The art of draftsmanship is no easy medium to master. At some point, we have all tried our hand at drawing, which is one of the first steps in the discovery of our personal artistic voice. In this article, we will review the top 10 most famous drawings artists in art history that truly showcase the lengths and technical talents that some of our favorite artists have gone to in order to unpack the art of draftsmanship. Read on for more about how the medium of drawing has been teased and tested!
Table of Contents
- 1 Drawing and Draftsmanship
- 2 The Top 10 Most Popular Drawing Artists
- 2.1 Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- 2.2 Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528)
- 2.3 Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564)
- 2.4 Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)
- 2.5 Rembrandt (1606 – 1669)
- 2.6 Angelica Kauffmann (1741 – 1807)
- 2.7 Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749 – 1803)
- 2.8 Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 – 1842)
- 2.9 Evelyn de Morgan (1855 – 1919)
- 2.10 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Drawing and Draftsmanship
The art of draftsmanship involves the creation of diagrams and images for artistic purposes and is also used in other disciplines, including architecture, construction, and design. Draftspeople help form the foundations of some of the world’s most loved structures and as such, the medium of drawing in design and drawing in art has become foundational to the progression of art itself. Draftspeople in the fine arts sector are also referred to as artists who technically surpass the mastery of the mediums of drawing and design in their own artworks.
Study of female arms and hands for The Cadence of Autumn and Night and Dawn (1905) by Evelyn De Morgan; Evelyn De Morgan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
So, what is the difference between a draftsperson and an artist whose specialty is in drawing? Draftspeople often specialize in more technical drawings, which does not mean that drawing as a medium practiced in the fine arts sphere is not technical, rather, it means that the intention for creating that artwork or technical drawing is intended for technical use, as seen in architecture or illustrations for literature. Artists who specialize in drawings can also be called draftspeople since technically-executed images can also be found in art and sometimes form the basis of intricate paintings.
The intention behind an artwork and the use of the medium is what makes that artwork either a technical drawing or a technically-executed artwork.
Drawing, as a medium seen through the lens of the fine arts, can present itself as two-dimensional markings on a flat surface that do not have to form a coherent image or a fully-technical image of a structure or person. Throughout art history, many famous drawing artists have elevated the field of drawing by incorporating various perspective drawing techniques that resulted in fascinating illusions, three-dimensional objects, and representations of abstract forms. Below, you will find a list of the top 10 most famous drawing artists in art history that have masterfully exercised their hand at perfecting the medium.
The Top 10 Most Popular Drawing Artists
You may already be familiar with some of the most famous drawing artists mentioned below! Here, we have provided a list of the top 10 most famous drawing artists from the 15th to the 19th centuries that have created some of the most famous drawings known to date!
African Fisherman (1602) by Peter Paul Rubens; Peter Paul Rubens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
|Artist Name||Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci|
|Date of Birth||15 April 1452|
|Date of Death||2 May 1519|
|Movements, themes, styles||Italian High Renaissance, design, figurative, portraiture, religious art, landscape art, human anatomy|
|Mediums||Drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture|
|Most Famous Drawings||● The Vitruvian Man (c. 1485)|
● The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (c. 1499 – 1508)
● La Scapigliata (1508)
● Embryo in the Womb studies(1510 – 1512)
● Self-Portrait (1512)
With ease, the first artist who is celebrated as an iconic master drawing artist is the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci, whose famous drawing of The Vitruvian Man is an image that has even infiltrated popular culture. Da Vinci’s drawings were often executed in charcoal, graphite, and multi-colored chalk with a meticulous eye for detail. Da Vinci was not only invested in maintaining accuracy in his representations of human anatomy in art and painting but he was also invested in science and architecture.
Many of his 16th-century drawings are housed in the British Royal Collection and truly demonstrate the technical genius of Da Vinci’s mind.
Studies of Embryos (1513) by Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528)
|Artist Name||Albrecht Dürer (the Younger)|
|Date of Birth||21 May 1471|
|Date of Death||6 April 1528|
|Movement(s)||Northern Renaissance, German Renaissance, Gothic art|
|Medium(s)||Drawing, painting, etching, woodcut printing, engraving|
|Most Famous Artwork||● The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498)|
● Adam and Eve (1504)
● Praying Hands (1508)
● Dürer’s Rhinoceros (1515)
Albrecht Dürer was one of the best and most famous drawing artists of the 15th and early 16th centuries who used his technical expertise in drawing and shading to elevate the medium of printmaking. Many of the German artist’s artwork dealt with biblical subjects and featured technically astute illustrations of animals. One of his most well-recognized drawings is a 500-year-old drawing called Praying Hands, which was executed in pen and ink and features the image of hands raised together in prayer. Dürer is praised for his remarkable attention to detail on the skin through micro cross-hatching techniques.
