30 Most Expensive Paintings Explained

These are the Most Expensive Paintings in the World Holding a Value of Billions of Dollars and They Must Have Something to Offer.

Most Expensive Paintings explained

Painting is one of the most important part of Visual arts and it depicts both action and the result. To put it in a different way, painting is a story or a certain period of time or even a part of history painted on a canvas. The best paintings stand out because of an outstanding depiction of that action and outcome. Most celebrated paintings are also considered as the most expensive paintings which are valued as staggering amount of money.

Here is the list of 30 most expensive paintings in the world including Salvador Mundi and Monalisa. Though Monalisa has never been auctioned before but specialist have estimated the value. Remember that expensive paintings are also like best selling books. Though we can never put a price tag on as a whole yet these great works are admired with ownership. Along with the listing, this article will also provide a brief explanation of these masterpieces.

30. Dora Maar Au Chat by Pablo Picasso

Dora Maar Au Chat by Pablo Picasso. One of the most expensive paintings in the world.

Price: $118.3 Million

Year Painted: 1941

Medium: Oil and Canvas

Dora Maar Au Chat is one of the most expensive paintings in the world which was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1941. The painting resembles the hard time in France during the second world war and provide an image of frustration. Maar is Picasso’s girlfriend and this portrait is the most versatile and provocative one among others. This extraordinary 50.5” by 37.5” art work presents a symbol of cat on the right shoulder of the distorted lady which resembles the sextual aggression and feminine wiles. Even her nails are painted long with long fingers which also resembles the cat. In terms of color and execution, Picasso has done a marvelous job along with the attention to the details and used symbols.  

  29. Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

Irises by Vincent Van Gogh sold for 118.9 million dollars.

Price: $118.9 Million

Year Painted: 1889

Medium: Oil and Canvas

Irises is the third painting by Vincent Van Gogh to make into this list. This art work stands for hope and explains a lot about Vincent’s love for flowers. During his mental asylum, he made some paintings including this. The brown surface and soft green steam are a mind-blowing composition of comparison between rough and smooth. The color composition also makes the flowers stand out from entire scenario. the depiction of softness in rough situation is flawless. The disorganized petals of irises may resemble Gogh’s mental estate since he was distorted too.

28. Portrait of Joseph Roulin by Vincent Van Gogh      

Portrait of joseph Roulin by vincent Van Gogh

Price: $121.3 Million

Year Painted: 1889

Medium: Oil and Canvas

Van Gogh painted this masterpiece in the same year he created Irises. Joseph Roulin as we see him in the portrait with blue outfit and lofty beard was a very good friend of Vincent. It seems like the painter is really into flowers which is also seen in this painting’s background. The reason behind this portrait is the character and the face of the model which stands for socialist and leftwing postal services man. Even Van was very concerned about the portrait and painted more than 20 painting along with Roulin’s other family members. As the painter expressed, he likes painting this colorful man and his big family individually and if he can complete, he will feel that he has done something of his likings. During his mental condition they were connected and wrote letters from mental asylum.  

27. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso    

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso

Price: $122.3 Million

Year Painted: 1932

Medium: Oil on Canvas

The painting depicts Picasso’s mistress Marie Therese. Marie has been painted quite often and Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is strongly showing his affection to her. During his stay in France, he continued having affairs and despite the fact Marie was in relationship with Pablo Picasso. This painting is the most intense among his large nude paintings. Most interestingly, Picasso has painted a real head with a sculpted head and body is covered with a philodendron plant.

26. Flag by Jesper Jones: The Most Expensive Painting by A Living Artist  

Flag by Jesper Jones

Price: $126.4 Million

Year Painted: 1958

Medium: Encaustic, Oil on collaged Canvas mounted on plywood

Flag is considered as the most expensive painting by a living painter, Jesper Jones. This 89-year-old artist is probably is the most influential living artist for this particular painting. Flag might look as simple as putting color on paper but the painter took a very different material for this. It is painted on three separate canvas collaged with newspapers. Besides, all the materials are mounted with a plywood. Currently this masterpiece is displayed in Museum of Modern Arts, New York. This particular piece leaves a mystery, is it depicting patriotism or something else? It is not yet clear.  

25. Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion by Amedeo Modigliani

Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion by Amedeo Modigliani

Price: $129 Million

Year Painted: 1917

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Most probably on of the most famous nude paintings on earth painted by Italian painter Amedio Modigliani. The oil painting depicts an unknown model lying on crimson couch with a blue cushion. Reclining nude is 60.1 by 92.1cm painting considered to be an expressionist work of art. Most curious thing about this painting is, the creator did not paint her eyes. Thus, it has been a fashion for Amedeo not to reveal eyes of the model. He once said, “When I will know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”  

24. Otahi by Paul Gauguin

Otahi by Paul Gauguin

Price: $129.1 Million

Year Painted: 1893

Medium: Oil and Canvas

Otahi became one of the most expensive paintings in the world after its staggering auction price. A private collector bought the painting with $129.1 million dollars. Since Paul Gauguin is a highly praised painter, most of his works have taken positions in various museums. Otahi depicts a dark brown half nude lady lowering her body and thinking about something. On the other hand, the color composition is fantastic with yellow background with blue sky and brown mountain. This has left people with limitless mystery.   

23. The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Price: $130.9 Million

Year Painted: 1895

Medium: Oil, Tempera, Pastel and cardboard

The Scream is the most famous painting from the genre of existentialism. Even this expressionist painting represents the entire period onward. Edvard Munch is a Norwegian artist and most of his paintings express the inner self with vibrant color and elemental background. Some critic says that Munch predicted the upcoming horror of the two-world wars. Though Munch expressed himself that The Scream is about subjects’ inner thoughts, feelings and emotions inspired by existential crisis. In the painting, the bright swirling sky and the mysterious subject clasping his face, screaming in anguish and standing alone in a dock or bridge. It pretty much describes the half of 20th century.   

22. Garcon a La Pipe by Pablo Picasso

Garcon a La Pipe by Pablo Picasso

Price: $138.2 Million

Year Painted: 1905

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Despite being sold on a high price, critics say that the price is incongruous in compare to its artistic merit. Yet this piece of Pablo Picasso become one of the most expensive paintings ever auctioned by Sotheby’s New York. This painting is also one of Pablo’s classic work in his earlier period in France. The depiction of a Persian boy with a pipe in his left hand makes sense but why the garland of the rose? Apparently never make any sense though, hence the mystery remains unknown.  

21. Twelve Landscape Screen by Qi Baishi

Twelve Landscape Screen by Qi Baishi

Price: $143.9 Million

Year Painted: 1925

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Qi Baishi is the first Chinese painter whose art work priced over 100 million dollars. On a recent auction in Beijing, Baishi’s masterpiece Twelve Landscape Screen priced as high as 140.9 million dollars and later adjusted price become $143.9 million. The painting is a series of landscape painted on canvas. It also the most expensive painting by a Chinese artist.   

20. Bal Du Moulin De La Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Bal Du Moulin De La Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Price: $149.8 Million

Year Painted: 1876

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Bal Du Moulin De La Galette is one of the most expansive paintings in the world painted by Pierre Auguste Renoir. Renoir has always been fond of depicting normal life which he did in this particular piece. This expressionist masterpiece is showcasing a crowd dancing and eating in a open place. In the period of time common Persian people used to wear better outfit and gather in one place for dance and enjoy family time in the evening. Pierre has depicted the usual in a wonder stroke of brush with vibrant color which really represents the community and time. The original painting is in Musee d’Orsay. The Renoir painted a small version of this same artwork under the same name. and the second version drew a staggering amount of money on the auction by Sotheby’s New York.  

19. Three Studies of Lucian Fraud by Francis Bacon

three studies of lucian Fraud by Francis bacon

Price: $153.2 Million

Year Painted: 1961

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Three Studies of Lucian Fraud is the most expensive painting from a popular writer till now. Though Francis Bacon was a highly appreciated writer yet he also painted numerous artworks including this one. Bacon and Fraud became close friends despite being artistic rivals. And they painted each other for few times. This painting is the result of that friendship. Bacon’s most of the paintings are isolated, distorted and absurd. In this piece of art, Lucian Fraud is sitting in different mood on a cane chair boxed in a cage. Some critiques referred that the cage is Baconian cage where Fraud is coiled. This triptych is about the same size and have a far better color composition than Bacon’s other works.   

