Famous Painters

Famous Painters – 32 Master Painters in Art History

History is full of famous painters who have left behind impactful legacies that cannot be replaced. From the master painters of the Proto-Renaissance to the influential artists of the modern era, below, we will explore some of the best painters in art history. These famous artists have all contributed to significant masterpieces in each art movement and style, which provide valuable insight into the development of painting across the world. Below, we will dive into a selection of the most famous painters from around the world. Keep reading for more about these prolific trendsetters!  



Exploring the Most Famous Painters of All Time

There are hundreds of famous artists from across the globe whose contributions to art cannot be understated. The famous works of these influential figures continue to inspire many artists who admire their unique styles and adopt them into their creative journeys. From portrait painters to landscape painters, we will introduce you to a selection of the best master painters of all time! 


Giotto Di Bondone (1267 – 1337)

Artist Name Giotto di Bondone
Date of Birthc. 1267
Date of Death8 January 1337
Nationality Italian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesProto-Renaissance, Italian Renaissance, Gothic art, and religious painting

Giotto di Bondone was born near Florence in 1267 and worked as an architect and painter during the Proto-Renaissance period of art. Italian banker Giovanni Villani once described Giotto as one of the master painters of his generation, praising Giotto’s naturalistic representation of figures. Giotto was best-known for being one of the most influential artists who rejected the dominant Byzantine style of the time and pioneered a new era of painting through early Realism. 

Early Master Painters Half-length portrait of Giotto, Italian painter and architect, engraved on a copper plate by Nicolas de Larmessin; from the book Académie Des Sciences Et Des Arts by Isaac Bullart, 1682; Nicolas de Larmessin and Esme de Boulonois, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Giotto was recognized as the student of the famous Italian master Cimabue, who heavily influenced the mosaic style of the Byzantine period. While not much is known about Giotto’s personal life, it is recognized that he was selected by the Commune of Florence to construct the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral in 1334. 

The ornamentation of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel in Padua, was completed around 1305, and is considered to be Giotto’s magnum opus. 

Art by Master Painters Lamentation (1396) by Giotto; Giotto, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The life of the Virgin Mary and Christ were portrayed in the chapel’s fresco cycle and remains a principle work of the Early Renaissance period. Among Giotto’s most famous paintings include Kiss of Judas (1306) and Lamentation (1396). 


Jan van Eyck (1390 – 1441)

Artist Name Jan van Eyck 
Date of Birthc. 1390
Date of Death9 July 1441
Nationality Belgian 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesFlemish Renaissance, Early Netherlandish painting, Northern Renaissance, Dutch Renaissance, portraiture, and religious painting

Jan van Eyck was born in Maaseik in 1390 and was most active as a painter in the city of Bruges. His innovations within the art world led to him becoming one of the earliest influential artists of Early Netherlandish and Northern Renaissance art periods. Van Eyck began working in The Hague in 1422 and  undertook multiple apprentices in the same year. 

Famous Portrait Artist Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban (1433, a supposed self-portrait by Jan van Eyck; Jan van Eyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Van Eyck was later appointed as a court painter in Holland under John III, the Pitiless. Throughout the first quarter of the 15th century, many artists alongside Van Eyck focused on perfecting their technical skills in oil painting on panels. 

The famous Netherlandish painter usually signed his name in Greek characters and was credited with the invention or popularization of oil paint.

Most Famous Portrait Artists of All Time The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan van Eyck; Jan van Eyck, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

What made Van Eyck stand out was his approach to oil painting, such that his paintings were incredibly luminous and demonstrated his dedication to perfecting his glazes and photo-realistic approach to color. Van Eyck passed away in 1425 with around 20 paintings attributed to him between 1432 and 1439. A few exceptional paintings by Van Eyck include the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) and The Arnolfini Portrait (1434). 


Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)

Artist Name Sandro Botticelli
Date of Birthc. 1445
Date of Death17 May 1510
Nationality Italian 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesEarly Renaissance, religious painting

Sandro Botticelli, a renowned Italian painter of the Early Renaissance, was born in Florence around 1445. He gained recognition for his exceptional artistic skills and became one of the leading artists of his time.

Sandro Botticelli

One of Botticelli’s most famous paintings is “The Birth of Venus,” completed around 1484-1486. This masterpiece depicts the goddess Venus emerging from the sea and has become an enduring symbol of beauty and love. The painting’s ethereal quality and delicate brushwork showcase Botticelli’s artistic finesse.

Another notable work is “Primavera,” created around the same time as “The Birth of Venus.” This allegorical painting captures the essence of spring and features a group of mythological figures set in a lush garden. Botticelli’s ability to convey a sense of poetic grace in his paintings made him a sought-after artist among the Florentine elite.


Hieronymus Bosch

Artist Name Hieronymus Bosch
Date of Birthc. 1450
Date of Death9 August 1516
Nationality Dutch
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesItalian Renaissance, High Renaissance, religious painting, science, engineering, and human anatomy

Hieronymus Bosch, a renowned Dutch painter of the late Middle Ages, was born around 1450 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands. He is celebrated for his imaginative and fantastical artworks, often depicting bizarre and surreal scenes.