St. Jerome in His Study (1514) by Albrecht Dürer; Albrecht Dürer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564)
|Artist Name||Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni|
|Date of Birth||6 March 1475|
|Date of Death||18 February 1564|
|Movements, themes, styles||Renaissance, Italian High Renaissance|
|Mediums||Drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, poetry|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Three Draped Figures with Clasped Hands (1496 – 1503)|
● The Dream of Human Life (c. 1500)
● Four Studies of a Left Leg (1515 – 1520)
● Pietà (c. 1546)
● Section through the Dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica with Alternative Designs for the Lantern; Figure Sketches (1547 – 1561)
Michelangelo was not only one of history’s most loved sculptors and painters, but he was also a master drawing artist. The Dream of Human Life (c. 1500) is one of Michelangelo’s surviving drawings that illustrate the delicacy with which Michelangelo handled the depiction of the human figure. Before commencing his best masterpieces, Michelangelo would create many sketches of the human body to perfect his style and composition.
Michelangelo’s drawings offer much insight into the mind of one of the greatest artists of the 15th century and showcase his deep understanding of human physiology and anatomy.
The Punishment of Tityus (1532) by Michelangelo; Michelangelo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)
|Artist Name||Sir Peter Paul Rubens|
|Date of Birth||28 June 1577|
|Date of Death||30 May 1640|
|Movements, themes, styles||Flemish Baroque, classical, Christian themes, history painting, mythology, portraiture, hunting scenes|
|Mediums||Drawing, painting, tapestry design, print design|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Anatomical Studies: a left forearm in two positions and a right forearm (c. 1600 – 1605)|
● Young Woman with Folded Hands (c. 1629 – 1630)
● The Garden of Love (1633 – 1635)
● The Ploughman and Death (n.d.)
Sir Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most popular drawing artists whose mastery over facial expression and the depiction of women is one to be admired. Like many great master’s in art history, Rubens would create at least several sketches of his compositions before commencing his paintings. The Flemish draftsman was best known for his vivid baroque-styled paintings and detailed compositions. Rubens’ drawing style shows vast complexity in thinking around the illustration of movement on the human body and a comprehensive understanding of various line markings to shade his images. A study of human anatomy by Rubens executed between 1600 and 1605 showcases the variety in his line work through both clockwise and anticlockwise line drawing techniques that not only aid in providing subtle and dramatic shading, but also help emphasize certain focal points of the human body. These include protruding veins on a human hand and the visual strain of muscle tissue seen through the skin. Rubens’ sense of human anatomy was indeed astonishing.
Anatomical study (1607) by Peter Paul Rubens; Peter Paul Rubens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Rembrandt (1606 – 1669)
|Artist Name||Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn|
|Date of Birth||15 July 1606|
|Date of Death||4 October 1669|
|Movements, themes, styles||Dutch Golden Age, portraiture, Baroque painting|
|Mediums||Drawing, printmaking, painting|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Old Man Reading a Book (1628)|
● Old Man with Outspread Arms (c. 1628 – 1629)
● Self-portrait with Open Mouth (c. 1628 – 1629)
● Seated Old Man (1630)
● Lying Naked Woman (1632)
Rembrandt was one of the most popular drawing artists of the 17th century who was primarily associated with being a master painter. Rembrandt prepared for many of his great paintings and etchings by making preparatory drawings, many of which appear unfinished, yet are masterworks in themselves, displaying unique and detailed qualities in his use of line to render fine details. Rembrandt’s work displays variety in his application of charcoal and chalk.
His baroque style of drawing also reflects in his etchings and prints, many of which demonstrate a commitment to the narrative.