18. Adelle Bloch Bauer-II by Gustav Klimt

Adelle Bloch Bauer-II by Gustav Klimt

Price: $156.6 Million

Year Painted: 1912

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Gustav Klimt is a brilliant artist of 20th century and Adelle Bloch Bauer-II is his masterpiece. This expensive painting portraits business man Ferdinand Bloch’s wife Adelle Bauer. At the initial stage, Ferdinand helped Gustav and his artworks. Besides Adelle is the first model painted twice by Klimt. During the Nazi war, Adelle Bloch Bauer-II was displaced few times so that it doesn’t get destroyed. Right after the WWII, it was returned to Austrian Museum. Now this painting is in someone’s private collection.  

17. Nu Couche (Sur Le Cote Gauche) by Amadio Modigliani  

Nu Couche (Sur Le Cote Gauche) by Amadio Modigliani - is one of the most expensive paintings in the history of art.

Price: $157.2 Million

Year Painted: 1917

Medium: Oil on Paint

Nu Couche is another popular nude artwork by Amadio Modigliani auctioned in 2018 by Sothey’s New York. The lady in the painting is laying down on a white pillow on a white bed. The deep green color wall in the background framed in deep red color shows youthful joy of the lady. This impressionist work of art set fire in the auction house during the bid.  

16. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh

Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh

Price: $158.2 Million

Year Painted: 1890

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Another Van Gogh painting which portrays Dr. Gachet from who help him during the last moment of Gogh’s life. In this painting the model is seen sitting down leaning on his right hand with a frustration on his face. The artist painted two separate paintings show similar with difference in color. Because of Gogh’s love for flower brings him to draw everything with flowers. Dr. Gachet was a homeopathic doctor resided in mental asylum with the painter himself.  

15. Le Reve by Pablo Picasso

Le Reve by Pablo Picasso

Price: $166.7 Million

Year Painted: 1932

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Pablo Picasso’s one of the most expensive paintings is on his 22-year-old mistress Marie Therese Walter. This list has also started with Picasso’s painting and till now three of the paintings among the all four are depicting Marie. Like most of the others, this oil paint is also a cubist painting painted in a distorted style. We can call it an early cubist painting because of the over simplified outlines and contrasted color. Le Reve is now in private collection of Steven A. Cohen.

14. Portrait of Adelle Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adelle Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt

Price: $167.8 Million

Date Painted: 1907

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Portrait of Adelle Bloch Bauer is the second painting of Adelle by Gustav Klimt. A critic once said that this painting is more money than Bloch. And it is true that this particular piece of art has prompted Klimt’s career. Though the second painting was realistic but this one is a mixture of naturalism and artistic decoration of the two third of the body. The depiction of the lady is more like a mutilation because the dis-joining of the body and the head. Other part of the dress and chair all are decorated with countless forms. Critics also expressed that the dis-joining represent a part of the psychological depiction of Klimt’s mistress.  

13. Masterpiece by Roy Lichtenstein

Masterpiece pop art

Price: $168.7 Million

Date Painted: 1962

Medium: Pop Art

Masterpiece is the first Pop art painting to become one of the most expensive paintings among this list of 30 most popular paintings in art history. Pop culture and music was on a rise in that time period so Roy Lichtenstein took pop art into a consideration. Before him none of the artist have been brave enough to step forward with this type of painting. Brad seems a very heroic character where two subjects are portrayed side by side on a same position. A majority of people not yet consider this as a painting. Though this was inspired by comic book characters and design.

12. Women III by William de Kooning

Women III by William de Kooning

Price: $170.9 Million

Date Painted: 1953

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Women III is among those absurd expressionist painting by William de Kooning. Before this piece of art was a part of Tehran Museum of Contemporary art. And eventually, it has become one of the most expensive paintings after Iranian revolution. Because this type of art cannot be displayed and against government rule. It depicts women’s nude body in rough brush strokes with nervous moves. According to Kooning this masterpiece represents an aggressive sexuality and terrifying audience. Far from typical American housewives, Kooning wanted to depict much more realistic women.