Hieronymus Bosch Biography

One of Bosch’s most famous paintings is “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” completed around 1490-1510. This triptych masterpiece presents a mesmerizing panorama of human desires and indulgences. The left panel portrays the creation of Adam and Eve, the center panel shows a fantastical and hedonistic world, and the right panel illustrates the torment of Hell. This iconic work has puzzled and captiva

Hieronymus Bosch’s artistic legacy endured long after his death in 1516. His influence on art and culture extended beyond his lifetime, inspiring numerous artists and writers over the centuries. His visionary works continue to be celebrated for their complexity, symbolism, and profound insights into the human psyche. Bosch’s contributions to art have secured his place as one of the most intriguing


Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)

Artist Name Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci
Date of Birth14 April 1452
Date of Death2 May 1519
Nationality Italian 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesEarly Netherlandish, Renaissance

Leonardo da Vinci was not only one of the greatest master painters of all time, but also an extremely influential polymath, who was involved in many endeavors across science, engineering, architecture, and art. Despite receiving more recognition for his paintings, Da Vinci was also celebrated for his journals, which contained sketches on various subjects, including botany, paleontology, and human anatomy.

Drawing of Famous Artist Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1515-1517), attributed to Francesco Melzi; Attributed to Francesco Melzi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Da Vinci was dubbed “the father of the High Renaissance period” with many of his works considered priceless in the Contemporary era. He is not only one of the most influential artists of all time but is still widely revered for his innovative concepts and designs that were way ahead of their time.

Da Vinci’s paintings have been sold for up to hundreds of millions of dollars on auction, making him one of the most expensive artists to purchase works from.


Portrait Paintings by the Most Famous Artists Portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo (1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Da Vinci was employed by many prominent patrons during his career, including King Louis XII and Charles d’ Amboise, whom Da Vinci also offered his architectural expertise to. Among Da Vinci’s most famous paintings include works such as Salvator Mundi (1499-1510), Vitruvian Man (c. 1490), Last Supper (c. 1495 to 1498). and Mona Lisa (1503-1516). 


Raphael (1483 – 1520)

Artist Name Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino 
Date of Birthc. 1483
Date of Death6 April 1520
Nationality Italian 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesHigh Renaissance, Italian Renaissance, religious painting, human grandeur, and egg tempera painting

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino was a Renaissance artist and architect from Italy. Better known as Raphael, the famous artist was born in Rome in 1520, and became one of art history’s most loved painters. Raphael’s style was defined by his approach to figural painting using the egg tempera method and technical skill in providing clarity of form and composition.

Along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael was regarded as a member of the “Trinity of Masters”.

Portrait Paintings of Master Painters Presumed self-portrait of Raphael, aged approximately 23; Raphael, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He was not only one of the best artists of all time, but also a highly respected architect.

Raphael studied at Perugia, the capital of Umbria, under the Italian Renaissance painter Perugino before traveling to Florence. One of his best contributions to architecture was the building of St. Peter’s Basilica, during which he collaborated with Antonio Sangallo. 

Master Painters Artworks The Sistine Madonna (1512-1513) by Raphael; Raphael, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, Raphael’s career was cut short after he passed away at the age of 37, leaving behind a huge body of work. Some of his most famous paintings include the Sistine Madonna (1513) and Transfiguration (1523). Religious iconographies such as the Madonna and Child were popular in Raphael’s portfolio and were usually underlined with themes of maternal affection and a delicate treatment of his subjects. 


Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 – 1564)

Artist NameMichelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Date of Birth6 March 1475
Date of Death18 February 1564
Place of BirthCaprese, Arezzo, Florence, Italy

Michelangelo Buonarroti, the renowned Italian artist of the Renaissance era, was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. He is best known for his exceptional works in painting, sculpture, and architecture, leaving an indelible mark on the art world.

How Did Michelangelo Die Portrait of Michelangelo (1545) by Daniele da Volterra; Attributed to Daniele da Volterra, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

During his time in Florence, Michelangelo painted the renowned Sistine Chapel ceiling. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, the fresco features scenes from the Book of Genesis, including the iconic “Creation of Adam.” This masterpiece displayed his extraordinary skill as a painter and cemented his place as one of the greatest artists in history.


El Greco (1541 – 1614)

Artist Name Domḗnikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco)
Date of Birth1 October 1541 
Date of Death7 April 1614
Nationality Greek-Spanish
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesSpanish Renaissance, Mannerism, religious art, and Spanish Mysticism

Renowned Spanish-Greek painter Doménikos Theotokópoulos, who is better recognized as El Greco, was born in Crete. El Greco received his nickname since he was originally from Crete, however, the artist was primarily associated with his Spanish legacy, as one of the greatest artists of the Spanish Renaissance. Self-Portraits of Famous Painters Self-portrait of El Greco, titled Portrait of a Man (c. 1595-1600); El Greco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

El Greco studied and mastered post-Byzantine art before traveling Venice, which was a typical activity for young Greek painters at the time. In 1570, El Greco moved to Rome and established a new workshop.

It was here that El Greco developed a more Contemporary style by focusing on techniques from the Venetian Renaissance and Mannerism.

In 1577, he relocated to the city of Toledo in Spain, where he would stay until he died in 1614. During this time, he received many commissions, which later became some of his best works. Although his expressionistic and dramatic approach perplexed his contemporaries, it was later praised by historians and critics of the 20th century. 

Art of the Master Painters Adoration of the Magi (c. 1565-1567) by El Greco; El Greco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Among El Greco’s most famous paintings include The Adoration of the Magi (1565) and The Dormition of the Virgin (1567). Another well-known commission that El Greco received was The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice (1580-1582), which was commissioned by Philip II, but was not entirely well-received. 


Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)

Artist Name Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Date of Birth29 September 1571
Date of Death18 July 1610
Nationality Italian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesItalian Renaissance, Caravaggisti, Baroque, still-life, portraiture, chiaroscuro

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born on September 29, 1571, in Milan and was a prolific painter of the Italian Renaissance who spent the majority of his career in Rome. Caravaggio was also passionate about traveling and had moved between Naples, Malte, and Sicily frequently. Caravaggio’s unique painting style had was incredibly impactful and influenced many painters of his time.

The Italian artist developed his signature style known as Caravaggisti, using the chiaroscuro technique, which largely defined the aesthetics of the Baroque period.

Portraits of the Best Artists of All Time Chalk Portrait of Caravaggio by Ottavio Leoni (c. 1621); Ottavio Leoni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many scholars and artists praised Caravaggio for his skillful use of dramatic lighting, as well as his realistic depictions of the human condition, which emphasized mental and physical suffering. Caravaggio’s fame grew as a result of his innovative interpretations of classical themes as well as his manipulation of light in chiaroscuro painting.

One of the Best Artists of All Time David with the Head of Goliath (c. 1600) by Caravaggio; Caravaggio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The art technique known as chiaroscuro refers to the dramatic interplay between the light and dark aspects of a composition and is generally used to portray high-contrast conditions. Among Caravaggio’s most famous artworks were David With the Head of Goliath (c. 1600) and Supper at Emmaus (1601). 


Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656)

Artist Name Artemisia Gentileschi (also known as Artemisia Lomi)
Date of Birth8 July 1593
Date of Deathc. 1653
Nationality Italian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesItalian Renaissance, Baroque, Caravaggisti, allegory, myths, and religious art

Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the few female Baroque painters among the most famous Italian Baroque artists of the 16th century. Gentileschi was born in Rome, Italy on the 8th of July, 1593 and was consider to be one of the most highly respected artists of her era. Gentileschi was a talented artist who began her profession at the early age of 15 and was an inspiration for many women in art who were stifled by their male counterparts. 

Paintings of Famous Artists Self-portrait as Maria Magdalena (c. 1617-1620) by Artemisia Gentileschi; Artemisia Gentileschi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A persistent and driven young lady, Gentileschi was the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno.

Gentileschi’s powerful representations of women as mythological, biblical, and historical figures paved the path forward for feminist representations of women in classical subjects. She had a large number of patrons and clients from other countries. She was known for her expertise in employing color to communicate layers of drama and complexity in her compositions, as well as her ability to represent the female body in a genuine and realistic manner.

Female Master Painters Jael and Sisera (c. 1620) by Artemisia Gentileschi; Artemisia Gentileschi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A persistent and driven young lady, Gentileschi was the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno.

What made Gentileschi’s paintings stand out were her representations of women in religious art portrayed as strong and gutsy figures. Her best paintings are recognized as Jael and Sisera (1620) and Venus and Cupid (1630). 


Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665)

Artist Name Nicolas Poussin
Date of Birth15 June 1594
Date of Death19 November 1665
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesBaroque, Classicism, religious art, ancient history, and mythology

Nicolas Poussin was one of the most famous French painters who operated as a classicalBaroque artist in the 17th century. Poussin was born in 1594 in Les Andelys, Normandy, but spent the majority of his career in Rome, Italy, where he lived and worked.

Most Famous Artists A self-portrait of Nicolas Poussin, 1649; Nicolas Poussin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Before his move to Rome, Poussin worked for Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII in Paris for a short time. Poussin’s art was characterized by the use of order, rationality, and clarity in his compositions, as well as a preference for line over color in his landscapes.

Poussin was most famous for his preference of cerebral aspects over the emotional elements in painting.

Famous French Painter Venus and Adonis (c. 1628-1629) by Nicolas Poussin; Nicolas Poussin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many academics consider Poussin to be the mastermind of “the perfect landscape”, which explores the fundamental relationships between humans and their environments through an artistic lens. A few intriguing works by Poussin include Death of Germanicus (1628) and Venus and Adonis (1628). 


Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660)

Artist Name Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
Date of Birth6 June 1599
Date of Death6 August 1660
Nationality Spanish 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesSpanish Baroque, Spanish Golden Age, and Tenebrism

Diego Velázquez was a renowned artist of the Spanish Golden Age who served under the court of King Philip IV. Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain in 1599 and was most famous for his contribution to historical painting and portraiture. Velázquez was also recognized for his depictions of significant events and portraits of Spanish nobles and commoners, which were highly favored for their distinct style. 

Master Painters Self-portrait (c. 1630) by Diego Velázquez; Diego Velázquez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

The Spanish artist’s style had a lasting impact on the work of many 19th-century Impressionists and Realists, including many 20th-century icons such as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Francis Bacon. Diego Velázquez was popular in the Spanish art world and proved to be incredibly successful in preserving his unique style set in Tenebrism.

Paintings by Master Painters Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velázquez; Diego Velázquez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The style of Tenebrism was rooted in the Italian style of chiaroscuro, which involved the use of dramatic illumination with violent contrasting between light and dark aspects of the composition. A few famous paintings by Velázquez include Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) and Las Meninas (1656).


Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669)

Artist Name Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Date of Birth15 July 1606
Date of Death4 October 1669
Nationality Dutch
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesDutch Golden Age, Baroque painting, portraiture, and history painting

Famous Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn was born in 1606 in the town of Leiden and was considered to be the most famous Dutch painter of all time. Born to a family of millers, Rembrandt arrived in Amsterdam at the age of 18 and apprenticed under the well-known painter, Piter Lastman. Rembrandt also started a new workshop where he began teaching students such as Gerrit Dou, who picked up many master techniques from Rembrandt, including trompe-l’œil painting. 

Best Artists of All Time Self-Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar (1659) by Rembrandt van Rijn; Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By 1631, Rembrandt returned to Amsterdam, where he received many significant commissions, including a painting for his patron, Nicolaes Tulp. Among the many themes featured in Rembrandt’s work were genre scenes, allegorical images, and animal studies, which were equally as popular as his portraits and history paintings.

Many scholars praise Rembrandt’s work in self-portraiture, as over 40 of his works reflect an intimate autobiography that gives one insight into the life of one of the best draftsmen of the 17th century.


Famous Artists Paintings The Night Watch (1642) by Rembrandt; Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his artistic brilliance and fame, his latter years were riddled with misfortune as he faced increasing debts and was forced to sell all his assets. Rembrandt also lost his wife, son, and later on, his lover, Henkdrickje Stoffels, before he died in 1669. A few outstanding works by Rembrandt include The Night Watch (1642) and The Jewish Bride (1665). 


Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)

Artist Name Johannes Vermeer
Date of Birth31 October 1632
Date of Death15 December 1675
Nationality Dutch
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesDutch Golden Age, Baroque, portraiture, interior painting, middle-class portraiture, and 19th -century cityscapes

Johannes Vermeer was a renowned Baroque painter from the Netherlands, who was best-known for his contribution to portraiture and domestic interior painting. Vermeer spent lengthy periods working on his paintings and worked in a methodical manner without rushing to complete a painting. Vermeer was also famous for his depictions of everyday life from a middle-class point of view, and most notably in portraiture with Girl With A Pearl Earring (1665). 

Rare Portrait of Master Painter The only supposed portrait of Johannes Vermeer, from his painting The ProcuressJohannes Vermeer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, only 36 original surviving works by Vermeer remain and are currently housed at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions.

In his artworks, Vermeer skillfully rendered light while preparing his paintings with a monochrome base, as was the practice for most artists at the time. The 17th-century painter was listed as a master painter by the Delft Guild of Saint Luke with no information surrounding the details of his education, training, or apprenticeship. It is believed that Vermeer would have encountered followers of Caravaggio and Rembrandt, as his styles indicated nuances of chiaroscuro and Caravaggisti techniques. 

Most Famous Portrait Artist Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer; Johannes Vermeer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Vermeer enjoyed minor success throughout his career, receiving considerable reputation in The Hague, however, his small paintings were created with especially expensive paint, and he died with massive debts left to his family in December, 1675. Vermeer’s most famous paintings include The Milkmaid (1658) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). 


Elisabetta Sirani (1638 – 1665)

Artist Name Elisabetta Sirani
Date of Birth8 January 1638
Date of Death28 August 1665
Nationality Italian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesBaroque, portraiture, and Italian Renaissance

Elisabetta Sirani was a Baroque artist who was born in 1638 in Bologna, which formed part of the Holy Roman Empire. Elisabetta’s first apprenticeship was with her father in his studio since the Sirani’s were a creative family. Giovanni, her father, was a Bologna School artist and art trader. Carlo Cesare Malvasia, an Italian academic and art historian, was credited with persuading her father to provide her with painting lessons.

femal master painter portrait Self-portrait (c. 1660) by Elisabetta Sirani; Elisabetta Sirani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to some historians, her father was hesitant to educate her in the Bolognese manner, but she was able to catch up on his methods and was quickly regarded as one of the region’s greatest artists. People began to assume that Sirani was the reincarnation of the painter from Italy, Guido Reni, and a cult emerged as a result of this belief.

Sirani was highly praised for her professionalism, efficient production, and unique compositions.

Art by Female Master Painters Portia wounding her thigh (1664) by Elisabetta Sirani; Elisabetta Sirani, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Among her many outstanding Baroque paintings were Virgin and Child (1663) and Portia Wounding Her Thigh (1664). Today, Sirani is recognized as a pioneer of feminist Italian Baroque art who became one of the most influential painters in Bologna. 


Francisco de Goya (1746 – 1828)

Artist Name Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes
Date of Birth30 March 1746
Date of Death16 April 1828
Nationality Spanish
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesRococo, Romanticism, genre scenes, portraiture, still-life painting, violence, religious art, and history painting

Francisco de Goya was a painter from Aragon who was born in the town of Fuendetodos. He began studying with José Luzán y Martinez at the age of 14 and continued his studies in Madrid with Anton Raphael Mengs.  De Goya was most famous for his contributions to the Romanticism movement and was a prolific court painter for the Spanish Crown in 1786. As a result, much of his early work consisted of commissioned portraits of the Spanish monarchy and aristocracy.

Portrait Paintings of Famous Artists Self portrait with spectacles (19th century) by Francisco Goya; Francisco Goya, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scholars consider Francisco de Goya to be one of the most renowned and influential Spanish artists of the early 19th century, and is occasionally cited as the last “Old Master”.

