20 most famous painters in the world
The first thing you will notice when browsing our gallery, which contains the profiles of some of the painters who have most revolutionized the history of art, is the absolute prevalence of men. It is an obligatory choice: the Western canon, on which the selection is based, has not only prevented women for centuries from establishing themselves in the field of painting, but has even hindered the possibility that they approached the discipline with credibility, ostracized by a culture patriarchal that has always seen any form of human genius as a purely male occupation.
They made the history of Western art, anticipated and founded the major artistic movements, created masterpieces that continue to excite us even centuries after their creation. Here are the 20 most famous painters of all time, their most famous works and where to see them. Read down below and find out which are the most famous painters in the world.
Most famous painters in the world
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
Considered a “universal genius”, Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest painters of all time, as well as a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Born in the Tuscan village of Vinci in 1452, he was a key personality of the European Renaissance, which saw the emergence of new ideas, scientific discoveries and the creation of extraordinary works of art. Trained in Verrocchio’s workshop, he spent several years at the court of Ludovico Sforza, before moving to France. Animated by an inexhaustible inventive charge, he created absolute masterpieces of art such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, and conceived revolutionary inventions.
At the same time painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer, Michelangelo was born in 1475 in Caprese Michelangelo, near Florence, and like his contemporary Leonardo da Vinci is the perfect incarnation of the ” Renaissance Man “. In fact, he manifests his talent in various fields, with a particularly prolific artistic life that leaves behind some of the most famous works that have ever been created. Among these, sculptures such as the Pietà and the David, architectural masterpieces such as the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, while the most famous paintings by him are the grandiose frescoes in the Sistine Chapel For his mastery and his passionate style he was called “The Divine”, representing an example for many artists who, in an attempt to imitate him, give life to theart movement of Mannerism.
One of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn is admired for his vivid realism and empathy with the human condition. Born in Leiden in 1606, he achieved success at a young age as a portrait painter, and then broadened his field of intervention to a vast range of styles and subjects, from portraits and self-portraits to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, themes biblical and mythological and animal studies. Although Rembrandt never left his country, his work was greatly influenced by the Italian masters and in particular by Caravaggio, as revealed by the use of colour, with strong contrasts between the different parts of the works.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
An exceptionally talented artist, Vincent van Gogh is among the most famous and influential artistic figures of the 19th century and played a key role in the development of modern art, despite suffering from mental disorders and depression. Born in Holland in 1853, he developed an instinctive and spontaneous style, inspired by the impressionist painters of the time, which led him to create around 2100 works of art in a decade, including 860 oil paintings reproducing various subjects, including landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits. All characterized by an unmistakable style, made of bold colors, dramatic and expressive brushstrokes. Authentic misunderstood genius, unfortunately his art is only appreciated after his death, which occurred by suicide at the age of only 37.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Considered one of the greatest and most prolific painters of the 20th century, Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881, but spent most of his life in France. From the first years of his life he manifested an extraordinary artistic talent that led him to create over 20,000 works. Painter, sculptor, ceramist, set designer, poet, he is co-founder of the Cubist movement, although his art is influenced by numerous styles and experiments, so much so that his work is divided into periods, among which the Blue Period stands out ( 1901-1904), that of roses (1904-1906), of African influence (1907-1909), Analytical Cubism(1909-1912) and Synthetic Cubism (1912-1919). His most famous painting is Guernica, which depicts the horror of a bombing raid during the Spanish Civil War.
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Born in Paris in 1840, Claude Monet is considered the forefather and main inspirer of the Impressionism art movement , which takes its name from his painting “Impression, Soleil levant”. He bases his art on the ability to capture light and the essence of nature on canvas in a unique, spontaneous and lively style, with which he paints a wide range of subjects ranging from urban scenes to his beloved Giverny garden . His production is characterized by series of paintings, such as those of the Water Lilies or the Cathedral of Rouen, in which he takes up the same subject in different conditions and with different lights.
Jan Vermeer (c. 1632-c. 1675)
Delft Baroque painter specializing in genre and still life painting, active in the Golden Age of Dutch art , Jan Vermeer owes much of his fame to the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, which represents the emblem of his painting. Indeed, he is mainly remembered for his domestic scenes and portraits of people in everyday life, which he shoots with vivid colors against plain backgrounds and with extensive use of the perspective technique which focuses attention on the subject.
Caravaggio (c. 1571-1610)
Recognized as the forerunner and one of the greatest exponents of Italian Baroque painting , Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was active in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily between the second half of the 16th century and the first decade of the 17th century. A period in which numerous new churches are being built, for which his works, characterized by dramatic chiaroscuro and an innovative style, are particularly in demand. His intensely emotional realism and the particular use of light, applied both to biblical themes and to the representations of scenes of common life, had a strong influence on the painting of the time, which went beyond national borders, also inspiring Flemish painters .
