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!
Table of Contents
- 1 Exploring the Most Famous Painters of All Time
- 1.1 Giotto Di Bondone (1267 – 1337)
- 1.2 Jan van Eyck (1390 – 1441)
- 1.3 Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510)
- 1.4 Hieronymus Bosch
- 1.5 Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
- 1.6 Raphael (1483 – 1520)
- 1.7 Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475 – 1564)
- 1.8 El Greco (1541 – 1614)
- 1.9 Caravaggio (1571 – 1610)
- 1.10 Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656)
- 1.11 Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665)
- 1.12 Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660)
- 1.13 Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669)
- 1.14 Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675)
- 1.15 Elisabetta Sirani (1638 – 1665)
- 1.16 Francisco de Goya (1746 – 1828)
- 1.17 J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851)
- 1.18 Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
- 1.19 Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
- 1.20 Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906)
- 1.21 Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
- 1.22 Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
- 1.23 Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
- 1.24 Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918)
- 1.25 Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)
- 1.26 Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)
- 1.27 Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)
- 1.28 Georges Braque (1882 – 1963)
- 1.29 Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989)
- 1.30 Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)
- 1.31 Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956)
- 1.32 Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987)
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
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 Birth||c. 1267|
|Date of Death||8 January 1337|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Proto-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.
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.
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 Birth||c. 1390|
|Date of Death||9 July 1441|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Flemish 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.
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.
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 Birth||c. 1445|
|Date of Death||17 May 1510|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Early 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.
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.
|Artist Name||Hieronymus Bosch|
|Date of Birth||c. 1450|
|Date of Death||9 August 1516|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Italian 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.
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 Birth||14 April 1452|
|Date of Death||2 May 1519|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Early 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.
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 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 Birth||c. 1483|
|Date of Death||6 April 1520|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||High 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”.
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.
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 Name||Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni|
|Date of Birth||6 March 1475|
|Date of Death||18 February 1564|
|Place of Birth||Caprese, 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.
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 Birth||1 October 1541|
|Date of Death||7 April 1614|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Spanish 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-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.
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 Birth||29 September 1571|
|Date of Death||18 July 1610|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Italian 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.
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.
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 Birth||8 July 1593|
|Date of Death||c. 1653|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Italian 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.
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.
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 Birth||15 June 1594|
|Date of Death||19 November 1665|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Baroque, 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.
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.
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 Birth||6 June 1599|
|Date of Death||6 August 1660|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Spanish 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.
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.
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 Birth||15 July 1606|
|Date of Death||4 October 1669|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Dutch 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.
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.
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 Birth||31 October 1632|
|Date of Death||15 December 1675|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Dutch 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).
The only supposed portrait of Johannes Vermeer, from his painting The Procuress; Johannes 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.
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 Birth||8 January 1638|
|Date of Death||28 August 1665|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Baroque, 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.
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.
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 Birth||30 March 1746|
|Date of Death||16 April 1828|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Rococo, 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.
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.
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 Birth||23 April 1775|
|Date of Death||19 December 1851|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Romanticism, 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.
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.
Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino (1839) by J. M. W. Turner; J. 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 Birth||26 April 1798|
|Date of Death||13 August 1863|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Romanticism 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.
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.
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 Birth||23 January 1832|
|Date of Death||30 April 1883|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Impressionism, 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.
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.
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 Birth||19 January 1839|
|Date of Death||22 October 1906|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Impressionism, 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.
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”.
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 Birth||14 November 1840|
|Date of Death||5 December 1926|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Impressionism 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.
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.
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 Birth||25 February 1841|
|Date of Death||3 December 1919|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Impressionism 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.
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).
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 Birth||30 March 1853|
|Date of Death||29 July 1890|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Post-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-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).
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 Birth||14 July 1862|
|Date of Death||6 February 1918|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Vienna 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.
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 Birth||16 December 1866|
|Date of Death||13 December 1944|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Expressionism, 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.
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).
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 Birth||31 December 1869|
|Date of Death||3 November 1954|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Fauvism, 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.
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).
Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)
|Artist Name||Pablo Ruiz Picasso|
|Date of Birth||25 October 1881|
|Date of Death||8 April 1973|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Cubism, 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.
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 Birth||13 May 1882|
|Date of Death||31 August 1963|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Cubism, 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.
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 Birth||11 May 1904|
|Date of Death||23 January 1989|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Dada, 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.
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 Birth||6 July 1907|
|Date of Death||13 July 1954|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Surrealism, 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.
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 Birth||28 January 1912|
|Date of Death||11 August 1956|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Modern 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.
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 Birth||6 August 1928|
|Date of Death||22 February 1987|
|Associated Movements, Themes, and Styles||Pop 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).
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.
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 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/