Wouldn’t life be grand if we could just travel the world looking at great art? For the jet-setter or the dreamer in you, here’s a list of some stunning masterpieces located around the globe.
The Last Supper (1495–97) by Leonardo da Vinci | Location: Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy
A unique, perhaps lonely, genius, Leonardo was the universal Renaissance man—scientist, inventor, philosopher, writer, designer, sculptor, architect, and painter. He had such a fertile mind that he rarely completed anything, and there are relatively few paintings by him.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for Milan: One of the fashion Meccas in the world, no trip to Milan would be complete without a little bit of shopping. Visit Via Manzoni, a broad boulevard that became the epicenter of Milanese fashion when Giorgio Armani opened his superstore here in 2000.
Starry Night (1889) by Vincent Van Gogh | Location: Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY
Van Gogh took up painting at the age of 27 and wanted his art to be a consolation for the stresses and strains of modern life. At the time he was planning Starry Night, Van Gogh was reading a collection of poems by the American writer Walt Whitman, one of which uses similar imagery to this work.
Van Gogh’s paintings can be seen all over the world. His famed Sunflowers is on view at the National Gallery in London.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for New York: Just a few blocks away from MoMA is one of the best burgers in the city. Enter the posh Le Parker Meridien hotel and you’d never expect to find hole-in-the-wall Burger Joint, but the cheeseburger will really hit the spot after a long day of taking in art.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884–86) by Georges Seurat | Location: Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL
The originator of Pointillism and Divisionism, Seurat’s work can seem austere and rigid because he painted according to worked-out theories, not what he saw or felt. He labored extensively over A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, reworking the original as well as numerous preliminary drawings and oil sketches.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for Chicago: Switch gears after all that art and focus on science. Chicago’s Adler Planetarium has one of the finest astronomical collections in the world, with artifacts dating as far back as 12th-century Persia.
Olympia (1863) by Édouard Manet | Location: Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France
Olympia was first shown at the official Paris Salon in 1865. It caused a storm of outraged protest as its main subject was a prostitute. Manet considered it to be his greatest work, and he never sold it.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for Paris: If you’re feeling fancy after a morning at the museum, take a stroll through the Jardin du Palais Royal and stop for lunch at the double Michelin-starred Le Gran Véfour.
The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch | Location: National Gallery in Oslo, Norway
One of the world’s most recognizable paintings, The Scream was part of Munch’s The Frieze of Life, “a poem about life, love, and death.” The project occupied him for much of his life: an attempt to find pictorial means to represent inner turmoil and angst.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for Oslo: Relax down on the harbor front, watching the ferries shuttling in and out and walking along the main boardwalk adjoining the Aker Brygge, a sprawling retail and leisure complex that was formerly the city’s main shipyard.
Cornaro Chapel (1645–52) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini | Location: Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, Italy
Bernini was a devoted Roman Catholic for whom art was the emotional inspiration and glorification of godliness and purity. The Cornaro Chapel is the centerpiece of the lavishly decorated but intimate and candlelit Baroque church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and contains one of Bernini’s most ambitious works, created to resemble a miniature theater.
DK Eyewitness Travel tip for Rome: No trip to Rome would be complete without a stop at the Trevi Fountain. Throw a coin into the fountain, and legend has it you will return to Rome again one day.
If your budget doesn’t allow for a globe-traipsing, museum-hopping expedition, you can find a comprehensive guide to Western art and artists from every era from early art to the modern day in ART: A Visual History.