873.
Monet introduced painting to nature. The impression, Sunrise is the most expensive of Monet’s works and shows the beautiful port of le Havre.
The painting is sold for over 300 million and is presently in Musee Marmottan Paris.
21. Boy in the Red Vest
Boy in the Red Vest is a set of four paintings painted by french artist Paul between 1880-1890.
The position of the boy changes in each set while the color blend remains the same.
It is present in the Foundation E.G Buhrle museum of Switzerland.
The painting is worth $91 million.
22. Mouse and Cat with a Lamp
Mouse and Cat with a Lamp were painted by Chinese painter Qi Baishi in 1967.
The style is ink and wash. QI Baishi spent most of his life in poverty, and because of less money, he missed school but learned how to paint informally.
The thoughts of Baishi can be seen in his painting.
It was sold for RMB 4.48 million.
23. The Night Watch
The Night Watch is a classic oil painting by Rembrandt painted in 1642.
The scene in the painting is not Night time but shows a military man giving orders to his lieutenant.
The military man who belongs to an upper class is none other than Captain Frans Banning Cocq.
It was common that the leader should be from the privileged class and subordinates always from the working class.
The painting is worth $500 million and is present in Amsterdam.
24. The Garden of Earthly Delights
Hieronymus Bosch painted another classic painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, between 1503-1515.
The first set depicts the birth of the first human, followed by man’s nonending desire for relations.
The result was in the last set when his desires led him to hell.
The painting is present in the Museo Nacional Prado in Spain.
Guernica is an iconic oil painting by Pablo Picasso made in 1937. The painting symbolizes the suffering of war.
Experts suggest that Pablo expressed his anguish at the Nazis bombing Spain.
During WWII, many innocent people were killed by the Nazis.
The painting is present in Museo Reina Sofia museum Spain. According to 2018, the painting is worth $200 million.
26. Whistler’s Mother
Whistler’s Mother is a famous painting by James Whistler painted in 1871.
The character in the painting is the painter’s mother, Anna Whistler.
It is often suggested that Whistler’s mother was a substitute for a model who couldn’t make it.
The price of this oil painting is around $120 million and is present in the Musee d’Orsay museum of France.
Nighthawks is an iconic painting painted in 1942 by Edward Hopper.
The painting depicts the lonely nightlife of the city.
It was first sold for $3000 and now is worth around $200 million.
The painting is present in the Art Institute of Chicago.
28. The Persistence of Memory
The persistence of memory is an iconic painting by Salvador Dali.
The masterpiece was painted in 1937 and is present in the Museum of Modern Arts New York City.
Dali spent the early days in poverty and was thrown out of his house by his father.
That is what inspired Dali to create such a master art.
29. A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte is an oil painting painted by George Seurat in 1886.
The upper class of the Victorian era can be seen enjoying an afternoon.
On the other hand, the working class is seen serving them.
The painting is famous for its simplicity and depicting the clash between the classes.
It is worth $650 million and placed in the Art Institute of Chicago.
30 American Gothic
American Gothic is a famous piece of 20-century art painted by American artist Grant Wood in 1930.
The people in the painting are frustrated and do not seem to be in a good mood at the time of painting.
Wood is famous for painting midwest people.
It is in the public domain and is present in the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2005 it was sold for $6.95 million.
31. Lady with an Ermin
Lady with an Ermin is a classic painting by Leonardo da Vinci painted between 1489 to 1491.
The painting was completed in three stages.
The lady in the painting is the mistress of the duke of Milan at that time.
The duke was nicknamed “the white ermine”; hence, his lady’s Portrait was nicknamed as Lady with an Ermine.
It was sold for $330 million and is present in the National Museum in Krakow.
32. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog also referred to as misty mountaineer landscape, is a masterpiece by German Artist Casper David Friedrich.
It was completed in 1818.
The painting symbolizes romanticism. It is believed that Friedrich would hike mountains to paint landscapes and then merge them into one, forming an entirely new portrait.
That is what he did in the Wanderer above the Sea of Fog.
It is present in Hamburg, Germany.
33. Van Gogh self-portrait
In 1889 Vincent van Gogh painted a self-portrait on an oil canvas.
Although the artist has drawn many other self-portraits, this was his most popular out of all.
He used the self-portrait technique to represent his sense and himself.
The iconic painting is present at Musee d’Orsay in France. In 1998 it was sold for $71.5 million.
34. The Card Players
The card players is a set of oil paintings by Paul Cezanne painted in 1890.
Cezanne portrays the farmers smoking their pipes and playing cards.
The painting was sold for $250. million in 2012.
The painting is in the public domain Musee d’Orsay.
35. The Son of Man
The Son of Man is an oil painting by Rene Magritte created in 1964.
It is a self-portrait of the artist where a man is seen standing facing a green apple.
It is in a private collection and was last sold in 1998 for $5.3 million.
36. Washington Crossing the Delaware
Emanuel Leutze made the iconic painting in 1851.
The masterpiece has been in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Washington since its creation.
Washington Crossing the Delaware depicts the American revolution.
The lead character is George Washington leading his army during the war.
37. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
A Bar at the Folies Bergere is a famous painting by Edouard Manet created in 1882.
It depicts the nightlife of Paris in the early 1880s.
It is present in Courtauld Gallery London.
The Girl in the painting is a bar attendant of the Victorian era who used to work in the café concert hall.
38. The Lady of Shalott
English artist John William Waterhouse painted the Lady of Shallot in 1888.
The poem of the same name inspires the painting.
The lady in the portrait depicts the toxic culture of the Victorian era, where women were expected to act on a set of rules.
The chains show the cultural norms that had kept her away from freedom.
The lilies surround her to represent her innocence and purity.
It is present in Tate Britain, London.
39. The Swing
Jean Honore Fragonard painted the Swing in 1767.
Swing was quite controversial at that time.
In the painting, a woman is seen swinging in a garden.
The lady throws her shoe to her lover, and Swing is seen pushed by an old man, maybe her husband, who is unaware of her wife’s lover.
The statue on the left has his finger held to his lips, indicating others to be silent.
It is present in Wallace collection London.
40. Arnolfini Portrait
Jan Eyck painted the Arnolfini Portrait in 1434.
The characters depict the marriage and social status of women.
Women were just treated to bore children and remain obedient to their husbands.
It is placed in the National Museum of London.
Every year thousands of people gather in these art museums to witness the magic of classic art.
Classic paintings are auctioned for millions of dollars.
Some paintings are as old as 500 years and most of them are in the public domain.