Famous Artists

Famous artists have contributed to the rich history of art, influencing new generations. Certain artists stand out for their stylistic contributions.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), an Italian painter, sculptor and architect, is considered to represent the epitome of the Italian Renaissance. His famous Mona Lisa with her enigmatic smile is housed at the Louvre in Paris. Raphael (1483–1520) and Michelangelo (1475–1564) are the other key figures of the Italian High Renaissance. Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, is best known for his sculptures David and the Pieta.

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), who was born in the Netherlands, initially pursued a career in the church. He began studying art in 1880, and his early work included portraits of peasants. His first major painting was The Potato Eaters. When he moved from Amsterdam to Paris, his work took on the colors of the impressionists. Van Gogh experienced numerous emotional episodes, including bouts with depression, which manifested in his life (cutting off his ear) and painting.

French artist Claude Monet (1840–1926), experimented with the effects of light on painting. He looked at haystacks behind his house and painted versions of those at different times of day on numerous canvasses. Monet's mural paintings of water lilies were commissioned by the French government and are the most famous of his works.

Monet, Edgar Degas (1834–1917) and Auguste Renoir were classic figures in the impressionist movement. Renoir (1841–1919) specialized in the human form. His Moulin de la Galette celebrates the brightness of a Parisian dance hall crowd, and The Cafe portrays an immediate sense of vibrancy.

Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), produced an imaginative post-impressionist art style. His travels led him to painting symbolist works, often of a non-Western nature, utilizing flat, simple forms, with outlined flat figures.

Henri Matisse (1869–1954), became a member of the Fauvist movement of art, an avant-garde group. Matisse's influences were broad. Abandoning the impressionist style and looking at "primitive art," he developed his own technique with brilliant colors and fluid line.

Paul Cezanne (1839–1906), attributed as the father of modern art, synthesized formal design, using geometric configurations and balance. Cezanne determined that natural forms are based on geometric shapes.

Innovative Viennese artist Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) received the Emperor's Prize for Painting in 1890. In the late 19th century, his work involved murals for public buildings. Klimt's paintings, sketches and other artistic objects are noted for gold backgrounds, mosaic patterns and eclectic influences.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), a Russian painter and graphic artist, is considered a great abstract artist. His work spans time spent in Russia, Germany and France. His art language was one of sign, line and color that Kandinsky believed corresponded to human soul vibrations. His intention was for art to mirror the world of vision.

Picasso (1881–1973), the son of a painter, began his artistic career at an early age. His work transformed through many styles, towards cubism, which evolved from an analytic to synthetic phase. His 1916 ballet and theatrical collaborations emerged into a neoclassic style of painting. His work became increasingly prolific in a range of art forms, including drawing, painting, ceramics and sculpture.

Spanish artist Salvador Dali (1904–1989), was one of the greatest surrealist artists of the 20th century. He was known to be eccentric and exhibited what he professed to be acts of creative energy. His paintings combine a meticulous technique with a dreamlike quality.

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898–1972) from the Netherlands produced a popular and widely distributed form of graphic art. His compositions combine precise realism as well as the fantastic. Escher's patterns, often formulated as brain-teaser prints, incorporate the use of perspective and space.

The English sculptor and artist Henry Spencer Moore (1898–1986) created monumental bronze sculptures, predominantly portraying an abstract human form.

Isamu Noguchi (1904–88), an American artist of Japanese and Irish-American heritage, landscape artist and sculptor, also designed Martha Graham's dance sets. He sought to merge Eastern and Western styles in his creations.

Antoni Gaudi (1852–1926) was a Spanish architect of the Catalan Modernism genre, though his works are considered to be highly individualistic. He is most famous for his basilica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

American Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was known for his prolific architectural designs, particularly his organic architecture. The American Institute of Architects acknowledged him as one of the greatest American architects.

American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) also promoted modern art and operated New York art galleries where he presented avant-garde artists from Europe to the U.S. public. Stieglitz was married to painter Georgia O'Keeffe, who acted as his muse.

Ansel Easton Adams (1902–84) was renowned for his black and white photographs, especially of the American West. Adams was influenced by fellow American photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

Annie Leibovitz (1949–) is an American portrait photographer, whose works have been on the covers of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Leibovitz's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 1991 marked the first showing of a female photographer there.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Lives of the Artists
Giorgio Vasari; Julia Conaway Bondanella; Peter Bondanella.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Encyclopedia of Painting: Painters and Painting of the World from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day
Bernard S. Myers.
Crown, 1979 (4th Rev. edition)
FREE! Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors & Architects
Giorgio Vasari; E. H. Blashfield; E. W. Blashfield; A. A. Hopkins.
Charles Scribner's Sons, vol.4, 1902
Painting of the Golden Age: A Biographical Dictionary of Seventeenth-Century European Painters
Adelheid M. Gealt.
Greenwood Press, 1993
Women Artists of Color: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas
Phoebe Farris.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Singular Women: Writing the Artist
Kristen Frederickson; Sarah E. Webb.
University of California Press, 2003
Contemporary American Women Sculptors
Virginia Watson-Jones.
Oryx Press, 1986
FREE! Six Greek Sculptors
Ernest A. Gardner.
Duckworth, 1910
The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties
Irving Sandler.
Harper & Row, 1978
New Art in America: Fifty Painters of the 20th Century
John I. H. Baur.
New York Graphic Society, 1957
A Century of British Painters
Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave.
Phaidon Press, 1947
The Italian Painters of the Renaissance
Bernard Berenson.
Phaidon Publishers, 1953
45 Contemporary Mexican Artists: A Twentieth-Century Renaissance
Virginia Stewart.
Stanford University Press, 1951
Canadian Painters, from Paul Kane to the Group of Seven
Donald W. Buchanan.
Phaidon Press, 1945
Soviet Emigrae Artists: Life and Work in the USSR and the United States
Marilyn Rueschemeyer; Igor Golomshtok; Janet Kennedy.
M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1985
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