11. No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

Price: $175 million

Date Painted: 1948

Medium: Oil on fiber

May be No. 5 is one of the most famous abstract painting of all time. Besides this might be the most expensive painting of all time according to its artistic view. Jackson Pollock has always been the center of absurd artwork and most taught artist in art schools. No.5 looks like a bird nest painted in various vibrant colors. In abstract art bird nest and drip painting style is considered as chaos. Eventually it has become a better way of expressing emotion and anger. This painting is a combination of multiple layer of fiber boards and Pollock has painted them in mostly black white, red and yellow overlapping in every layer.

10. Nu Couche by Amadio Modigliani: Most Expensive Painting Among Nude Arts

Nu Couche - the most expensive painting by Amadio Modigliani

Price: $180.1 Million

Year Painted: 1917/18

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Nu Couche is an oil canvas painting by Italian artist Amadio Modigliani and Lui Yiqian bought this nude painting on an auction by Christies New York in 2015. Most importantly, Nu Couche is the most expensive painting by Amadio. Particularly, this painting sparked protest during its first display. eventually, police shut down his only solo exhibition in Paris. Amadio believed that nude is the most essential subject for modern art. Nu Couche is a nude painting with a timeless beauty. Besides, a perfectly shaped body is lying on a crimson couch with a blue cushion.    

9. La Femmes d’Alger (Version O) by Pablo Picasso

La Femmes d’Alger (Version O) by Pablo Picasso. Most expensive painting by Picasso and most popular cubist painting by any artist.

Price: $189.6 Million

Year Painted: 1955

Medium: Oil on Canvas

La Femmes d’Alger is another masterpiece by Pablo Picasso painted in 1955 and most importantly Picasso’s most expensive painting ever sold on an auction. Version O is the final art from the series and collected by an Arabian through Christie’s New York. Critics commented that “Everything comes together in version O.” Similarly, the color composition, presentation of frustration and distorted emotion, form and structure in this piece are wonderfully executed. Right after the auction, Fox news blurred out the breast of this painting which is considered censoring the painting despite its popularity and artistic value.

8. Pendants Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Opjen Coppit by Rembrandt

Pendants Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Opjen Coppit by Rembrandt

Price: $190 Million

Year Painted: 1634

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Pendants Portraits of Marten Soolmans and Opjen Coppit is a pair of painting by Rembrandt which depicts a couple in wedding dress. Rembrandt painted them on their wedding day. Though some says he completed the painting later that day. Despite being a wedding painting, this life size pieces were able to get positive review on exceptional technical ground. At this moment these pair are one of the most expensive paintings in the world and jointly owned by Louvre and Rijksmuseum.

7. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko

No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko - 7th most expensive paintings in the world

Price: $197 Million

Year Painted: 1951

Medium: Oil on Canvas

No.6 might look a very simple painting apparently but this painting became one of the most expensive paintings in 2014. No. 6 is also the most popular modern expressionist art by Mark Rothko with three color inflicted in it. Despite being no objective art work, it expresses a lot about anger and most importantly the time itself. It is painted in rather hazy, uneven color in compare to other modern art. Moreover, critic believes that it has all the element those actually stands for modern art work. A Russian collector bought the painting through a Swiss art dealer.

6. Wasserschlangen II by Gustav Klimt

Wasserschlangen II by Gustav Klim

Price: $197.7 Million

Year Painted: 1904-07

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Gustav is known for his nude and sensuous paintings and loved projecting women as erotic yet beautiful. Wasserschlangen II shows four women lying down with watery enclosure decorated in various forms. The name implies sea serpent which is perfectly depicted in this painting. Among four women, two are nude and two are decorated with jelly fish, starfish and the green color may imply sea weed. All these four women have their head resting in rather odd way and three are red haired while one is brunet. So, clearly depicts Klimt’s obsession for beauty and erotic perspective of women. Being one of the most expensive paintings in the history of art, it represents men’s desire. Now this piece of art is in the collection of Russian billionaires Dimitry Rybolovlev.   

5. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock

Number 17A - Jackson Pollok - The Most expensive painting by Jackson Pollock

Price: $211 Million

Year Painted: 1948

Medium: Oil on fiberboard 

Number 17A is another Jackson Pollok painting to slam the auction house record. Though it is similar to his another expensive painting of yet it made record among the most expensive paintings. Pollok’s paintings are following American expressionism and they are the representative of modern art. This masterpiece has no title and is just numbered, may be because Pollok let titles and analysis to viewers. Some say that his works are not art rather they are the final result of his performance with brush and canvas. Another important fact, Pollock chose fiber board over the conventional canvas. Number 17A is now the fifth highest painting in terms of auction price.