De Goya’s paintings were admired for their depictions of historical and current events, as well as his portraits and still-lifes, which were executed exquisitely. Most notable in his career were his black paintings, which reflected the haunting themes of fear and insanity that the artist experienced in his later career. 

Art by Famous Painters Third of May 1808 (1814) by Francisco Goya; Francisco Goya, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1793, De Goya was diagnosed with a condition that rendered him deaf and his art reflected his somber outlook of the world, resulting in more gloomy and darker narratives. Among De Goya’s best works include The Nude Maja (1800) and The Third of May 1808 (1814). 


J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)

Artist Name Joseph Mallord William Turner (professionally known as J. M. W. Turner)
Date of Birth23 April 1775
Date of Death19 December 1851
Nationality English
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesRomanticism, Maritime art, and landscape art

Joseph Mallord William Turner, also known as J.M.W Turner, was a master English painter who was born in 1775 in the village of Covent Garden in London. Turner was a Romantic painter and printmaker who was renowned for his vivid, and occasionally violent, representations of naval boats and sea life. He was best recognized as one of the most influential artists of 19th-century landscape painting. 

Portrait of Famous Artists Self-portrait (c. 1799) by J. M. W. Turner; J. M. W. Turner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Turner was known to be an extremely private person who kept to himself, but displayed an eccentric character from time to time. He never married but started a family with Sarah Danby, his housemaid, whom he had many daughters with. One of the major turning points in the artist’s career and life was the death of his father, which greatly affected Turner and resulted in the artist adopting a more cryptic and hermit lifestyle. 

Landscapes by Famous Artists Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino (1839) by J. M. W. TurnerJ. M. W. Turner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his misfortune in money, Turner remains one of the most famous artists of the Romantic landscape genre, with many great visual contributions, including Fishermen at Sea (1796), The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1834), and Modern Rome (1839). 


Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

Artist Name Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix
Date of Birth26 April 1798
Date of Death13 August 1863
Nationality French
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesRomanticism and the Romanesque style

Eugène Delacroix was the most well-known artist of the Romantic era in France during the 19th century. As As one of the most important French artists of his time, Delacroix was inspired by the styles of Impressionism, which can be seen in his bold use of color and expressive brushstrokes. Unlike Ingres and other Neoclassical artists who focused on perfecting form, Delacroix honed his skills in depicting movement and color.

Most Famous French Painter Self-portrait with a green vest (c. 1837) by Eugène Delacroix; Eugène Delacroix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Significant influences on Delacroix’s work included Venetian Renaissance styles derived from artists like Peter Paul Rubens. Delacroix’s art was characterized by romantic and dramatic elements that reflected his dissatisfaction with traditional painting methods. 

Top Influential Artists Liberty Leading the People (1830) by Eugène Delacroix; Eugène Delacroix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Delacroix was further influenced by his travels to foreign lands, including North African cultures, which highlighted his need for exploring non-Western art forms. Iconic works by Delacroix include The Massacre of Chio (1824) and Liberty Leading the People (1830).


Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)

Artist Name Édouard Manet
Date of Birth23 January 1832
Date of Death30 April 1883
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesImpressionism, Modernism, Realism, and Modern art

Édouard Manet was a famous French artist who was best-known for his provocative and unconventional paintings that reflected the style of early Impressionism. Born in 1832, Manet was a pioneer of Modern art who aided the transition from Realism to Impressionism and its eventual acceptance in Parisian art circles. Manet’s subjects included scenes of Parisian modern life using painting techniques that defied traditional conventions of art. 

Photographs of the Best Artists of All Time Close-up photograph of artist Édouard Manet, before 1870; Nadar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Manet was born into a political family and was expected to make a career out of politics, however, it had always been his inclination to pursue the arts, and as such, his paintings went on to become the forerunners of Impressionist art alongside Claude Monet and many others. Manet’s unique style was characterized by bold outlines, strong contrasts, pure color, and a lack of tonal gradation.

Initially deemed ugly, Manet’s works flourished as pieces that marked the dawn of Modern art and energetic 19th-century urban life. 

Iconic Paintings by Famous Artists Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (‘Luncheon on the Grass’, 1863) by Édouard Manet; Édouard Manet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Significant paintings by Manet include works such as Music in the Tuileries (1862), Olympia (1863), and  Luncheon on the Grass(1863). It was unfortunate that it was only after his death that Manet was recognized as the father of Modern art. 


Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)

Artist Name Paul Cézanne
Date of Birth19 January 1839
Date of Death22 October 1906
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesImpressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, and Modern Art

Paul Cézanne is the most well-known Post-Impressionist painter in France. He is most recognized for bridging the gap between 19th-century Impressionist painters and Cubism, the most popular trend in the early twentieth century. He was also renowned for experimenting with the notion of “geometric simplicity,” in which an apple would be represented by a sphere and a tree’s trunk by a cylinder.

Most Famous Painters Self-portrait against a pink background (c. 1875) by Paul Cézanne; Paul Cézanne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The use of exploratory and repeated brushstrokes is characteristic of Paul Cézanne’s work. He used these brushstrokes to create color planes and complex fields by applying tiny brushstrokes repeatedly. This demonstrates how thoroughly he researched his subjects.

Many of his contemporaries, including Picasso and Matisse, regarded him as the “Father of Us All”.

