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Article: Top 11 Most Famous Painters in the History

Top 11 Most Famous Painters in the History

Ever since the first drawings on the cave wall, people have been mesmerized by the art of painting. Some people just had a natural talent for visually representing notions, concepts, and ideas, which was a skill that was always praised and admired in human society. Until this very day, the names of famous painters are known to virtually everyone, even though some of these people died centuries ago.

Today, we’ll cover the list of the 11 most famous. 

Once again, personal tastes are one thing, and everything in art is subjective. Therefore, the choice of the phrase “most famous painters” was deliberate, and you should keep this in mind in case your favorite artist doesn’t get on the list or “ranks” below some other names here. Also, keep in mind that, when it comes to fame, recency bias is a pretty powerful driving factor, which is why this list may omit some of the older masters while favoring some 20th-century painters.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci

It would be just outright ridiculous to start off this list with anyone else. Still, Da Vinci was more than just a painter. We’re talking about one of the biggest polymaths in the history of Renaissance Italy (a place and period renowned for polymaths and knowledge lovers). 

His style is unique due to his amazing attention to detail and innovative use of perspective. Moreover, not many artists could brag about a Ninja Turtle being named after them, which just ensures that even more people have heard of the name Leonardo.

He’s on the very top of the list of old famous painters, if not the most famous painters of all time. Leonardo’s most famous works are “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa.” 

Replicas and images of these are everywhere, and outside of printing, people also try to recreate them all the time. Now, while getting these as a custom paint-by-number kit may be quite popular, it’s probably too ambitious for a beginner.

2. Vincent Van Gogh

If we didn’t put Leonardo at the top of the list of famous painters, there was literally just one other choice - Vincent Van Gogh. It’s a bit sad and ironic that one of the most famous painters in history never got recognition during his lifetime.

His style is bold and expressive, but it’s also influential. Some might argue that no other artist made such an impact on 20th-century art.

His most famous works are definitely “Sunflowers” and “Starry Night,” however, the only painting he ever sold in his life was “The Red Vineyard.” This is another popular paint-by-numbers option.

3. Pablo Picasso

This Spanish painter and sculptor is not only one of the most famous male painters of all time, but he’s also arguably one of the most famous people in history (definitely one of the most famous in his century). 

His most famous works are “Guernica,” and “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Picasso’s style is completely revolutionary. He’s the co-founder of the Cubist movement, and it’s one of the most easily recognizable styles in art history. 

According to a story he himself once told, his mom told him to become the best at what he does no matter what he chooses to do. If he chose to become a soldier, he had to become a general. If he chose to become a priest, he had to become a pope. So, he chose to become an artist, and he became Picasso. 

4. Claude Monet

Impressionists believed that there were as many realities as there were people in the world, and nowhere was this as evident as in the works of Claude Monet. His “Water Lilies” and “Impression, Sunrise” are known even to those who can’t exactly name these works.  

One of the things that are unique about his works is that he often painted the same scene multiple times. The fact that they always came out differently only showed him just how important the internal state of the artist is for the art he creates at the moment.

This is just one of the things that earns him a place on the list of names of famous painters, regardless of who makes the list. 

5. Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo is one of the best representatives of the mix of realism, surrealism, and Mexican folk art. By studying her life and works, it’s so easy to map just how one’s personal tragedy and hardships, as well as one’s culture, mold one as an artist. Her unique take on art, on the other hand, also shows that, even when all these external factors are taken into consideration, the artist still gets a vote.

Her most popular pieces are her self-portraits, which are a unique insight into how an artist looks from their own perspective.

Unlike Van Gogh and Picasso, Frida was one of the world-famous painters even during her lifetime. According to specialist vendors behind paint-by-number kits by the Number Artist, Frida’s popularity is not waning even in the 21st millennium.

6. Francisco de Goya

Francisco de Goya is one of the four most famous Spanish painters of all time (others being Picasso, Dali, and Velasques). He was a court painter (of the Spanish crown) and a revered artist, even during his lifetime.

His style evolved from classic decorative Rococo all the way to dark and dramatic Romanticism later in his career. Studying this progression is a fun insight into the evolution of a career artist over decades. Doing so on one of the most famous painters of all time seems even more rewarding.

Goya’s works, like “Saturn Devouring His Son,” are among the most macabre mainstream paintings ever created. This makes them present even in modern pop culture. You must have seen this painting so many times.

7. Rembrandt

If you have ever studied art, chances are that your textbook featured “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” possibly even on the covers. If not that, it was probably “Mona Lisa.” Either way, Rembrandt was one of the world’s most famous painters of the seventeenth century and remains popular and beloved until the very day. 

The contrast of light and dark that he used to create a sense of volume and depth is called chiaroscuro. This way, the psychological depth and realism are much higher than in any of the works made by his contemporaries.

8. Gustav Klimt

Modernism is a powerful movement that a lot of people know about through literary art. Everyone knows about Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarme; however, most people don’t know that each of these artistic directions has a following in other arts, as well. Gustav Klimt, for instance, is a perfect example of symbolism in painting. 

His works like “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” and “The Kiss” are ideal representations of symbolism in this particular art. His mosaic-like patterns draw inspiration from Byzantine, Egyptian, and even Japanese art, combining works of old famous painters from all continents into his opus.

9. Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky's most famous works range from figurative to abstract. This is one of those famous painters who saw the spiritual side of his art and believed in its raw emotional power. He’s one of the first creators of abstract art, which earns him a pretty high spot in the history of art. 

The most famous pieces by Kandinsky are “Yellow-Red-Blue” and “Composition VIII.”

Kandinsky claimed that he could hear colors and see sounds, which is a condition known as synesthesia, which could have drastically impacted his work. Sure, it’s still not proven whether this was the case but one has to wonder while observing his unique style.

10. Edvard Munch

If we were to make a list of the most popular paintings of all time, “The Scream,” by Edvard Munch, would definitely get into the top ten. In fact, depending on who is making the list, it might even be in the top three. The painting is depicted in popular culture and featured in art magazines, and you can often find memes of people trying to recreate the pose from the painting.

His artistic style is often described as intense emotionalism. He’s a part of the Expressionist movement, and some might even argue that he’s its best representative. 

One thing you might not know about this famous painter is that he created four separate versions of “The Scream,” two paintings and two pastels.

11. Salvador Dali

Dali’s style is so recognizable that even if you didn’t know he was the author, you would have guessed it right away. This can be seen in “The Persistence of Memory” and “The Elephants” the best. 

The only thing that’s as eccentric as Dali’s art is his own personality.

He was one of those larger-than-life figures that you know of, even if you know nothing about his art. In fact, you may not be able to recall a single painting he made, but you will immediately know what his mustache looked like. As far as famous painters go, it doesn’t get much more famous than Dali. 

Recency bias is impossible to shake off

Lastly, you may have noticed that the 20th century features the biggest number of artists on this list, which may lead one to assume that it’s the most prolific era in the history of this art form. This is, alas, not true. After all, the title clearly states “famous painters,” which means that it’s really a popularity contest, which means that recency bias plays pretty hard into the rankings criteria. Still, the quality of their art and their impact on the world of art will definitely stand the test of time. 

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