4. Nafea Faa Lpoipo (When Will You Marry) by Paul Gauguin

Nafea Faa Lpoipo (When Will You Marry) by Paul Gauguin - 4th most expensive painting

Price: $222 Million

Year Painted: 1892

Medium: Oil on Canvas

This late 19th century painting has been sold in a staggering amount of money and fourth most valuable painting ever sold in an auction. Paul Gauguin is a post-impressionist French painter moved to Tahiti for his art sake. Nafea Faa Lpoipo or When Will You Marry is the rejuvenation of his artistic displacement. The depiction of the lady with flower in her ear is rather sensual and a signal for male attention for marriage. Gauguin’s primitive artistic sense perfectly picked the characteristic of the Tahiti women. Most importantly, this is the most famous painting of a non-western type. Currently, State of Qatar owns this painting.

3. The Card Players by Paul Cezanne

The Card Players by Paul Cezanne  - third highest expensive painting ever sold on auction

Price: $278+ Million

Year Painted: 1892/93

Medium: Oil on Canvas

The Card Players by Paul Cezanne became one of three most expensive paintings in the world. Perfect Representation of impressionism in this piece of art is impeccable. And color composition is at its best. Most of the critics consider that the price paid for this painting worth every dime of it. Typically, all the paintings from this series presents peasants smoking pipes and playing cards. Moreover, most of them are workers from their family state. Those peasants were strongly serious about card game and never spoke during the play. Cezanne has portrait the timeless characteristics of these peasants which stands out from the crowed of all paintings. Like the fourth expensive painting, this masterpiece is also owned by state of Qatar. 

2. Interchange by William de Kooning – Most Expensive Absurd Painting

Interchange by William de Kooning 
More than 300 million dollars painting. Which makes this painting as a second most expensive paintings in the world.

Price: $317 Million

Year Painted: 1955

Medium: Oil on Canvas

William de Kooning has few pieces of art sold for whooping amount of cash and Interchange is one of them and sold in the second highest amount in the history of art. This is the most expensive painting from the absurdist genre. So, until now this is the second most expensive painting in the world according to auction value. This Dutch-American painter is considered as the most famous absurd painter in the world. Interchange doesn’t have any clear figure yet it may seem like many figures’ changes one after another. This abstract art can be seen from expressionist perspective. Currently, it is in collection of Kenneth C. Griffin.   

1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo de Vinci: Most Expensive Painting Ever Sold in Auction.

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo de Vinci
The most expensive painting on earth according to auction value

Price: $460.3 Million

Year Painted: C. 1500

Medium: Oil on walnut

Dramatically one painting has become the most expensive painting according to auction value in the history of art. It is none other than Leonardo de Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. In 2017, this painting has come to light from nowhere and became the most valued art work that ever sold in an auction before. Still, much controversy has been running all over the world. In the beginning, the buyer was unknown and some months later it turns out to be an Arabian prince called Badr Bin Abdullah Al Saud. Salvetor Mundi means savior of the world and it refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is in a renaissance outfit holding a crystal orb in his left hand and making the sign of the cross with another. There is enough dispute regarding the authenticity of the painting yet majority has confirmed that it is original.  

The Most Expensive Painting In the World: Monalisa by Leonardo de Vinci

Monalisa by Leonardo de Vinc - Most valuable painting in the world

Estimated Price: $700+ Million

Year Painted: 1503-05

Medium: Oil on Polar Panel

Monalisa by Leonardo de Vinci is the most celebrated painting in the world and considered to be the touch stone of the all paintings for its timeless depiction. It is most know for its mystery lady and a neutral impression on the face. It is heard that if someone is sad and look at this painting, Monalisa seems sad. On the other hand, if someone is smiling and looking at it, Monalisa seems to be smiling. So due to this timeless and universal depiction made her to stand out from all the other painting in the world. Another thought is given regarding its male and female interpretation. Currently it is being displayed in Louvre Museum, Paris. Despite being auctioned, Vinci’s masterpiece has the highest insurance value and which makes it the most expensive painting in the world.