Self-Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume (1638) by Rembrandt; Rembrandt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Angelica Kauffmann (1741 – 1807)
|Artist Name||Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann|
|Date of Birth||30 October 1741|
|Date of Death||5 November 1807|
|Movements, themes, styles||Neoclassicism, history painting, decorative arts, landscapes, portraiture|
|Mediums||Drawing, painting, printmaking|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Cow (1762 – 1807)|
● Woman resting her head on a book (1770)
● Sappho composing an ode to Venus (1778)
● Portrait of Emma Hamilton (1791)
Angelica Kauffmann was a Swiss-Austrian Neoclassicist artist whose primary medium was painting and printmaking. Kauffmann was one of two female founding artists of the Royal Academy and spent around 15 years of her career contributing to the 18th-century English art scene. Kauffmann started off her drawing practice from a young age under the guidance of her father, who was a well-known painter. She was immediately recognized as a child prodigy and had since established herself as a history and portraiture artist.
Angelica Kauffmann, Aemilius Paullus and his family (1783) by Angelica Kauffmann; Angelica Kauffmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
One of Kauffmann’s most famous drawings is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and showcases her hand at portraiture with a Portrait of Emma Hamilton (1791). The portrait was created in light of the sitter’s rise to fame after her marriage to the British envoy to Naples, Sir William Hamilton. Emma’s beauty was admired by many but she was also a mimetic performance artist in her own right, having developed her own series of “attitudes”, which were performances of classical figures for Hamilton’s guests. At the time, she was Hamilton’s mistress-turned-wife, which was a rare occasion at the time.
Adélaïde Labille-Guiard (1749 – 1803)
|Artist Name||Adélaïde Labille-Guiard des Vertus|
|Date of Birth||11 April 1749|
|Date of Death||24 April 1803|
|Movements, themes, styles||Neoclassicism, Rococo|
|Mediums||Drawing, painting, miniatures|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Marie Gabrielle Capet and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (c. 1785)|
● View of the Salon of 1785 (1785)
● Study of a Seated Woman Seen from Behind (1789)
Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was a famous French Neoclassicism artist who operated during the 18th century, creating some of the most exquisite pastel drawings one can ever hope to find in her era. Labille-Guiard strongly promoted the equality of women in art and was among the first few women to become a member of the Royal Academy. The famous miniaturist painter was also the first woman to receive acceptance from the Louvre Museum to establish a studio for her students in the museum. Labille-Guiard was one of the most talented pastel drawing artists of her time, having honed her skills under the guidance of Quentin de la Tour, who was a renowned pastel artist.
Study of a Seated Woman Seen from Behind (1789) is one of Labille-Guiard’s masterful creations that shows off her stunning handling of chalk on paper, such that it almost resembles a painting.
Marie Gabrielle Capet and Marie Marguerite Carreaux de Rosemond (c. 1785) by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard; Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755 – 1842)
|Artist Name||Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (Madame Le Brun)|
|Date of Birth||16 April 1755|
|Date of Death||30 March 1842|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Psyché et l’Amour (1780)|
● Marie Antoinette in a Park (1780 – 1781)
● Paysage montagneux (n. d.)
● Study of a nude, half-length, her right arm raised (n. d.)
● Portrait of Princess Golitzyna, née Grouzinskaya (n. d.)
Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was one of the most famous Neoclassical painters of the 18th century who was also recognized for her status as the court painter of the French queen, Marie Antoinette. Le Brun, also referred to as Madame Le Brun, was an expert portraitist and landscape drawing artist whose works were admired for her meticulous approach to capturing the essence of her subjects while evoking an ethereal luminosity. In her memoir, Souvenirs (1835 – 1837), Madame Le Brun stated that painting and living were one and the same thing for her, thus reiterating her passion for the arts and the way she lived her life. The artist experienced the tragic death of her father at the age of 12, who first introduced her to painting. After his passing, she sought art education from artists such as Joseph Vernet and Gabriel Briard, and by her teenage years, she was already receiving commissions. Madame Le Brun quickly climbed up the ranks in her profession and created portraits for many famous monarchs, including Catherine the Great in Russia. Her drawings show an ease of hand with her medium and comfort with pastel and chalk that not many artists display in portrait artworks.
Study of a nude, half-length, her right arm raised (n.d) by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun; Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Evelyn de Morgan (1855 – 1919)
|Artist Name||Evelyn De Morgan (also known as Mary Evelyn Pickering)|
|Date of Birth||30 August 1855|
|Date of Death||2 May 1919|
|Movement(s)||Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Symbolism, Aestheticism, Spiritualism, Feminism|
|Most Famous Drawings||● Study of Arms for “The Cadence of Autumn” (1905)|
● Compositional drawing for ‘Earthbound’ (n.d.)
