It is a lofty question whose answer has sparked arguments, broken friendships, and evolved drastically in the art world for years, if not centuries. Who is on the list of the most important famous painters who ever lived? It is, of course, a question that will always have a different answer depending on who you ask, but arts literary magazine TheArtWolf.com has compiled a list of the 20 most famous painters of all time. Remember, art fans: this isn’t written in stone. It’s just one blog’s opinion.
20. HENRI MATISSE
Arguably one of the greats along with Picasso, Henri Matisse’s usage of bright and unusual pops of color, and his love of the female form, made him one of the most beloved painters of his time.
19. MARK ROTHKO
In the 1940’s Rothko abandoned the human form for a series of stacked, floating rectangles. While he abandoned Matisse’s passion for the nude form, he was similar in his love for vivid variations of color schemes.
18. ÉDOUARD MANET
Classics like Bar at Follies Bergere made Manet a forerunner of the Impressionist movement, and with good reason. His blues and greens could calm the fieriest of critics.
17. VINCENT VAN GOGH
Even the clueless have heard of Van Gogh, though they might not know why. His lush, dreamlike depiction of a starry sky, sunflowers, and even his own face have made him immortal in the art world.
16. FRANCISCO DE GOYA
The nightmarish depiction of Saturn Devouring His Sons will forever haunt the museum circuit. With beautiful creamy figures set against dark, bare backgrounds, it is no wonder that Goya never knew a rival in all his life.
15. PAUL GAUGUIN
With a marvelous imagination and a knack for dreamy nudes in psychedelic landscapes, Gauguin is a natural staple in art history textbooks.
14. MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI
Here’s where some art fiends may start to protest. But again, this is only one opinion. Anyone who has ever or even heard the words “Sistine Chapel” is no doubt very familiar with Michelangelo. And no, we don’t mean the ninja turtle.
13. JACKSON POLLOCK
Performance was as much an art form as the finished painting for Jackson Pollock. In looking at his huge, sometimes wall-sized behemoths, one can almost see phantoms of the artist flying at the board with a dripping paintbrush.
12. ALBRECHT DÜRER
One of the greatest artists of the Northern Renaissance, Durer made the woodcut a household name, and in patenting his own medium, made his work instantly recognizable and impossible to forget.
11. JAN VAN EYCK
The cornerstone of Flemish painting movements, Van Eyck will forever be known for the decadent Arnolfini portrait, which to this day leaves viewers scratching their heads... is she gathering cloth to her stomach, or with child?
The top 10 of the Famous Painters list
10. JOSEPH MALLORD WILLIAM TURNER
Before Turner, a sea scape was something seen by many every day. After Turner, it was a heart-stopping site for the drama of life and death. Skies could be blue with hope or red with violence, but they were always awe-inspiring.
The patron saint of chiaroscuro, or playing with the extremes in both light and darkness, Caravaggio could turn a blank canvas into a theatrical stage.
8. CLAUDE MONET
Water Lilies. Do we even need to say more?
7. WASSILY KANDINSKY
His brilliance was in his ability to display familiar concepts of passion, rage, and even music, through abstract figures that had never before been seen by the human eye.
6. DIEGO VELÁZQUEZ
A contemporary of Rembrandt’s but a sadly lesser known one. Velazquez could take any work, whether a scene with Venus, commission of the Spanish Royal Family, or a landscape, and transform it into a gripping moment of dark drama.
5. REMBRANDT VAN RIJN
Rembrandt has become almost as famous for his self portraits as he has for The Night Watch. Which, interestingly enough, was never meant to be depicted at night; it was only after a cleaning that researchers discovered its daytime setting.
4. PAUL CÉZANNE
Blasted open the door to Cubism. There arguably would not be a Picasso without Paul Cezanne.
3. LEONARDO DA VINCI
An example of a truly incredible human brain. Not only has he left behind The Mona Lisa, but his books after books of endless drawings and notes continue to inspire anyone who longs to create anything. Seriously. Anything.
2. GIOTTO DI BONDONE
When your competition calls you the “most sovereign master of painting in his time,” you must be doing something right. Giotto’s frescoes were the first to break from the Byzantine style, and are one of the earliest examples in art that it’s not always best to only create what’s popular.
1. PABLO PICASSO
Some argue that Picasso was one of the first to provide accurate insight into the mind going insane. Feeling depressed, manic, or hopeful? There’s a Picasso period for that.