February – Fifth annual exhibition of Les XX, at the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels. Artists invited to show in addition to members of the group include Henri-Edmond Cross, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Odilon Redon, Paul Signac, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and James McNeill Whistler
February 21 – Vincent van Gogh moves to Arles where he will be very productive as a painter
March – Van Gogh begins his Langlois Bridge at Arles series
March 22 – Fourth exhibition by the Société des Artistes Indépendants opens in Paris; it includes three paintings by van Gogh
June – Van Gogh visits Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
The Monument à Léon Gambetta, by Jean-Paul Aubé, is inaugurated at the Louvre
Critic Emile Hennequin drowns at Samois-sur-Seine before his protégé Odilon Redon
August – Van Gogh begins his Décoration for the Yellow House at Arles including the Arles Sunflowers series of paintings
August 11 – James McNeill Whistler marries fellow-artist Beatrice ("Trixie") Godwin (née Beatrix Birnie Philip), widow of architect E. W. Godwin, and they spend a working honeymoon in France
October 23 – Paul Gauguin joins van Gogh in Arles, bringing Émile Bernard's painting Le Pardon de Pont-Aven
December 23 – Having quarrelled with Gaugin, van Gogh cuts off the lower part of his own left ear in a brothel and is removed to the local hospital
Paul Ranson, Paul Sérusier and Maurice Denis become fellow students at the Académie Julian and form Les Nabis
The weekly illustrated newspaper The Graphic commissions and exhibits in London 21 paintings of Shakespeare's heroines
William De Morgan moves his London art pottery from Merton Abbey to Fulham
Publication in English of Irish-born writer George Moore's autobiographical novel Confessions of a Young Man (London) describing bohemian life in 1870s Paris among the Impressionist painters
International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry, in Glasgow, Scotland
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema – The Roses of Heliogabalus
Reinhold Begas – Centaur and Nymph (bronze)
Le Pardon de Pont-Aven ("Breton Women in the Meadow")
Brothel Scene, for Vincent (watercolor)
Self-portrait with portrait of Paul Gauguin
The Yellow Tree
Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington (Hyde Park Corner, London)
Queen Victoria Statue (College Green, Bristol)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau – The First Mourning
Edward Burne-Jones – The Nativity
The Plain of Gennevilliers
Sailing boats at Argenteuil
Émile Friant - La Toussaint
Philip Hermogenes Calderon – Juliet
William Merritt Chase
The Blue Kimono
Portrait of a Lady in Pink
Charles Conder – A holiday at Mentone
David Edward Cronin – Fugitive Slaves in the Dismal Swamp, Virginia
Édouard Detaille – Le Rêve
James Ensor – The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu)
The Painter of Sunflowers (December)
Self-Portrait with Portrait of Émile Bernard (Les misérables)
Vision After the Sermon
Alfred Gilbert – Statue of Queen Victoria (Winchester)
Peder Severin Krøyer – Hip, Hip, Hurrah!
William Logsdail – St Martin-in-the-Fields
Cesare Maccari – Cicero Denounces Catiline (fresco in Palazzo Madama, Rome)
Albert Joseph Moore – A River Side
Philip Richard Morris – Audrey
Giovanni Muzzioli – The Funeral of Britannicus
Saint Nicholas of Myra saves three innocents from death
They Did Not Expect Him
Paul Sérusier – Le Talisman
Georges-Pierre Seurat – completion of Les Poseuses ("The Models") (Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – At the Circus Fernando, Equestrienne
Henry Scott Tuke – The Bathers
Giovanni Turini – Giuseppe Garibaldi (bronze, Washington Square Park, New York City)
John Henry Twachtman – Landscape, Branchville
J. W. Waterhouse – The Lady of Shalott
Vincent van Gogh
Boats at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer (June)
Sunset at Montmajour (August)
Cafe Terrace at Night (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo) (September)
The Night Café (September)
The Yellow House (September)
Bedroom in Arles (first version; October)
The Red Vineyard (November)
The Sower (Sower with the Setting Sun) (June)
Tarascon Diligence (October 12)
Vincent's Chair and Gaugin's Armchair (November)
January 1 – Augustus Dunbier, American painter (died 1977).
January 17 – Mohamed Nagy, Egyptian painter (died 1956).
February 22 – Horace Pippin, self-taught African-American painter (died 1946).
March 14 – Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Canadian painter (died 1970).
March 19 – Josef Albers, German artist, mathematician and educator (died 1976).
April 6 – Hans Richter, German painter, graphic artist, avant-gardist, film-experimenter and producer (died 1976).
June 12 – Tom Purvis, English poster artist (died 1959).
July 10 – Giorgio de Chirico, Greek-Italian painter (died 1978).
August 13 – Gleb W. Derujinsky, Russian-American sculptor (died 1975).
August 14 – Sydney Carline, English painter, war artist (died 1929).
August 30 – Siri Derkert, Swedish artist, sculptor and political campaigner (died 1973).
November 7 – Mariano Andreu, Spanish painter, enamelling master, sculptor and stage designer (died 1976).
November 11 – Johannes Itten, Swiss colour theorist, painter and designer (died 1967).
Stanley Royle, English post-impressionist landscape painter (died 1961).
January 13 – John William Inchbold, pre-Raphaelite painter (born 1830)
January 29 – Edward Lear, painter, illustrator and humorous writer (born 1812)
February 5 – Anton Mauve, painter (born 1838)
March 15 – Léonard Morel-Ladeuil, goldsmith and sculptor (born 1820)
May 30 – Louis Buvelot, Swiss-Australian painter (born 1814)
June 18 – Luigi Mussini, painter (born 1813)
July 31 – Frank Holl, painter (born 1845)
August 23 – Philip Henry Gosse, naturalist and illustrator (born 1810)
August 30 – George O'Brien, engineer and painter (born 1821)
September 28 – Thomas Gambier Parry, artist and art collector (born 1816)
October – Frank O'Meara, Irish painter (born 1853)
November 20 – Nathaniel Currier, illustrator (born 1813)
Alexander Joseph Daiwaille, Dutch portrait painter (born 1818)
Nam Gye-u, Korean painter and government official (born 1811)
1888 in art Wikipedia