● Compositional study for ‘S.O.S.’, female figure (n.d.)
● Study for ‘The Hour Glass’ (n. d.)
Evelyn de Morgan was a figural drawing master and Symbolist painter who was closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement. Morgan’s subject matter revolved around allegorical, classical, and mythological themes that also intertwined with spirituality and many metaphors that dealt with her issues of the 19th century as well as the female body. Morgan also explored issues outside of her immediate domain such as the Second Boer War that took place between 1899 and 1902, waged between the British Empire and the Boer Republics in South Africa. Morgan excelled at the Slade School of Art where her mastery of figure drawings reached new heights. Her compositional studies became mini masterpieces for larger artwork and demonstrated her obsession with obtaining accuracy not only in the depiction of the human form but of clothed figures as well.
A few of her early drawings were also created on dark gray wove paper, which was an approach that not many artists used at the time.
Study of female head for The Cadence of Autumn (1905) by Evelyn de Morgan; Evelyn De Morgan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864 – 1901)
|Artist Name||Comte Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa|
|Date of Birth||24 November 1864|
|Date of Death||9 September 1901|
|Movement(s)||Art Nouveau, Post-Impressionism|
|Medium(s)||Drawing, painting, printmaking, illustration, draftsmanship, caricature illustrations|
|Most Famous Artwork||● Horses (1878 – 1879)|
● Cecy Loftus (1895)
● Miss May Belfort with her Hair Down (1895)
● Promenoir (c. 1899)
● The Jockey (Le jockey) (1899)
Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec was one of the most dynamic French Art Nouveau drawing artists of the 19th century whose drawings are often seen in stunning color lithographs and striking posters. Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired by the bohemian Parisian nightlife of his time, which reflects in his drawing style and layering of color in his prints through Japanese Edo-period handling of his medium and the marriage of both gentle and strong lines in his crayon, ink, and pastel works on paper. At the Circus: Bareback (1899) is a popular Toulouse-Lautrec drawing that juxtaposes the stereotyped softness of the woman riding a horse with the very rugged and strong character of the horse as an animal of endurance.
Caudieux, café-concert actor (1893) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
We hope that you have enjoyed reviewing these drawing masters who provide insight into the ways that one can expand and test the boundaries of design and drawing through different mediums. Whether it is pen and ink or pastel and chalk, drawing can be accomplished in a variety of ways to cater to the aesthetic that you wish to present. These famous drawing artists from art history can be admired for their dedication and commitment to mastering the medium, which many artists tend to move forward from after encountering a momentary block. If there is one lesson that you can learn from the processes of these master artists, it is that practice makes perfect!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Sketch Artist?
A sketch artist is an artist who attempts to recreate the likeness of an individual or subject using mediums such as charcoal, graphite, and pastels. Some of the most popular sketch artists include master artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, and Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Who Is the Most Popular Drawing Artist?
The most popular drawing artist is recognized as the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci, who specialized in portraiture, human anatomy, and complex compositions. Many of his drawings are found in the British Royal Collection and showcase his diversity in the medium of drawing through diagrams, semi-finished studies of human anatomy, physiology, and preparatory sketches.
What Subjects Did Drawing Masters Use in Their Drawings?
Drawing masters from the 16th century onwards incorporated a variety of popular subjects when drawing, including landscapes, portraits of people around them, self-portraits, mythological scenes, and religious subject matter. Other subjects included scenes from classical antiquity and studies of the human form.
Isabella studied at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature & Language and Psychology. Throughout her undergraduate years, she took Art History as an additional subject and absolutely loved it. Building on from her art history knowledge that began in high school, art has always been a particular area of fascination for her. From learning about artworks previously unknown to her, or sharpening her existing understanding of specific works, the ability to continue learning within this interesting sphere excites her greatly.
Her focal points of interest in art history encompass profiling specific artists and art movements, as it is these areas where she is able to really dig deep into the rich narrative of the art world. Additionally, she particularly enjoys exploring the different artistic styles of the 20th century, as well as the important impact that female artists have had on the development of art history.
Cite this Article
Isabella, Meyer, “Famous Drawing Artists – Examples of Drawing Masters.” Art in Context. June 12, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/famous-drawing-artists/
Meyer, I. (2023, 12 June). Famous Drawing Artists – Examples of Drawing Masters. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/famous-drawing-artists/