New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is widely considered to be the most prestigious art exhibition in the United States.
It contains some of the world’s greatest masterpieces from painters like Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau, as well as many other American artists like Andy Warhol.
The museum draws more than 2.5 million visitors each year and is a must-visit destination for anyone who has an affinity for artworks of all kinds.
Also Read: Best Museums in New York City
In this article we will examine our selections for the most famous paintings at the MoMA and also take a closer look at the artists behind each painting along with their motives in producing such works.
Famous Paintings at the Moma
1. The Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is an artist that many critics and scholars point to as being the most influential member of the widely popular Impressionist movement that took place throughout the 19th century.
He was known for his incredible brushwork and use of vivid colors to draw the viewer’s focus in on a single aspect about his subject that might otherwise be overlooked.
One of Van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces is titled The Starry Night and was painted in 1889 at the end of the artist’s troubled young life.
He suffered from bouts of mental illness and the treatment he received during the late 1800’s was nothing near what it has developed into for modern psychiatrists and physicians.
Van Gogh is believed to have done a few different versions of The Starry Night, but this particular work that’s housed in the MoMA is known as the most iconic among his great paintings.
The work is known for the swirling, methodical brushstrokes made by the painter that are meant to represent the wind sweeping through the skies over the view Van Gogh had from his asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
This, along with the yellow glow of the moon and stars, is why so many critics hold this work in such high esteem as being one of the most famous Impressionist works of all time.
2. L’Atelier Rouge – Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse is said to be one of the few artists from the late Impressionist period whose works rivaled that of Van Gogh and some of the other great artists of the movement.
He typically focused his efforts on still life works and scenes of popular culture that depicted some of the favorite activities enjoyed by Matisse and his peers during this time period.
One of Matisse’s best paintings is regarded as the MoMA’s most famous painting and is one of the painter’s most captivating works from the early abstract style.
The painting is titled L’Atelier Rouge and was done in 1911 at the height of Matisse’s career as an artist.
The painter is well-known for the intense colors he incorporated in his works and the fact that each one stood out among the other paintings from his colleagues.
Historians believe that this single painting was among the most influential paintings from the early 20th century when the abstract style began to take hold.
3. The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí is another well-known international artist whose best works are on display in the MoMA. Known by many historians, scholars and critics as the father of the Surrealist movement, Dalí seemed to arrive on the early 20th century art scene with a style that was all his own.
A work that Dalí painted in 1931 has since become one of the painter’s greatest masterpieces and is exhibited at the MoMA.
Also Read: Paintings at the Met
The painting is titled The Persistence of Memory and features a bizarre scene in which clocks are visible to the viewer, but their unusual depiction is what many critics believe to be the allure of Dalí’s style.
The clocks are melting into the otherwise drab surrounding landscape in a highly metaphorical manner that many critics believe is meant to emphasize the fleeting nature of time.
4. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso is remembered as a great revolutionary painter and one that helped to establish the abstract style of Cubism in Europe and America during the early 20th century.
He regularly painted figures in a way that were distorted and very much unlike the works done by his colleagues during this time.
One of Picasso’s greatest masterpieces is considered to be a painting that depicts a group of nude women in a suggestive, yet obviously abstract manner.
The work is titled Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and was completed in 1907 when Picasso was just beginning his bustling career as a painter.
The work seemed to bring the Cubism movement into the public eye and many critics brushed it away as being too distorted and far reaching compared to the Realism movement that had been popular just a few decades before.
5. Campbell’s Soup Cans – Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was perhaps the most famous American artist from the mid-20th century. He became well-known in popular culture through the creation of what many refer to as Pop Art.
Many of his paintings include everyday household items, but Warhol created artful renderings of these items in a way that piqued the interest of viewers.
One of Warhol’s most famous pieces is titled Campbell’s Soup Cans and was completed in 1962. This painting is one of the most distinct works from this particular movement as it contains 32 individual soup cans, all of which are virtually identical in terms of the manner in which Warhol painted them.
6. The Dream – Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau was well known for his distinct style of artwork and the fact that many of his paintings involve jungle or nature scenes.
His brushwork is very similar to some of the greatest Post-Impressionist painters and his works are some of the most iconic pieces from the early 20th century art movements.
One of his greatest works is titled The Dream and features his usual jungle theme with a nude figure laying on the left side of the canvas among the flowers. This is another one of the most visited pieces of artwork that’s kept in the MoMA.
7. The Lovers – René Magritte
Among the more famous European artists from the Surrealist movement, René Magritte is perhaps the artist that has created some of the most iconic pieces throughout his career.
Many of his works deal with everyday items and common scenes, but he produced Surrealist paintings using his own distinct style.
One painting that was done by Magritte is among the most famous paintings in the MoMA. It’s simply titled The Lovers and was completed in 1928. This unique painting features two figures who are shrouded in a sheet, which covers their faces as they embrace.
8. The City Rises – Umberto Boccioni
The highly unique art movement that many critics refer to as Futurism was dominated by Italian painter Umberto Boccioni.
His works often portrayed somewhat familiar scenes with a strange, futuristic theme that set his works apart from many of his colleagues at the time.
One of Boccioni’s greatest paintings is housed in the MoMA and is known as The City Rises. This distinct painting features a dynamic scene involving men and horses that captures the attention of most visitors to the museum.
9. Girl before a Mirror – Pablo Picasso
Picasso’s most famous works tend to be some of his paintings that portray the female figure. Many of these are considered to be some of the greatest works ever done by the Spanish painter. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest Cubist painters from history.
One such masterpiece is titled Girl before a Mirror and was completed in 1932 during the height of Picasso’s career.
It was works such as this that garnered the young artist widespread acclaim as the painting is done in classic Cubism style, featuring the girl’s face and her figure in bold and distinct shapes and colors.
10. Christina’s World – Andrew Wyeth
Another one of the more sought-after paintings that is kept inside New York’s MoMA is one that was done by famed American artist Andrew Wyeth.
His style usually involved common scenes from the American Heartland during the early-to-mid 20th century and his style was such that many critics and scholars consider it to be totally unique compared to his colleagues from the era.
One of Wyeth’s best works and a piece that is considered to be one of the greatest of any American painting is titled Christina’s World.
This unique work was done in 1948, which was somewhat early in Wyeth’s career after he had spent years living in Maine among the farming communities that lined the coast of the upper New England state.
The girl in the painting was actually a young woman that Wyeth supposedly knew and was unable to walk due to a medical condition.
Wyeth’s choice to paint the girl sitting on the grass, her gaze directed toward the house, conveys to the viewer her intention to go to the house despite her physical inability to do so.