Get us in your inbox


The 100 best paintings in New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Discover which of the 100 best paintings in New York can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Written by
Time Out New York contributors

Bashi-Bazouk (1868–69), Jean-Léon Gérôme

Rank: 94

In the second half of the 19th century, Gérôme was a holdout from the academic style amid the emergence of the Impressionist avant-garde. He is best known for his historic and Orientalist subjects, like this lushly rendered painting of an unpaid Ottoman mercenary or “bashi-bazouk,” which translates to “crazy head.”—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: Trujillo; Juan

The Toilers of the Sea (1880–1885), Albert Pinkham Ryder

Rank: 93

With his use of tonalism to evoke emotion in his otherworldly land and seascapes, Ryder was an idiosyncratic American artist who foreshadowed modernist ideas. In this piece, the ochre glow of the full moon casts its dramatic light across a stormy sea and the simplistic suggestion of a boat.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York; George A. Hearn Fund; 1915


The Cathedrals of Wall Street (1939), Florine Stettheimer

Rank: 90

This painting celebrates the New York World’s Fair and the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration. At the start of World War II, the U.S. economy experienced a bump, a reason behind Stettheimer’s over-the-top patriotism. Inserting herself into the party, politicians and financiers, text and image, artist and subject cavort in a fantastical arrangement.—Jennifer Coates

Photograph: Courtesy © Metropolitan Museum of Art

Woman with a Parrot (1866), Gustav Courbet

Rank: 86

Courbet’s painting of a reclining woman caused a scandal when it debuted at the Salon of 1866, with critics decrying the woman’s pose and wild hair. But Courbet’s realistic treatment of the subject won the approval of the Academy, and his work also inspired innovators of later movements, including Manet and Cézanne.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Gift of Erwin Davis


Juan de Pareja (1650), Velzquez

Rank: 84

Velzquez’s portrait of his slave—that’s right, he owned the guy—is striking today, not only because it’s a rare Old Master depiction of a person of color, but also because of what it suggests about their relationship. De Pareja was of Moorish descent; a trained painter, he was Velzquez’s assistant. The steady gaze with which he holds the viewer, and his general comportment-—which could almost be called noble—indicates a partnership of equals, though his old, patched clothing says otherwise. He eventually set De Pareja free, though the latter would remain with his former master until the artist’s death. That choice only underscores the ambiguity surrounding this painting.—Howard Halle 

Photograph: Courtesy Purchase; Fletcher and Rogers Funds; and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967); by exchange; supplemented by gifts from friends of the Museum; 1971

Pandora (1914), Odilon Redon

Rank: 82

For his take on Pandora, Symbolist painter Redon chose to portray the mythical woman on the verge of opening her container of evils, a frozen moment of idyll before its horrors are released—depicted here as a beautiful garden scene.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Alexander M. Bing


Venus and Adonis (1553–1554), Titian

Rank: 81

This scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis is one revisited numerous times by the Italian Renaissance painter known for his loose brushwork and vibrant colorism. Part of his series of “poesies” (poetry paintings), here he depicts Venus trying to hold back her beloved Adonis, modeling her bare back on a Roman relief sculpture.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Jules Bache Collection

Oedipus and the Sphinx (1864), Gustave Moreau

Rank: 79

Moreau was the breakout star of the Salon of 1864 with his interpretation of Oedipus meeting the Sphinx on the road to Delphi. The artist rejected the naturalistic style prevalent in the day, looking instead to earlier works by artists like Ingres and adding elements of what would become known as Symbolism.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Bequest of William H. Herriman


The Judgment of Paris (1528), Lucas Cranach the Elder

Rank: 76

Cranach the Elder was an enthusiastic supporter of Martin Luther, but Protestant rectitude did not preclude him from painting female nudes. In fact, he limned nine versions of The Judgment of Paris. The story relates history’s first beauty pageant, with a golden apple figuring as the prize contested by Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Asked to be judge, Zeus, knowing a no-win situation when he saw one, dumps the job on Paris, Prince of Troy. In Cranach’s rendering, a crystal globe substitutes for the golden apple, while a tree on the left offers a nice compositional counterpoint to the three goddesses clustered on the right. They look so much alike, one can surmise that they’re the same model—suggesting that Cranach’s naked aim is an examination of female anatomy, front, rear and side.—Howard Halle

Photograph: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Rogers Fund

Portrait of the Boy Eutyches (100–150)

Rank: 75

This painting of a young Egyptian lad is what is known as a Faiyum portrait, named for an oasis south of modern Cairo. Created using an encaustic technique of mixing pigments with beeswax that produces radiant colors akin to oil paint, these portraits of the dead were placed over the faces of mummies.—Heather Corcoran

Photograph: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New York; Gift of Edward S. Harkness; 1918

Barnebys Ecomm Widget

    You may also like
    You may also like