16 of the Most Famous Artists and Painters of all Time
Like all forms of creative expression, art – be it painting, sculpture or music – is almost always subjective. For every one person that sees great quality in a piece, they’ll be someone else who disagrees entirely. This is art’s true beauty.
Yet, personal preferences aside, what isn’t up for debate is that there are certain artists/painters who are more famous than others. And whether that’s because their work has transcended genres, endured for centuries or inspired countless imitators, there’s no disputing their place on the list of all-time greats.
Here are 16 of the most famous artists of all time.
Painter, poet, sculptor, architect: Michelangelo’s list of accomplishments is seriously impressive. But amongst everything he produced, his best known works are perhaps the breathtaking biblical scenes that adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the marbled perfection of David – two masterpieces of style that continue to capture the admiration of millions of people more than 500 years after their creation.
Leonardo da Vinci
Before Michaelangelo, there was Leonardo da Vinci. A fellow Italian who was also active during the Renaissance period, da Vinci created what has gone on to become the world’s most famous painting, The Mona Lisa. And although he was adept with so much more than a paintbrush, being an accomplished engineer, sculptor and architect, it’s his rendering of The Last Supper that most matches The Mona Lisa’s timeless appeal.
Vincent van Gogh
Spanish-born Pablo Picasso is arguably the most famous artist of the 20th century. His work across neoclassical and surrealist styles is legendary, as is his penchant for fast living and illicit affairs. As one of the painters credited with the invention of cubism, Picasso not only expanded on previous trends but helped to usher in a new generation of abstract painters. He is said to have created around 13,500 painted works of art over the course of his life – a statistic without equal.
Legendary French painter, Claude Monet, is credited as the father of impressionism, a style based on thin brush strokes and the accurate depiction of light. Amongst his best known works are Haystacks, which captures stacks of hay in various lights and seasons, and approximately 250 different depictions of water lilies, all united by an unparalleled eye for detail.
Gustav Klimt was born in Austria and was a prominent member of the Vienna Secession movement. Influenced by Japanese art and its methods, his work is notable for its erotic subject matter and focus on the female form. His most famous pieces are The Kiss and Portrait Of Adele Bloch Bauer I.
Known for her surrealist self-portraits and exploration of Mexican heritage, Frida Kahlo’s legacy as that of a tortured genius shares much in common with many of the other artists on this list. Her tumultuous life, which included a childhood contraction of polio and a complicated relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera, can be seen as a major inspiration for her work. See The Broken Column for a full understanding of Kahlo’s style.
Renowned for his representation of light within oil paintings, it’s now hard to believe that Vermeer’s work once fell out of the public consciousness for almost two centuries. Since being reintroduced to the masses in the 1900s, his pieces have attracted universal acclaim and become known for their masterful use of expensive pigments, most notably in paintings such as The Milkmaid.
Is there a more haunting image than that of Edvard Munch’s The Scream? Since its composition in 1893, the work’s blood-red sky and disturbing, spectre-like representation of human anguish has cast a heavy shadow over both its creator and the wider world at large. His most famous piece – alongside many of his other paintings – is often credited with influencing the 20th century expressionist movement. It isn’t hard to see why.
Committed to challenging notions of perception, Belgian-born Rene Magritte was one of the art world’s most well-known surrealists. By playing with expectation and referencing art’s inability to properly capture that which it tried to convey, Magritte is best remembered for the thought-provoking nature of his work. There are few who have ever come close to his genius.
Famed for her wide range of subject matter, there’s little surprise that Georgia O’Keeffe has gone down in history as “the Mother of American Modernism”. Her depictions of city skyscrapers, flowers and stark New Mexico landscapes showcased the beauty of the natural and artificial world in equal measure, in a contrast of ideas well worth exploring.
Even unconventional artists follow their own rules, but the mould was well and truly broken by Jackson Pollock. As a prominent abstract expressionist, Pollock eschewed any notion of painting traditional subject matter and instead used a “drip technique” in which he would let paint drip down onto a canvas from a height, adding to the work with help from knives and sticks. This resulted in some of the world’s most distinctive pieces: chaotic explosions of colour that depicted the frenetic pace and perpetual uncertainty of modern life.
Active in the bohemian United States of the 1960s, Andy Warhol’s work both influenced – and was influenced by – ideas of celebrity, commercialism and fame. The neon/black and white contrast of The Marilyn Diptych continues to challenge Campbell’s Soup Cans for the accolade of his most recognisable work. Away from the canvas and the silk screen, Warhol also made a slew of experimental films and managed radical rock band, The Velvet Underground.
93-year-old Yayoi Kusama is the only living artist on this list. Born in Japan, she spent the 1960s in New York at the heart of the counterculture, overseeing everything from the creation of phallus-inspired furniture to naked, polka dot-themed hippie “happenings”. Her iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms installation is currently in residence at the Tate Modern until September 2022. Don’t miss out on the chance to see this piece in the flesh.
Framed Art At Picture Frames Express
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Visit our website today to choose from a selection of beautiful picture frames in a wide range of styles, or design your own using our fantastic online tool. Remember – the maximum dimensions of one of our frames is 1220mm x 915mm, so make sure you measure your painting accurately before you choose a frame. You can find tips on how to do this here.
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