Together with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raffaello Sanzio forms the triad of famous painters of the Italian Renaissance. Born in Urbino in 1483, he was extraordinarily prolific and despite his premature death at the age of only 37, he leaves behind a large number of masterpieces. After an initial period in Umbria and a few years in Florence, he spent the last phase of his hectic life in Rome, where he worked for two Popes in the Vatican , which boasts some of his most representative works. Highlights of his work are the clarity of form and the classic representation of the Neoplatonic ideal of human greatness.
Diego Velázquez (c. 1599-1660)
The most representative artist of the court of King Philip IV, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez is one of the greatest painters of the Spanish Baroque. His individualistic art is characterized by scenes of historical and cultural significance, with a fondness for portraits of the Spanish royal family culminating in his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656). Rediscovered by 20th-century realist and impressionist painters, he inspired the likes of Picasso, Dali and Bacon, who paid homage to his art.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Dutch artist and diplomat, Peter Paul Rubens is one of the most influential exponents of Flemish Baroque painting. At the head of a large studio in Antwerp which produced paintings highly prized by the nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, he was a particularly prolific artist, although he alternated his pictorial activity with that of a scholar and diplomat. Specializing in the creation of altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, hunting scenes, historical paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects, he expresses a unique Baroque style that emphasizes movement, color and sensuality, in contrast with the dramatic style of the Counter-Reformation.
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
His unmistakable style places him among the most important exponents of the Vienna Secession movement . Symbolist painter influenced by Japanese art and its methods, he began his artistic career with conventional architectural decorations, but reached the pinnacle of success with the paintings of his “golden phase” , embellished with gold leaf, whose main subject is the female body, often interpreted with a certain eroticism.
Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
One of the founders of Impressionism, the artistic current that developed in France at the end of the 19th century that brings together painters who prefer to paint en plein air, Auguste Renoir established himself with his paintings that capture the life and excitement of Paris at the end of the century and portraits that celebrate female sensuality. A great innovator and an exceptionally prolific artist, he made several thousand paintings, some of which are true masterpieces of art history, many of which hang in the Barnes Foundation near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which holds the largest collection of his work.
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
One of the most eccentric figures in 20th century art, Salvador Dalí defied convention with his surrealist art. Born in Catalonia in 1904, he was a painter, filmmaker, sculptor, photographer, with a repertoire initially influenced by the masters of the classical Renaissance, but which then ranged between various genres such as surrealism, cubism and dadaism, always bringing into his works a cutting-edge approach. He achieved success in 1931 with The Persistence of Memory , his most famous work of his, which represents a dreamscape with a limp clock, which seems to melt, which later became one of his most recognizable icons.
Francisco de Goya (1746-1828)
The greatest Spanish romantic painter, combines the classic style of the old masters with a new realism. Trained with artistic studies and a period in Rome to improve his skills, from 1770 he began working for the Spanish royal court , for which he created many portraits of the royal family and works commissioned by the nobility, including famous paintings of Charles IV of Spain and the Duchess of Alba, but also more subversive works denouncing the social problems of the time. His works and portraits have influenced some French impressionist painters and for this he is recognized by many as the father of modern art .
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
Among the great masters of modern art, he is remembered as the creator and leading representative of the Abstract art that dominated the art world in the first half of the 20th century. Painter, engraver and art theorist, for him painting possessed the same power as music and sign, line and color had to correspond to the vibrations of the human soul. During his artistic career he crossed different periods and genres, fauvist, abstractionist, expressionist and constructivist, but he is admired above all for the language of abstract forms with which he replaced the forms of nature.
J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851)
Often referred to as the “Painter of Light” , Joseph Mallord William Turner is an English Romantic landscape painter, watercolourist and printmaker. Along with John Constable, he is regarded as one of the greatest British artists of all time. Fascinated by the violent power of the sea and the interplay of light on dark and stormy scenes, he became famous for his expressive seascape paintings. For his contribution to elevating landscape painting he is recognized as a forerunner of Impressionism which he largely influenced with his works.
Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
Born in Paris into a bourgeois family, Edouard Manet was fascinated by painting from a young age and became an artist despite his parents’ opposition. He specializes in the representation of everyday scenes of people and city life, such as the famous Breakfast on the grass, recognized as his masterpiece. He plays a major role in the transition from realism to impressionism.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Best known for his incredibly diverse painting style, Cézanne greatly influenced 20th-century abstract art. Through his work, the French Post-Impressionist painter strove to show the “simple beauty” of the south of France with innovative, cutting-edge techniques that allowed him to capture the shapes and colors of the landscape. His work is believed to be a bridge between late 19th-century Impressionism and the emerging early 20th-century art movement, Cubism. So much so that Pablo Picasso called Cézanne “the father of us all”.
Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967)
Trained as an illustrator and engraver, Edward Hopper reached his artistic maturity in the 1920s, starting to paint the clichés of American urban life and small provincial towns, animated by anonymous figures that evoke a strong sense of solitude. He often paints isolated architectures devoid of human presence that reflect his personal vision of modern American life steeped in alienation and anxiety. An original look that has had an undeniable influence on pop art.