Artworks by Influential Artists The Card Players (1892 and 1893) by Paul Cézanne; Paul Cézanne, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The French artist adopted many ideas on painting from the Impressionists throughout the 1870s and went on to influence artists like Vincent van Gogh, who admired Cézanne’s mastery over flat color. Among the most famous paintings by Cézanne include The Card Players series (c. 1890s) and The Baskets of Apples (1890). 


Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)

Artist Name Oscar-Claude Monet
Date of Birth14 November 1840
Date of Death5 December 1926
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesImpressionism and Modern art 

Oscar-Claude Monet was a well-known French painter and Modern artist who is regarded as the father of French Impressionism. Renowned for his Impression, Sunrise (1872) painting, Monet also inspired the name of the movement by pioneering a unique visual philosophy that prioritized color and the effects of light on color as the basis of defining form and representation. Monet sought to depict nature as he subjectively saw it, and as a result, he became a significant forerunner of the Modernist movement.

Old Photograph of a Master Painter Portrait of Claude Monet, by the photographer Nadar in 1899; Nadar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Monet’s approach to painting was informed by the theory that prioritized the painter’s subjective impression of the world and was inspired by Monet’s experience of the outdoor environment. Monet’s famous painting Impression, Sunrise (1872) was initially misunderstood by critics who failed to recognize the symbolism of French pride. The painting depicted the port at Le Havre in an atmospheric style that truly highlighted Monet’s focus on light and color. Of the many significant paintings created by Monet were his two best series titled Water Lilies (1896-1926) and Rouen Cathedral (1892-1893). 

Today, “Impression, Sunrise” is estimated to be worth more than $350 million.

Famous Artists Painting Series Water Lilies (1906) by Claude Monet; Claude Monet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)

Artist Name Pierre-Auguste Renoir 
Date of Birth25 February 1841
Date of Death3 December 1919
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesImpressionism and Modern art

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the most productive French painters of the 19th century who was also  considered a leader among fellow French Impressionists. Renoir specialized in painting personal portraits of people in natural settings and postures. Renoir’s work was regarded by historians to be the last depiction of an old tradition inspired by Peter Paul Rubens and Jean-Antoine Watteau, and highlighted themes of beauty and sensuality.

Photograph of Master Painters A photograph of Pierre Auguste-Renoir, c. 1875; Unknown Unknown Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Upon his death in December, 1919, Renoir left behind an incredible legacy of Impressionist artwork that influenced numerous painters of the 20th century. His work not only influenced later Impressionist styles, but also informed many creative movements that followed. 

His work not only influenced later Impressionist styles, but also informed many creative movements that followed.

Renoir’s technique was characterized by free and expressive brushstrokes, as well as a fine blending of color across many backgrounds to draw attention to the textures of the characters in the foreground. A few notable paintings by Renoir include Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) and The Large Bathers (1887). 

Best Artists of All Time Paintings Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881) by Pierre Auguste-Renoir; Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Artist Name Vincent Willem van Gogh
Date of Birth30 March 1853
Date of Death29 July 1890
Nationality Dutch
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesPost-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism

Famous portrait artist and landscape painter Vincent van Gogh was a post-Impressionist Dutch artist who was born in Zundert, Netherlands in 1853. Van Gogh created several self-portraits, and numerous still-lifes  and landscape paintings, but it was only after his death, in 1890, that he gained popularity and critical acclaim. Throughout his lifetime, Van Gogh produced approximately 2,100 pieces of art, many of which were created in the last 10 years of his life.

Self-Portraits of Famous Artists Self-portrait with grey felt hat (1887) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his posthumous fame, Van Gogh suffered from mental illness, severe depression, and experienced significant trauma during his lifetime. 

Van Gogh’s style is instantly recognizable for its dramatic use of color and spontaneous free-flowing brush strokes, which helped establish the foundations of Contemporary art.

Many will also identify the artist with the famous ear-cutting incident, which resulted in Van Gogh’s institutionalization. A few prominent artworks by Van Gogh include The Potato Eaters (1885) and The Starry Night (1889).

Famous Painters Artworks The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)

Artist Name Gustav Klimt
Date of Birth14 July 1862
Date of Death6 February 1918
Nationality Austrian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesVienna Secession, Symbolism, Modern art, and Art Nouveau

Gustav Klimt was perhaps one of the greatest painters of the Symbolist movement in Vienna, Austria, who was celebrated as an icon in Art Nouveau for his decorative approach to painting and composition. Klimt’s paintings are recognized by their signature gold-leaf aesthetic, many of which were based on religious themes. Klimt specialized in large-scale murals and oil painting, and incorporated a wide variety of materials into his creative process.

Gustav Klimt Portrait Photograph of Gustav Klimt, 1914; Josef Anton Trčka, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

His eye for rich texture can also be seen in his use of materials such as curtain rings, gem stones, and mother-of-pearl, which gave his work a luxurious and opulent look and feel.

Klimt operated primarily in Vienna, Austria and was most famous for his work on The Kiss (1908), which demonstrated his dominant style, combining biomorphic forms with a flat linear aesthetic. Many scholars agree on the fact that Klimt contributed significantly to the development of Modern Abstract art through his extensive use of Symbolist elements, including rectangles and circles to represent the binaries of man and women. Other notable paintings by Klimt include Judith and the Head of Holofernes (1901), Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1903-1907), and Lady With a Fan (1918). 


Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)

Artist Name Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky
Date of Birth16 December 1866
Date of Death13 December 1944
Nationality Russian
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesExpressionism, Modern art, Der Blaue Reiter, and Abstract art

Wassily Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 and was best-known as one of the most remarkable Modern painters of the 20th century. A Russian art theorist and painter, Kandinsky was often cited as the founder of Abstract art. Kandinsky spent his childhood in the city of Odessa (modern-day Ukraine) and studied at the University of Moscow and the Grekov Odessa Art school. He eventually gained a professorship of Roman Law position at the University of Dorpat. After he turned 30, Kandinsky began his journey into Modern abstraction, which can be seen in many of his early painting studies.

Famous Artists Photograph of Wassily Kandinsky; 未知上傳者, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kandinsky moved to Munich in 1896, where he studied at a private school called Anton Ažbe’s. Thereafter, he began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts and later returned to Russia to help open the Museum of the Culture of Painting. After a period of struggle and his dissonance in light of the materialism of Soviet Society, Kandinsky returned once again to Germany in 1920. 

His works have been described as rhythmic and emotionally intriguing in their formal qualities accompanied by musical titles.

What made Kandinsky’s work so profound was his exploration of color theory and experimentation of form and shape that led to his pursuit of ideal shape and balance in many of his works. Some of his best paintings include Odessa Port (1898) and In Grey (1919). 

Paintings by Famous Artists In Grey (1919) by Wassily Kandinsky; Wassily Kandinsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)

Artist Name Henri Émile Benoît Matisse
Date of Birth31 December 1869
Date of Death3 November 1954
Nationality French
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesFauvism, Impressionism, Modern art, Post-Impressionism, Modernism, and Neo-Impressionism

Many art scholars consider Henri Matisse to be among the most important and famous French painters of the Modern era. Matisse was regarded as the finest colorist of the 20th century, who worked in a variety of mediums such as painting and sculpture. However, this well-known French painter was most recognized for his Fauvist-inspired works.

Influential Artists Henri Matisse, Paris, May 13th, 1913; Alvin Langdon Coburn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people consider Matisse, along with colleagues like Picasso, to be a significant artist who helped define the revolutionary developments of the visual arts during the early years of the 20th century.

Matisse exhibited a body of work that demonstrated his mastery of color and exploration of such for more than half a century, and earned him a position among the most influential figures in Contemporary art. A few exceptional paintings that demonstrate Matisse’s genius include Woman With a Hat (1905) and La Danse (1910).

Paintings by the Best Artists of All Time La Danse (1910) by Henri Matisse; Michel B., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

Artist Name Pablo Ruiz Picasso
Date of Birth25 October 1881
Date of Death8 April 1973
Nationality Spanish
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesCubism, Surrealism, Modern art, Picasso’s Blue Period, Impressionism, and Expressionism

Renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was born in the town of Málaga, Spain, in 1881 and spent the majority of his career shifting the notions of representation in France. Picasso is considered by art historians to be one of the most important painters of the 20th century, who not only co-founded Cubism, but also popularized collage and built sculpture. Picasso began painting in a realistic style as a youngster, exhibiting remarkable creative ability from an early age. 

Most Influential Artists A photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1962; Argentina. Revista Vea y Lea, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

He experimented with numerous techniques and processes during the 1910s, resulting in a significant shift in his approach to art. 

Picasso was inspired by Matisse’s work from the Fauvist movement and began to explore unconventional painting styles, which culminated in a fruitful competition between Picasso and Matisse for many years.

Despite the fact that the end of the competitive streak between the two produced Abstract results, Picasso’s work was purely derived from reality. Among his best-known paintings include La Vie (1903), Family of Saltimbanques (1905), and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), the latter of which has been criticized for the essentialization and objectification of women. 


Georges Braque (1882 – 1963)

Artist Name Georges Braque
Date of Birth13 May 1882
Date of Death31 August 1963
Nationality French 
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesCubism, Fauvism, and Impressionism

Georges Braque was a very significant French painter of the 20th century who was also a draftsman, collagist, printmaker, and sculptor. Braque’s early works reflected the 1900’s style of Fauvist painting and evolved into Cubist works, which became his most significant contributions to art history.

Today, Georges Braque is recognized as the co-founder of Cubism, alongside Picasso, whose manipulation of space and light highlighted his innovative presentation of color and material.

Photo of Influential Artist A photograph of Georges Braque, 1908; Photographer non-identified, anonymous, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

His work between 1908 and 1912 has also been compared to that of Pablo Picasso, a peer who received more acclaim and recognition in the art world. Braque’s unique style was characterized by his multi-perspective still-lifes, which introduced multiple versions of a single object as it pertained to color, form, and texture in the Cubist format. During this time, the work of both Cubist painters were nearly indistinguishable from one another. A few notable works by Braque include Bottle and Fishes (1910) and Fruit Dish and Glass (1912). 


Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989)

Artist Name Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech
Date of Birth11 May 1904
Date of Death23 January 1989
Nationality Spanish
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesDada, Surrealism, Modern art, and Cubism

Salvador Dalí was one of the most well-known Spanish painters in the world of art, who was most famous for his bizarre and luxurious lifestyle, as well as his unique Surrealist paintings. Dalí was fully aware of his uniqueness in the world and he leveraged his character to produce artwork that was rich with subliminal symbolism and dream-like elements.

Portrait Photographs of the Best Artists of All Time A photograph of Salvador Dalí with his pet ocelot, Babou, and cane, 1965; Roger Higgins, World Telegram staff photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dalí aspired to defy societal conventions in both his life and work, contributing to the development of new symbolic visual languages and creative methods that broadened our understanding of the subconscious mind.

Dalí’s anti-establishment outlook began early in his career when he was dismissed from Madrid Academy for inciting a student protest against an art professor whom he considered to be “a lousy instructor”, unqualified to teach art. Dalí was buried at his museum when he died in 1989, demonstrating just how deeply he was committed to his work and the field of art education. A few famous paintings created by Dalí include The Persistence of Memory (1931) and Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937). 


Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)

Artist Name Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón
Date of Birth6 July 1907
Date of Death13 July 1954
Nationality Mexican
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesSurrealism, Symbolism, Magic Realism, Naturalism, Primitivism, and Modern art

Frida Kahlo was a famous portrait artist who was born in Mexico City in 1907 and went on to become one of the most loved Mexican artists of the 20th century. Her self-portraits brought her much fame and incorporated naïve folk art techniques to express her ethnic identity. Kahlo leveraged her art to investigate themes such as class, gender, and post-colonial Mexican culture, while fusing the genres of fantasy and Realism. 

Female Influential Artists Frida Kahlo, 1932; Guillermo Kalho, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite a childhood polio infliction, Kahlo had high hopes of joining the medical profession. Unfortunately, an accident involving a bus put an end to her dreams and Kahlo was forced to spend time recovering through her pain. During her time recovering, Kahlo started painting portraits of her loved ones and created many self-portraits that reflected her pain and sorrow for her tragedy, life, dreams, and lost love. This was a pivotal moment in her life, which strengthened her career as an artist. Important paintings by Kahlo include The Two Fridas (1939) and Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940). 

Kahlo became a distinctive voice for women in the arts and continues to inspire many aspiring female artists.


Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956)

Artist Name Jackson Pollock
Date of Birth28 January 1912
Date of Death11 August 1956
Nationality American
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesModern Art, Abstract Expressionism, Action Painting

Jackson Pollock, a prominent American painter, was a key figure in the abstract expressionist movement of the 20th century. Born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming, he grew up in Arizona and California. Pollock’s innovative and influential painting techniques redefined the boundaries of modern art.

Jackson Pollock Biography A 1928 studio portrait of artist Jackson Pollock at about age 16; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pollock’s most famous and revolutionary technique was his “drip painting” method. Instead of using conventional brushes, he would pour and drip paint directly onto the canvas, allowing the paint to flow and splatter organically. This spontaneous and uncontrolled process became the hallmark of his style.

Pollock’s artistic approach was deeply connected to his emotions and subconscious mind. He believed in the concept of “action painting,” where his physical movements and emotions guided the creation of his art. His large-scale canvases allowed him to fully immerse himself in the creative process.


Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) 

Artist Name Andy Warhola Jr.
Date of Birth6 August 1928
Date of Death22 February 1987
Nationality American
Associated Movements, Themes, and StylesPop art, Modern art, portraiture, popular culture, and celebrity portraiture

Andy Warhol is surely one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century who popularized the movement known as Pop art. Warhol was a leader of the Pop art movement in the 1960s, who was dubbed the “Pope of Pop.” He gained international fame as a result of his incredibly successful screen prints  Campell’s Soup Cans (1962) and Marylin Diptych (1962).

Famous American Artists Andy Warhol with Archie, his pet Dachshund, 1973; Jack Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

His approach was viewed as disruptive by the established art world with many art critics offering harsh words on the artist’s use of appropriated imagery. 

Warhol’s paintings transcended the period’s formal techniques of painting and embraced the use of video installation, film, photography, and silk screen printing, as experimental mediums through which Warhol could express the themes of mass consumerism and the adoption of popular culture. Warhol shot portraits of many famous icons and celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, and Elizabeth Taylor among many others. 


Today, we have learned about some of the most famous painters in art history whose contributions to Modern art have not gone unnoticed. From the master painters of Italy to iconic American painters, you can be sure to benefit from the unique perspectives offered by these great painters! 



Take a look at our famous painters from all art periods webstory here!



Frequently Asked Questions


Who Were the Most Influential Painters of the Renaissance?

From famous portrait artists to respected landscape painters, Renaissance master such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael were considered the most influential painters of the Renaissance period. 


Who Was the Best Painter of All Time?

Among the many great painters of art history, Leonardo da Vinci was considered to be the best painter of all time. Leonardo da Vinci has also been credited with painting some of the world’s most expensive and famous paintings known to date. 


Which Famous Painter Used Abstraction in Painting?

Renowned Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky is recognized as the father of Abstract art, who incorporated Abstract shapes and forms in his early 20th-century paintings. 


Which Country Was Home to the Most Painters?

Italy is considered the home of many famous painters in art history, including master painters like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo. 



Cite this Article

Isabella, Meyer, “Famous Painters – 32 Master Painters in Art History.” Art in Context. September 26, 2021. URL: https://artincontext.org/famous-painters/

Meyer, I. (2021, 26 September). Famous Painters – 32 Master Painters in Art History. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/famous-painters/

Meyer, Isabella. “Famous Painters – 32 Master Painters in Art History.” Art in Context, September 26, 2021. https://artincontext.org/famous-painters/.

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